Ukraine War, August 15, 2022: China and Taiwan–Poke the Cyclops in the eye, but don’t forget the Party Congress and Ukraine

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To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Dispatches

1) Jane Perlez, “Five U.S. Lawmakers Arrive in Taiwan Amid Tensions With China: The delegation, led by Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, is visiting less than two weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit set off tensions with China,” The New York Times, August 14, 2022;

2) Christian Shepherd and Eva Dou, “China begins new military drills as U.S. delegation visits Taiwan,” Washington Post, August 15, 2022 (3:58 a.m., updated at 5:51 a,m.);

UPDATE

3) Emma Oonet Bailén y Javier G. Costa, “China se suma a unos ejercicios militares de Rusia a gran escala en pleno desafío a Estados Unidos; Las maniobras tendrán lugar en el extremo oriente ruso entre el 30 de agosto y el 5 de septiembre,” El País, el 18 de agosto 2022 (07:25 EDT);

4) Emma Oonet Bailén y Javier G. Costa, “China joins large-scale Russian military exercises in full defiance of the United States; The maneuvers will take place in the Russian Far East between August 30 and September 5., El País, el 18 de agosto 2022 (07:25 EDT);

Analysis

Odysseus and the Cyclops: Poking China in the eye

In Homer’s The Odyssey, Odysseus gets the Cyclops so drunk that he passes out. He then gouges out the giant’s single eye with a red-hot stake, blinding him and enabling Odysseus and his men to flee from their captivity in the Cyclops’s cave.

Odysseus has shrewdly told the Cyclops that his name is “Nobody”, so when the Cyclops calls for help and he tells his fellow giants that “Nobody” is killing him, they don’t come to his aid.

Nonetheless, the Cyclops hurls huge boulders which land near the fleeing ship of Odysseus and his men.

Odysseus escaped the Cyclops, but the United States is not likely to be so fortunate if it keeps poking China in the eye.

And that is exactly what it is doing, following up on Nancy Pelosi’s ill-timed visit to Taiwan two weeks ago with a further visit by a five-member delegation from the House of Representatives.

China has reacted by resuming military maneuvers near Taiwan, having engaged in maneuvers simulating an invasion of Taiwan at the time of Pelosi’s visit.

Pelosi’s visit was undertaken despite the strongest of warnings delivered by Xi Jinping directly to Joe Biden in an earlier telephone call.

Strategic Vision

Strategic vision involves the ability to see the big picture, and to understand what is critically at stake in any situation.

We might expect such vision from Speaker Pelosi and members of the House, but here they are obviously suffering from myopia and are driven by more parochial concerns.

In such a situation, we might expect that at least the President of the United States will have such vision, and drive foreign policy to achieve critical objectives and defend U.S. interests.

Unfortunately, both the members of the House, including Nancy Pelosi, and the president have lacked the strategic vision that is required and failed to act accordingly.

What is at stake?

What is at stake in these congressional visits to Taiwan (a German delegation is also planned) and, above all, their timing?

Quite simply, what is at stake, first of all, is whether China will become so antagonized that it decides to provide Russia with military assistance for its war of aggression against Ukraine.

Will China conclude that there is little to be gained by working cooperatively with the United States, as apparently it did following Antony Blinken’s disastrous meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in Anchorage in March 2021?

Only days after the Anchorage  meeting, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov flew to China where a new strategic cooperation agreement between China and Russia was announced.

Second, also at stake is the potential negative impact of these visits on the decisions of the Communist Party Congress to be held in October or November. There, Xi is expected to receive a third five-year term and new party officials are to be named at all levels of government.

There is little that the U.S. might do that could disadvantage any relatively moderate members of the Party Congress more than the current Congressional visits, and Biden’s defiance of Xi’s warnings.

This time the U.S. may poke the giant in the eye, but China will not be blinded.

China could decide to provide Russia with military aid at any moment.  Should that decision be made, it will be extremely difficult to reverse.

Moreover, unlike Odysseus in his fleeing ship, Taiwan is not going anywhere. Sooner or later those giant boulders could begin to hit the island.

The Trenchant Observer

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