Why is the center of the imperialist conflict now shifting towards Taiwan?
Less than half a year before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, everything seemed to indicate that the U.S. was geared to concentrate all its pressure capabilities against China around Taiwan.
On the one hand, Taiwan is the vanguard of the chip and semiconductor industry and the US is openly betting on cutting off Chinese supply chains as a way of curtailing its technological development and commercial development. In addition, increasing risks for any industry based in Taiwan makes it more viable to try to move Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese capital and specialized companies to US soil. Something about which the Taiwanese bourgeoisie is actually just as unhappy as the mainland Chinese.
On the other hand, over any other place that would concentrate tensions between the two powers, Taiwan has a most important tactical advantage: as the stakes are, the US thought it could almost unilaterally set the degree of conflict. The range of possibilities ranged from scheduling official visits by U.S. officials to encouraging an eventual declaration of independence by the island, to which Beijing had promised to respond with all its military capabilities.
In other words, at one point, the US saw itself capable of pushing the Xi government to greenlight an invasion attempt or at least a blockade of the island by the Chinese PLA... against China's will. A situational strategy similar to the one followed against Russia in Ukraine. With one difference: forcing Beijing into a bad move in Taiwan that would lead it to stall in a war, which in turn would lead to the "return" of the technology sector to the US, was due to expire in 2025.
China will have the capability to close the Taiwan Strait by 2025 according to the Taiwanese defense minister. In other words, 2025 would mark a turning point in Chinese military capabilities that would make possible the economic blockade of the island without the need to go to war. The U.S. strategy of exerting pressure without going to direct confrontation would then have an expiration date.
Is the US ready to start a war in Taiwan?, 13/10/2021
The mood became even more tense because on Capitol Hill, the sinister fantasy of a string of "wars of containment" with China as a way to "encircle" Beijing in its Asian mainland and reduce its regional influence was thriving as a perspective of convergence between Republicans and Democrats. In fact, the proximity of the 2025 deadline more than proportionally increased the risk as the war, or at least an escalation with no clear end in sight, began to be considered as part of the domestic political-electoral agenda.
Last October 21, Biden openly declared himself determined to "defend Taiwan" in case the Chinese government, which considers the island a province, blockades or invades it. In the Washington media since then, the question to be settled has shifted from whether the US would be willing to go to war to whether the navy has sufficient means to win it.
And in the Democrat debate in Washington this translates into a tendency to embrace and accelerate the new strategic perspective that is opening up in the Republican Party and which foresees a series of wars of "containment" against China, starting with Taiwan. They see the conflict as inevitable, know that in 2025 it could be won by Beijing and consider the electoral advantages of bringing it forward, especially if the navy gives certain guarantees of a victory. The parallel with Roosevelt ultimately is one of the truisms of the current presidency.
When Pelosi's trip was first announced in April and China defined it as a "red line", the State Department saw a winning game. After all, it is rather foolhardy to launch an attack on a rival power that is not going to suffer major consequences no matter what. A timely positive from Covid gave the US foreign strategy a chance to organize what was originally an attempt by Pelosi to reinforce the only common bond that now exists between Democrats and Republicans in the House: the obsession with cutting off the legs of China's imperialist development.
The US reopened the game in July with naval deployments in the Taiwan Strait and maneuvers in the South China Sea, drawing the automatic reflex of Chinese counter-maneuvers. In a personal phone call Biden assured Xi that he would maintain the policy of not recognizing Taiwan and implied that he opposed Pelosi's visit...which was ultimately trotted out without prior confirmation as a real provocative and propaganda operation.
The trip, however, does not seem to have been particularly relevant as an episode in the "ideological battle" between Washington and its rivals. Among other things because it was not exempt from the already usual historical sense of the campaigns of the Biden era. Listening to Pelosi praising "the model of free society" created by the Kuomintang regime under a portrait of Sun Yat Sen, did not go unnoticed in Asia and even less in the island itself, which is still nursing scars from the decades of single-party dictatorship in Taipei.
What is the meaning of the Chinese response?
Chinese PLA deployment areas during the current exercises
The main Chinese response, actually a general mobilization drill, is intended to send a substantive message. The PLA has gone all out to demonstrate that there is no need to wait for 2025 because as of today China can effectively blockade not only the Taiwan Strait, but the entire island.
The main goal therefore has been to disrupt the international supply chain and to prove to Washington that the costs of a "localized" war are greater than it seems to be assessing. Indeed, when the US has encouraged Taiwan to bypass Chinese ports on its export routes, it has become clear that it would be enough for Beijing not to allow Taiwanese ships to call at its ports to leave the island's capital in a more than delicate situation.
The political punch line, to interrupt military and Green Deal cooperation, only amplifies the message to the capital market and multiplies the risks of "accidental armed clashes".
The White House response has broken records for cynicism but, in perverted diplomatic language, it is nonetheless revealing: condemning mainland Chinese "provocations" and presenting the rival's reaction as the prelude to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan that would occur later this decade.
Is the prospect of war strengthening or weakening?
After all this general pre-war drill, the main change left in the scenario of the US-China imperialist conflict is the prospect of an even more rapid escalation than was predictable in the event of the opening of hostilities.
The metaphors with Ukraine are less relevant than ever. Not only because the armies in contention have a numerical and technological dimension far superior to those facing each other today on the borders of the Donbass. Above all because the regions directly concerned have a degree of capitalization and weight on the global industrial market incomparable to that of the regions in battle in Ukraine.
In the wake of these Chinese drills, the American idea that a series of "wars of containment" against China could take place in geographically and temporally limited Pacific scenarios is proving less viable than ever. Whether it be Taiwan or the smallest of the Micronesian states, the possibility of escalation is almost suicidal.
So the prospects of seeking and destroying China in old imperialist clash scenarios like the Middle East... or Europe are returning. And this is surely the most disturbing spin-off as of today.
With the German model of accumulation in existential crisis and a coalition government in which the Greens - the most militaristic and pro-US party of the European scene - have an increasing weight, the US is openly pressuring Berlin to accelerate its industrial break with China. The German bourgeoisie seems determined to move at a steady pace in this direction... even if it means drastically reducing the global weight and the competitive capacities of its automobile industry.
But such a bankruptcy, which would inevitably be linked to the eviction of major Chinese capital and companies from Europe, would completely change Beijing's relationship with the West. Europe would then emerge as the main battleground between blocs once again. And Ukraine would become the representation of an increasingly possible future.