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Pelosi’s Taiwan Trip Is One Giant Mistake

Taiwan
Image of F-16 Fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has landed in Taipei for a meeting on Wednesday with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. The trip has already drawn an unusually high degree of angst and threats from Beijing. U.S. military assets continue to steam toward the Taiwan Strait, and reports from Chinese media this morning indicate that Chinese military assets appear to be mobilizing in Fujian province, directly opposite Taiwan

Whether this situation explodes into a full crisis or not is yet to be determined, but the United States has taken a significant risk in moving forward with this meeting. It may have set up an avoidable crisis.

What Is the Interest at Stake?

It should be a basic tenet of U.S. foreign policy that any action, decision, or engagement has the best interests of the United States as its central focus. Safeguarding our national security is the top priority, and a very close second priority is ensuring our ability to prosper economically. This trip by the speaker of the House not only fails to advance either objective – it comes perilously close to putting both at risk.

We already have a security agreement in place with Taiwan by which the U.S. helps Taipei defend itself, providing hi-tech weapons, military training, and access to other defense-related capacities. We have for years provided Taipei with state-of-the-art military gear – fighter jets, missiles, and tanks – but there is no agreement like NATO’s Article 5 provision in place that would require the United States to physically defend Taiwan. There is a good reason for this.

China and Taiwan have been at odds since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949. The Nationalists of Chiang Kai-shek, routed by Mao Zedong’s Communists, fled in near-total defeat to what was then known as Formosa. From the very outset, China said they would use force to reunify the island to the mainland. There have been periods of intense crisis, some episodes of shelling, and other times of détente. But even during lulls in the angst, Beijing has been steady in its claim that it would use force if the island declared independence, real or de facto.

Given that the issue is existential for China, and something we have known about for literally decades, it would be foolish to insert U.S. forces into a bilateral dispute between the two nations. (And yes, despite what Beijing would like to believe, Taiwan is in practice an independent country.) Further, China has been working feverishly for nearly 30 years to modernize and upgrade its military, expressly building it to serve three missions: maintain internal stability; successfully retake Taiwan; and fend off an expected American intervention.

China Is a Formidable Opponent

China is today a nation with a modern navy, air force, and ground force. They may not be a complete peer competitor to the United States in terms of global capacity, but in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, they have significant advantages over our Pacific air and sea fleets. As I have written in the past, it would be foolish for the U.S. to fight a war with China over Taiwan. We would have too many disadvantages, and China would be in the superior military position.

It is also important to point out that there are no risks to our national security posed by the dispute between China and Taiwan. Whether they end up fighting or not, our security is fully guaranteed. Our conventional and nuclear forces ensure that China would almost certainly not attack our forces in an unprovoked manner – they know that we would retaliate powerfully. However, it is entirely possible that Beijing could fight U.S. forces if we make a move to militarily defend Taiwan. In that event, Beijing could inflict a severe blow to our air and sea fleets in the Pacific. We still retain the global advantage, but the cost to our men and women in uniform, our ships, and our planes would be catastrophic – and wholly unnecessary.

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis.

Written By

Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis1.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Tomb

    August 2, 2022 at 3:19 pm

    We do not take orders from
    Chinese communist party.

  2. jeff

    August 2, 2022 at 4:10 pm

    Your statement that we have no national security risks in Tawain is false. They manufacture chips for the world economy and China would then be able to sell or not to sell them if they own the island. Too many of our products are already made in China who is looking to achieve world superpower status above us. Even our president is compromised by China.

  3. Omega 13

    August 2, 2022 at 4:31 pm

    Granny Haagen-Dazs needs to check on her husband’s semiconductor investments before that bill gets passed.

  4. Steven

    August 2, 2022 at 4:35 pm

    This article is wrong on every level. We cannot allow China to dominate the Indo-Pacific FOR A MILLION GOOD REASONS.

    China needs a serious corrective interview.

  5. Froike

    August 2, 2022 at 4:58 pm

    Steve…I’m with You Bud! I feel the same way about supporting Ukraine against Putah Putin and The Foatgucking Mullahs in Iran.
    This is an us or them scenario.

  6. Mike

    August 2, 2022 at 5:15 pm

    Outside of a ” Look at Me , Look at me ” Selfie , Why is Pelosi there ? She is the One pushing this , and not Taiwan ? This is not smart , Taiwan needs time to build , time that Pelosi is threating to take away with this ” Stunt ” .

  7. TheDon

    August 2, 2022 at 5:40 pm

    Wrong.
    Pelosi checked Xi bluff.
    China is being pushed to determine who is a more important partner ,the US ,or Russia and NK.
    I doubt in a world economy Chinas economy can thrive on Russia and NK trade.
    Nancy knows a conflict will close imports, and Xi knows it.
    So better now.
    Xi just might have his bluff called.

  8. Alvin

    August 2, 2022 at 7:48 pm

    I agree with Jeff, we question your authority on this matter as you have made a statement that makes very little sense. The chips and other eltronics that are produced in Taiwan are critical to our economy and the economic survival of our Allies around the world. Daniel, side question are you just anti democrat? If that’s the case then I could understand you scarfaceing your credibility to score a blow on someone who is third inline for the pesidency. Hope it was worth looseing readers for your publication and possibly your job.

  9. Jon

    August 2, 2022 at 9:36 pm

    Why do you hate America? Yet another piece arguing that the US should retreat from the world stage. Applause for noticing that China continues to develop its military and is making strident pronouncements. How that turns into an actual threat to Taiwan’s independence and US capability, I fail to see. Certainly not now or in the next few years. Maybe it would be best if the Pacific Fleet restrained itself to exercises in San Diego Bay?

  10. Jacksonian Libertarian

    August 3, 2022 at 2:09 am

    Is there any authoritarian scumbag Davis isn’t eager to Kowtow to?

    “once you have paid him the Danegeld/ You never get rid of the Dane.” Kipling.

  11. pagar

    August 3, 2022 at 6:00 am

    Pelosi’s trip to Taipei is not a grave mistake.

    It is a well calculated move to force a showdown between US and its top rival just exactly like how japan once did using a similar technique in the 20th century.

    Japan didn’t write off the infamous September 1931 mukden incident and the later July 1937 bridge incident as mistakes.

    They were deliberate moves to force or compel china to a showdown.

  12. Paddy Manning

    August 3, 2022 at 10:35 am

    Mr Davis needs to explain how Chinese expansionism is not a threat and how he proposes replacing the chip founderies in Taiwan?
    Also China’s army is shit, it’s weapons unatations of stolen tech and Taiwan 100 miles of sea from Fujian province.

  13. Neil Ross Hutchings

    August 3, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    Wow, some Americans actually believe they have domain over the entire planet; at least that’s what I perceived from reading the replies to this article. Capitalism vs. Communism. Capitalism brought chip-making to the island of Taiwan, thanks to low taxes and less expensive labour. I may be wrong but I believe the majority of the chip making technology is still manufactured in the West. To think that just because you set up a manufacturing base in a country that once was part of China also gives you rights over that country is preposterous. Maybe not though, isn’t that part of the justification for Russia retaking lands and infrastructure that it built and paid for in Ukraine?

    Davis is just arguing that strategically it would be near impossible for the West to stop a modernized Chinese military from retaking Taiwan, so why inflame the current situation with what amounts to a pointless visit. Let’s face it, the main reason for America beating the drum at this point is that the Democrats need a major bump in the polls prior to the mid-terms, similar to Gingrich’s desire to humiliate the Clinton administration back in the 90’s. American electorate, at least a segment of them, seem open to this type of manipulation.

  14. Dan Farrand

    August 3, 2022 at 5:40 pm

    The US has 2 main interests in Taiwan:

    1) That Taiwan remain an independent actor in the global economy – mostly because 60% of the worlds semi-conductor fab capacity is located in Taiwan. this does not mean that US interests require Taiwan to be recognized as an independent nation.

    2) Prevent Taiwan from becoming a base for Chinese military assets which would pierce the main line that defends the open pacific.

    Neither of these interests were at risk before Pelosi’s visit. For 60 years we have unofficially maintained a balance referred to as the “one china” policy. It has more or less worked, preserving US interests.

    Pelosi’s visit, shaped and presented as a direct provocation has made that balance impossible. This article is entirely correct in recognizing that Pelosi’s actions (with or without Bidens permission) has seriously harmed US interests and put the lives and well being of both American sailors, marines and airmen at risk – to say nothing of the people of Taiwan.

    As to our ability to prevail in a fight over Taiwan, I would just note that in previous crisis, the US has sailed it’s carried battle groups through the straights of Taiwan. Today that battle group carefully stays 200 miles to the west of Taiwan in the deep Pacific.

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