Alex Lo
SCMP Columnist
My Take
by Alex Lo
My Take
by Alex Lo

Those two ladies of the moment will get us all killed

  • If we are not careful in this fateful triangle of mainland China, the island of Taiwan and the United States, the latest actions, such as those by Taipei President Tsai Ing-wen and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, may start the third world war

In this upside-down world, a pointless exercise at grandstanding and provocation by a top United States politician has been celebrated as an act of “courage”. Meanwhile, a trip by Taiwan’s main opposition to the mainland to cool tempers and de-escalate cross-strait tensions is being denounced as “selling out” the island.

If we continue down this path, the three sides will soon reach a point of no return. An armed conflict between three major economies of the world, two of them superpowers, will make the war in Ukraine look like a pub brawl. Its devastation will be global, not just confined to the Asia-Pacific.

With a clenched fist, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended her visit at a news conference at the Capitol. “We will not allow China to isolate Taiwan,” she said. “Their pretext was our visit for them to do what they normally do, intensified.”

Sure Nancy, but exactly who gave the Chinese the “pretext” to conduct an encircling military exercise around the island? It wasn’t like Beijing didn’t warn of “unimaginable” consequences and “furious” responses if the visit went ahead. It was China’s loudly declared red line.

Why China must respond to every Taiwan taunt

Before, Beijing wouldn’t have dared to conduct such a provocative exercise that looked like a dress rehearsal for forceful reunification. Maybe the Chinese really should thank Pelosi for the rare opportunity.

President Tsai Ing-wen, of course, gave Pelosi the red-carpet treatment. As the Bible says, those who have sown the wind will reap the whirlwind. I honestly can’t see how provoking an encircling war exercise with live drills by the mainland could possibly enhance the island’s security. It wasn’t like Tsai’s military advisers didn’t warn of precisely such a response.

Unfortunately, when you have made yourself a vassal, whatever the lord says goes, however foolish.

Now, Tsai’s government is denouncing a delegation from the main opposition party, the Kuomintang, to the mainland.

Led by party vice-chairman Andrew Hsia – a former head of the Mainland Affairs Council, the island’s top mainland policy planning body – the group left for Xiamen in Fujian for what was described as a 17-day “fact-finding” trip to boost cross-strait communication and to understand the plight Taiwanese people stranded in mainland China because of Covid-19 restrictions.

China has changed so much in 31 years, Pelosi’s view not one iota

The ongoing trip is, of course, an attempt to rebuild bridges that Tsai and her supporters have burned down with full encouragement from Washington.

Critics say the Kuomintang shouldn’t have gone when Beijing is sabre-rattling and the visit amounts to a surrender, if not a sell-out. Hardliners, of course, always say that. For them, it’s always black and white; escalation is good (Nancy Pelosi), de-escalation bad (the Kuomintang). Perhaps people have been so used to peace and relative stability between the island and the mainland they have taken them for granted. That may prove to be fatal for all of us.

“One China” as a policy, however you interpret it, has been the foundation which is now being chipped away by Washington and Taipei. We don’t know how long they can continue without causing a complete collapse of the system. When that happens, we will all – every one of us – pay for the folly that is surely destined for the ages.