Hubris manifest in the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and some congressmen about the Taiwan question has created a national dilemma. While America has lost in its search for global power, China has won through its commitment to the development of mankind.
People gather in front of the San Francisco Federal Building in California, the United States, on August 1 to protest against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan.
In ancient Greek mythology, the sin of hubris, or overbearing pride, was the greatest flaw in humans, leading often to their destruction. When Icarus and his father Daedalus tried to escape the labyrinth on an island where they had been imprisoned by Minos, the King of Crete, they escaped on wings made out of wax and feathers designed by Daedalus, a craftsman. Daedalus warned his son not to fly too low to the ocean for fear of the wings getting wet, and not too high as the Sun would melt the wax. Exhilarated by his new capability, Icarus flew higher and higher, and, as predicted, his wax wings melted, plunging him to his death in the seas below.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was also duly warned by the Pentagon that, given the heightened degree of tensions between the U.S. and China, and with clear Chinese concerns that the U.S. was pecking away at the one-China principle, the visit could lead to a strong Chinese reaction and the danger of possible military conflict. In addition, the Chinese government had clearly warned, in numerous venues, that such a trip would provoke a strong response. After all, Pelosi was not simply a member of Congress, but, as Speaker of the House, was a member of the U.S. government, a government which had agreed in the three joint communiques with China not to establish official relations – including official visits – with Taiwan. Affected by her own hubris, in a career that had been fueled by the Taiwan lobby, Pelosi decided to carry out the trip – and damn the consequences.
The consequences were seen in the mobilization of the forces of the People’s Liberation Army in enveloping the island of Taiwan and conducting live-fire drills. In addition, China cut off most of the important political discussions with the U.S. including the strategically important military-to-military relationship, which under the Biden Administration had been something of an uphill climb in reestablishing.
Unfortunately, Nancy Pelosi is not alone in her hubris. The gaggle of congressmen she brought with her on the trip are also carriers of this fatal disease, as well as that majority in Congress which is trying to pass legislation, the Taiwan Policy Act, which would flagrantly violate the one-China principle. Considering Taiwan as an “important non-NATO ally,” one envisioned passage of this legislation, would be something approaching a casus belli as far as China is concerned. The legislation would treat Taiwan similarly to the way the U.S. is treating Ukraine, by arming it to the teeth, including providing military training. Hubris in fact has become something of a national dilemma, exhibited in that fraught notion of “American exceptionalism” or more popularly known as “America First-ism.”
This is the fantasy. The reality was exhibited by the show of force by China in its recent maneuvers, which showed China could literally cut off Taiwan from the outside world. The reality is also exhibited in the strong support China has received recently from the international community, with 170-plus nations and many international institutions, as well as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, reiterating their support for the one-China principle. Even the ridiculous “reprimand” of China’s actions by the G7 was treated as nothing more than “a piece of paper” by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, given that 181 nations have accepted the one-China principle. No longer is the G7 considered like some “governing body” of the world community as they themselves have envisioned. Those days are past.
Even Pelosi realized that she had overstepped the limits and flown “too close to the Sun.” She tried to walk back the significance of her visit by claiming that nothing she did was inconsistent with the “one-China policy,” paying homage to the “one-China policy” but citing the Taiwan Relations Act, passed by Congress in blatant contradiction to sections of the three joint communiques, and the so-called “Six Assurances,” referring to the six key foreign policy principles regarding U.S.-Taiwan relations, which were originally proposed by Taiwan decades ago. The island was “assured” that the U.S. was not going to abandon Taiwan completely, nor would it pressure the KMT to negotiate with Beijing. In 2016, these informal “assurances” were formulated into “non-binding resolutions” by the House and the Senate, simply to send a “message” to Beijing. Neither have been accepted by China as affecting the U.S.-China relationship based on the three China-U.S. joint communiques.
The army of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducts long-range live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait on August 4, 2022. The Eastern Theater Command conducts joint combat exercises and training around the Taiwan Island on an unprecedented scale.
Pelosi also claimed that she had not received clear messages from the Pentagon not to travel to Taiwan, although there were clearly discussions on the matter and President Biden publicly conveyed the Pentagon concerns about the visit. Pelosi has no doubt “burnt her bridges” with the Pentagon, which now has the job of restoring some communication with Beijing. She has also probably brought the world closer to a military conflict in the Asia-Pacific region. If the U.S. were to come to Taiwan’s defense with military action, then all bets are off – and we may be looking at a possible nuclear conflict – in which there are no winners. These issues are well-known to the Pentagon planners, but perhaps blithely ignored by our numerous non-veteran congressmen and women.
The visit of the House Speaker in the face of the strong and repeated objections of Chinese representatives at a variety of levels, including a phone call between President Biden and President Xi, has seriously undermined the trust that previously existed between the two nations, and it comes after a whole array of actions – by Congress and by the Administration – which stand in contradiction to their stated support for the “one-China policy.” Building back that trust will not be an easy task.
In the white paper released on August 10 by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and the State Council Information Office entitled “The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era,” China underlined the importance of the reunification as an essential element in China’s rejuvenation. It also makes crystal clear China’s determination to defeat any moves to separate Taiwan from the mainland, and points to the key role of forces in the United States as the culprits who are doing their best to foment such a split.
Restoring that trust now depends on the actions of the United States. The indications that Biden will continue to maintain the tariffs on Chinese goods, which his Treasury Secretary advised him should be reduced for the sake of fighting inflation, will simply be adding fuel to the fire started by Pelosi. This will be bad news for the American people as well, who ultimately will pay the price of the tariffs at the food counter and at the pharmacy. More seriously, it will keep U.S.-China relations in the icebox, and the Biden administration will probably pay the price at the upcoming congressional elections.
It is reported that President Biden has closeted with some American historians to discuss why our dysfunctional democracy seems to have collapsed entirely. I doubt whether these individuals would have been honest enough with the President to indicate that perhaps his actions – and failure to act – may well have contributed to this problem. Fomenting continued conflict in Ukraine and continuing trade war with China has provided nothing of benefit to the American people, whose needs remain unmet and whose interests are ignored. Dividing the world into two warring camps makes us all much poorer. Is there any wonder why the world still respects – out of fear – America’s raw power, but has lost all respect for its so-called “values”? Or why is the world now moving in support of China’s notion of “a community of shared future for mankind”? For the United States, China’s “rise” is viewed as a threat to “U.S. hegemony,” but in the eyes of the world, it is viewed as a country that has pulled 800 million people out of poverty, promising great hope for humanity. While America has lost in its search for global power, China has won through its commitment to the development of mankind. And the recently concluded maneuvers around Taiwan should be attributed to the provocative moves by the U.S. House Speaker and not to some “sinister” intentions of Beijing, as China’s opponents would have people believe.
WILLIAM JONES is a non-resident fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China and a former White House correspondent for Executive Intelligence Review, an American news magazine.