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Tickling the Dragon’s Tail: Why is US Poking China Over Taiwan Amid Russia’s Spec Op in Ukraine?

Source: Sputnik by Ekaterina Blinova

Following the beginning of the Russian special operation to “demilitarise and de-Nazify” Ukraine, which was launched on 24 February, the Western mainstream media started speculating about China’s alleged plans to return Taiwan, an island seen by Beijing as an inalienable part of the People’s Republic, to its fold.

On 28 February, US President Joe Biden announced that he would send a delegation of former senior defence and security officials to meet with Taiwan’s president and defence minister. The delegation arrived on the island on 1 March to deliver “a message of reassurance” to Taipei amid “China’s growing military threat,” according to the Guardian.

Beijing denounced the move as violating China’s national sovereignty: “The attempt by the US to show support to Taiwan will be in vain, no matter who the US sends. The Chinese people are firmly determined and resolved to defend (their) national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated on 2 March.

The Pentagon’s $27 Billion Plan to ‘Deter China’

At the same time, reports started to emerge in the US media about the US Indo-Pacific Command’s (INDOPACOM) plan to spend $27 billion over the next six years to “deter China” in the Pacific region. According to the Drive, the DoD’s recent plan is an expansion of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, or PDI, which was included by the US Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2021 Fiscal Year. The new grand design envisages spending between $27.3 billion and $27.4 billion in total through Fiscal Year 2027. “This includes $2.2 billion to be spent in the 2021 Fiscal Year and another $4.6 billion expected to be available in the next fiscal cycle,” the media specifies.

In particular, the plan envisions the creation of “highly survivable, precision-strike networks along the First Island Chain, featuring increased quantities of ground-based weapons,” referring to an area of the Pacific inside a boundary formed by the first line of archipelagos out from mainland East Asia. This area includes the contested South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. According to the Drive, in general, the initiative “include[s] the establishment of forward-deployed long-range strike capabilities, including elements that could be armed ground-based cruise, ballistic, and hypersonic missiles” as well as “more capable missile defences,” “space-based and terrestrial sensors”.

“Labelling China as a ‘threat’ and creating a sense of fear toward China among Americans could help the US military gain more budgets,” The Chinese daily Global Times wrote on 3 March. “This is an old trick played by the US military for a long time, and it will continue in the future… There is little likelihood of a war or a conflict will occur between the two. At the military level, China and the US have remained rational.”

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) transits the Taiwan Strait while conducting routine underway operations. © Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Deanna C. Gonzales

US State Department’s Maps of Taiwan

Meanwhile, the US Senate on 10 March poked Beijing by passing an amendment prohibiting the State Department from purchasing any map that “inaccurately depicts the territory and social and economic system of Taiwan and the islands or island groups administered by Taiwan authorities”. According to Taiwan Times, the vague text actually meant maps depicting “Taiwan as part of China”.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on 14 March strongly opposed the US congressional maps bans, stressing that “there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory, which is both a historical and legal fact and the consensus of the international community.”

The Western media continued to ramp up the narrative about China’s alleged “bellicose” plans with regard to Taiwan with the Business Insider warning on 10 March that after the beginning of the Russian special operation in Ukraine “US officials have also been watching China closely, looking for signs that Beijing is capitalising on turmoil in Europe to strike Taiwan.”

On 16 March, Newsweek claimed that Chinese President Xi Jinping “had plans to annex” the Taiwan island in autumn 2022 but that Russia’s special operation in Ukraine “shut” this “window of opportunity” for Beijing.

To back this claim Newsweek cited “a purported Russian intelligence document” written by “an anonymous analyst with Russia’s Federal Security Service” (FSB). Newsweek made it clear that it “wasn’t able to independently verify the authenticity of the FSB letter.” Instead, the media quoted Christo Grozev, the executive director of Bellingcat, who said that his “FSB contacts” alleged that the “whistleblower” in question was authentic but did not agree with the conclusions of his analysis.

However, Bellingcat could hardly be regarded as objective and independent, according to independent investigative reporters of Grayzone. Grayzone journalists previously detailed how Bellingcat covertly cooperated with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)received funding from Western intelligence contractors and the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy, “employed a staggering number of former [Western] military and intelligence operatives,” and peddled unconfirmed and dubious narratives about Russia and Syria.

In this April 14, 2016 file photo, a Chinese national flag flutters against the office buildings in Shanghai, China. © AP Photo / Andy Wong

Beijing: Taiwan is Part of China, Ukraine Crisis is Product of US Politics

The Chinese officials have repeatedly shredded the Western claims of Beijing’s war plans concerning Taiwan, adding that there are no links between Russia’s special operation to “demilitarise and de-Nazify” Ukraine and China’s relations with its island.

In his 15 March op-ed for The Washington Post, Qin Gang, the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United States, also rubbished claims of China’s alleged foreknowledge of the Russian Ukraine operation. The Chinese top diplomat underscored that Taiwan is a “Chinese internal affair”.

“Taiwan is an inseparable part of China’s territory,” Qin wrote. “It does not make sense for people to emphasise the principle of sovereignty on Ukraine while hurting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity on Taiwan. The future of Taiwan lies in peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and the reunification of China. We are committed to peaceful reunification, but we also retain all options to curb ‘Taiwan independence.’ We hope the United States earnestly abides by the one-China principle and does not support ‘Taiwan independence’ separatism in any form.”

According to The Global Times, Washington’s attempts to poke Beijing over Taiwan are part of the US attempts to force China to join the US sanctions spree against Russia over Ukraine.

“The US should not expect other countries to solve the mess it made in Ukraine while it still ramps up assistance and offers weapons to Ukraine,” writes the Chinese daily writes citing Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “Currently, the conflicts between the US and Russia and between China and the US all have roots in the US, and the US is trying to sow discord between Russia and China.”