Beyond Boundaries


United States House Speaker and veteran Democrat Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan on August 02, despite the loud and public Chinese warnings to her for avoiding “a major political provocation”.This was the most high-level political engagement of the US with Taiwan in 25 years. China’s swift response was launched in three spheres: two actions targeted Taiwan and one US.

The most significant response was commencement of a Joint military exercises, on August 04, involving all three elements of Armed forces, i.e., Army, Air Force, and Navy, in six regions surrounding Taiwan. The unprecedented scale of violence demonstrated in these military drills carried out with the clear aim of establishing sea blockades and establishing air superiority for supporting landing troops for capture of the island, marked many ‘firsts’. The exercise which concluded on Sunday included the crossing of the median line of the Taiwan Strait by many warships and aircraft, and the firing of conventional missiles over the island of Taiwan into waters to the east.Taiwan accurately described it as a simulated attack for invading and capturing the island.

Second set of actions were economic curbs such as barring more than 100 Taiwanese exporters, and a suspension of fish, fruit and sand imports, which account for a small portion of two-way trade. Measures have not, so far, targeted the main drivers of bilateral trade, including semiconductors, for which Chinese companies are dependent on Taiwan.

Third and US oriented action involved China announcing cancelation or suspension of eight key dialogue mechanisms with the U.S. This includes the three key bilateral military dialogue mechanisms (Theatre Commanders meet, Defence Policy Coordination Talks, and talks under the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement), and suspension of bilateral talks on climate change, repatriation of illegal immigrants, legal assistance in criminal matters, transnational crimes, and counter-narcotics.

Strategic core of the US-Taiwan rivalry is in the geographical fact that, Taiwan is the largest landmass between Japan and Philippines and thus anchors a chain of islands crucial for containing rising military power of China. This chain of islands which is roughly aligned in NE-SW direction, runs from Kamchatka to Borneo is a strategic obstacle for Chinese Navy’s access to Pacific Ocean (see the figure below).






Figure – First Chain of Islands

China has expressed clear intensions of occupying the role of dominant Pacific Power in future and US has made prevention of this outcome an objective of its national defence strategy.

These events which have the potential of triggering Fourth Taiwan Straits crisis are happening at a crucial time when the world is already grappling with a large number of crisis situations. This unnecessary provocative posturing of both US and China appears to be based on calculated risks taken by them to achieve advantageous position in their ongoing power struggle for leadership position in world order.

During last two years US has made concentrated efforts for disengagement from their source consuming endeavors of West Asia and, bring its focus back on Pacific region. For past few years, all the allies of the US in the region, be it Japan, Philippine, Australia, or New Zealand were worried about China’s assertive and aggressive behaviour. Taiwan with which US had a defence treaty till 1980 was comfortable with the status quo situation which has prevailed since then. US in 1979 recognized ‘One China’ stance of the Chinese Authorities but maintained an ambiguous stand with respect to their claims about Taiwan. Many US analysts argue that ‘recognition’ does not mean ‘acknowledgement’ of China’s right to achieve unification of Taiwan with mainland, if necessary, by use of force. Though the US government (Executive Branch)is trying to justify the Pelosi’s unwarranted visit, during these turbulent times, by claiming that she is from different branch (legislative) and thus her actions do not reflect the official stance, but such explanations are not very convincing. May be this is a US signal to China that it is capable of simultaneously engaging Russia in Ukraine with NATO allies and containing China in Pacific Region. This gesture will obviously send reassuring messages to the regional allies.

Chinese strong reaction may have been driven by the two internal factors. Ultra-nationalist President Xi’s public warnings opposing the visit, had created such a hype that majority of the Chinese population was expecting that Pelosi’s plane will be engaged before landing in Taiwan. Since that did not happen, conducting intimidating military exercises was a necessity to satisfy the belligerent appetites of wolf warriors. Xi who is expecting conformation of his third term in autumn session of the CCP, cannot afford to appear weak at this critical juncture. Therefore, it appears that he is hoping that grand military show will divert the attention of population from the negative economic impacts of ‘Zero Covid’ policy.

Who will pass the Taiwan test? Presently, this question cannot be answered, even by the Oracles of Delphi. But this can be stated with certainty that, both, the reigning and aspiring powers could have chosen better timings for resuming Taiwan contest.

Signing off for the week, by quoting former President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, “It’s very important for Taiwan to maintain its international contact.”


Brigadier Rajiv Mahna YSM, SM, VSM is an Indian Army Veteran who has chosen to remain a student for the lifetime

 …..  We Said It







“We Said It”

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