Taipei is, proverbially speaking, betting the ranch on a Mike Pompeo White House. Such an election outcome in 2024 will take the self-ruled island closer to declaring independence ever since the Democratic Progressive Party took power. It will risk bringing the two sides across the Taiwan Strait irrevocably to war. If people think the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s eastern expansions against Russia had been reckless, what Pompeo and the DPP are doing is a “Nato” times a hundred in Asia. Pompeo, a former intelligence chief, is a ruthless and experienced Donald Trump. He has all the latter’s populist instincts but with the intellect and foresight to realise them. At 58, he is also relatively young. That makes him potentially the worst threat not just to China but Asia itself. Pompeo’s unofficial visit piggybacked on that of a high-profile US delegation, led by former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Michael Mullen, to the island. To say President Tsai Ing-wen rolled out the red carpet would be an understatement. US response to Ukraine invasion raises doubts over defence of Taiwan Of the nine grades of the Order of the Brilliant Star, the medal recognising outstanding contributions to Taiwan, Pompeo was given the “special grand cordon”, the highest. And then he tweeted: “It is my view that the US government should immediately take necessary, and long-overdue, steps to do the right and obvious thing, that is to offer the Republic of China [Taiwan] America’s diplomatic recognition as a free and sovereign country.” At a time when eastern Europe has burst into conflagration and Beijing has even stalled military activities near Taiwan to calm tensions, Tsai and her American protectors have been busy fanning the flames and insinuating about a mainland invasion. Their reckless provocation is breathtaking. But in deeply divided America today, going after China is just about the only issue that can unite the Democratic and Republican parties. It appeals viscerally to US voters across the political divide and intellectually to a foreign policy establishment alarmed by ever closer relations developed between Russia, Iran and China. The war in Ukraine presents the perfect opportunity for Washington to destroy Russia’s economy for years to come and to whip recalcitrant European allies into line. A US-built Arab and Israeli quasi-alliance has encircled Iran. Pompeo is positioning himself as the man to reverse China’s rise. Putin has walked into a trap of his own making. Let’s hope Beijing will not do the same.