WHEN the two most powerful men on earth spoke last week, Chinese leader Xi Jinping delivered a chilling warning to US President Joe Biden.
The ruthless Xi calmly and coldly told him, “Those who play with fire will perish,” in a sinister dig at American “provocations” over the disputed island of Taiwan.
Now, just days later, the two superpowers are locked in a standoff that eclipses Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threatens to trigger World War III.
China claims the democratically run island nation just 100 miles offshore is its sovereign territory – despite US pledges to defend its right to freedom. Nancy Pelosi, America’s third most powerful politician, has inflamed China’s anger by “playing with fire” and visiting the island.
Veteran anti-China crusader Pelosi, 82, is the first major US politician to visit in 25 years – and she blew up the Xi government. China’s response was swift, as 21 of its fighter jets crossed the Taiwan Strait as Pelosi’s plane arrived, sounding air raid sirens over the powder keg state.
Hundreds more warplanes and battleships and thousands of troops will now take part in six days of exercises in six nearby exclusion zones – some as far as ten miles from shore.
Military analysts warned last night that the risk of a catastrophic miscalculation and a terrifying global escalation during the war games will be enormous.
How big is the risk?
Charles Parton, a former British diplomat, believes the threat of economic Armageddon will help avert the greater threat of a nuclear collision.
He said, “The depth of the two-way entanglement between China and the rest of the world is so much deeper than with Russia.” Analysts said that only a major miscalculation by China, such as a bloody attack on the capital Taipei, will trigger a major reaction could escalate into a global conflict.
America is far more likely to supply military equipment to defend Taiwan than deploy troops – and Britain will follow suit.
A US State Department official said: “The question is whether Beijing will try to use the Pelosi trip as some kind of pretext to take steps that could somehow lead to conflict. If any escalation or crisis followed their visit, it would be in Beijing.”
Defense analyst Paul Beaver told The Sun: “The situation can get very dangerous. When it kicks off in Taiwan, Ukraine will look like a tea party.
“We have to hope that common sense prevails because the stakes are just too high.
“The Chinese have the obvious advantage of proximity and large numbers, but at worst it would be quality rather than quantity of hardware that would count.
“And the Americans have the ability to deliver that from their Japanese bases in Yokohama and Okinawa.
“But it will be the economic pressures that will keep their hands off the triggers on both sides should it escalate.
“The cost of global trade would be simply incalculable and could impact everyone’s lives at a time when markets are already reeling.
“The hope is that this pressure will be enough to prevent the unthinkable from becoming possible.”
WHAT IS THE STORY?
TAIWAN is an island about 100 miles off the coast of Southeast China.
It lies between Japan and the Philippines in the so-called “first chain of islands” of US-friendly territories critical to White House foreign policy.
Taiwan is also seen as crucial to containing China’s growing military threat. In particular, if China were to conquer the island, it could use it as a launching pad to stake claims against other nations in the region.
Taiwan first came under full Chinese control in the 17th century and then passed under Japanese rule in 1895 after the First Sino-Japanese War. After Japan’s defeat in World War II in 1945, the Republic of China, led by nationalist Chinese politician Chiang Kai-shek, took control of Taiwan.
But in 1949 Mao Zedong’s communists seized power in China after defeating Chiang’s forces in a civil war, and Chiang and his defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan and formed an alliance with the US.
WHY IS TAIWAN SO IMPORTANT?
TAIWAN’s economy has become a technological hub for Western economies – with a single Taiwanese company supplying half of all the world’s computer microchips.
Telephones, laptops, watches, cars and washing machines all depend on the sophisticated chips produced at an incredible rate by the island nation of 23 million people. A Chinese takeover in Taiwan would give China global control of one of the world’s most important industries — and allow it to raise prices everywhere.
Acknowledging its importance, US ties with Taiwan have remained strong even after Washington severed official ties in 1979 and vowed to respect the “One China” policy, which sees Taiwan as Chinese.
The US Congress passed legislation shortly after pledging to supply Taiwan with weapons to defend against Chinese attacks.
An uneasy ceasefire has held since then, but tensions were heightened two years ago when Xi said China had the right to “reunite” Taiwan by force.
WHAT IF CHINA TAKES IT?
WHAT do American military commanders fear could happen if China conquers Taiwan?
Strategists believe if Taiwan falls, the island will become a massive military base to expand China’s territorial claims against neighbors like Vietnam and Malaysia.
In recent months, China has ramped up activities across the Taiwan Strait, stoking fears it may attempt to blockade the island or refine plans for a seaborne invasion.
WHAT ARE THE US “PROVOCATIONS”?
PRESIDENT Biden fueled Chinese anger by publicly declaring he would use American firepower to defend his ally on China’s doorstep.
White House officials later tried to claim his words had been misinterpreted.
Pelosi’s visit – during which she denounced China’s “disregard for the rule of law” – has now pushed tensions to a new level.
Chinese military jets entered Taiwan’s defense zone hundreds of times after Biden vowed to come to the aid of the US ally, but experts fear Pelosi’s visit has upped the ante.
HOW SERIOUS ARE MILITARY STEPS?
BEIJING last held military exercises amid tensions during the previous major cross-strait crisis in 1996.
But this week’s action goes much further and gets closer to the disputed territory.
Six “live fire” wargame zones have been declared by China in northern and southern Taiwan, including three that clearly encroach on the island’s 12-mile coastal boundary.
The US Navy’s powerful carrier battle group USS Ronald Reagan was reported last night monitoring the progress of Chinese exercises in the nearby Philippine Sea.
SANCTIONS AGAINST CHINA?
WOULD economic sanctions against China – like those against Russia over Ukraine – be effective?
Sanctions can be self-defeating when Western firms leave China in protest.
Days after the Ukraine conflict erupted, Apple, BMW, McDonald’s and other Western giants lined up to announce their withdrawal from Russia.
That decision cost iPhone maker Apple less than 1 percent of its global sales, while other multinationals sold worthless Russian holdings for a single ruble.
But many of the West’s largest companies derive a large portion of their profits from China, including Apple, which makes 19 percent of its sales there.
British Covid drugs company AstraZeneca also relies on China for 16 per cent of its sales – worth a whopping £5billion.
WHAT CHANCE OF INVASION?
ANALYSTS say there was a 20 percent chance of a Chinese invasion or serious military action, but now stands at 50 percent since Pelosi’s visit.
But it’s believed that just a major misstep by China, like the attack on Taipei, could escalate into a global conflict, and the US and Britain are much more likely to supply military equipment than troops.
WHAT IS THE UK POSITION?
Secretary of State Liz Truss yesterday criticized China’s “seditious” response to Nancy Pelosis’ visit to Taiwan.
The hot favorite to become our next prime minister said Pelosi’s meetings there were “entirely reasonable” and urged China to de-escalate its threats.
In a joint statement with other G7 nations last night, Britain condemned China, saying: “There is no justification for using a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity across the Taiwan Strait. It is normal and routine for legislators from our countries to travel internationally.
“The PRC’s escalating response risks increasing tensions and destabilizing the region.”
Truss has taken a hawkish stance on Taiwan, saying Western nations need to do more to ensure it can protect itself and give it “the defense capability it needs.”
https://www.the-sun.com/news/5924644/taiwan-china-feud-invasion-chance/ Everything you need to know about the Taiwan-China standoff – from the possibility of an invasion to Britain’s position