Taiwan Crisis on the US-China Axis

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The structure of international relations has been gradually changing and is evolving from unipolar to multipolar order. This period brings uncertainty and a chaotic order, which opens the door to unpredictable developments. The area where this instability process, which is more concrete in certain geographies, is experienced most intensely is the Indo-Pacific Region.

The export-based economic order that China has implemented since the 1980s has opened new corridors in the world and made existing corridors more active. The Indo-Pacific, which was the main route for commercial ships departing from China, has also become the main route for oil tankers to China. The Indo-Pacific route hosts the most crowded merchant fleets in the world, is home to the strongest economies like the United States, China, Japan, and India, and is the location of the world’s most powerful navies’ exercises. All of these factors increase the region’s vulnerability while adding to its geostrategic significance.

The Indo-Pacific stands out as the region where the rivalry between China and the USA is most intense in international relations, which has entered the “New Great Game” phase. It can be said that the actor who dominates the region and takes Indo-Pacific under its control will unlock the new world and open the door to a new type of hegemony. Because it is known that 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered with seas and oceans, 80 percent of people live along coasts, and 90 percent of all world goods travel on the ocean. This trueness raises the importance of controlling the seas.[1]

This reality brings along different tension and conflict dynamics. In particular, the South China Sea, close to the coast of China, is home to today’s hottest and most turbulent waters. The maritime jurisdiction debates in the region, the navies of the states in the Atlantic Alliance against China’s increasing naval presence, especially the USA Navy, and the Taiwan Question, which has historical depth, are among the main developments that will cause frozen conflicts to turn into hot conflicts.

Perhaps the most current issue among these fragile structures and which can turn a regional conflict into a global war is related to the situation in Taiwan. The process, which started with the departure of nationalists from China in 1949 to Taiwan, constitutes the Achilles heel of China in international relations. Seeing all kinds of developments in Taiwan as its own internal matter, Beijing especially criticizes official visits to Taiwan.

The Taiwan Strait, which has been under controlled tension for a long time, has faced a serious crisis in recent days. The process, which started with the announcement that Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who is in an official duty and also in a vital position in the USA, will visit the island, has also triggered the process of mutual tension. As it is known, Pelosi has stated that will visit Taiwan Island in the past; however, she canceled this visit on the grounds that she was infected with the Covid-19 disease. In addition, Pelosi went to Tiananmen Square in September 1991, when she was a Congressman and held a banner commemorating the Chinese students who died for democracy in Tiananmen, and her action resulted in the prison sentence of the head of the CNN office in Beijing.

Following Pelosi’s statement, on June 25, 2022, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian, upon a question asked at his daily press conference in Beijing, said that the visit of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives to Taiwan would violate the One China principle and China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In addition, Lijian stated that such a development would also harm China-US relations.[2]

The following statement by Pelosi on July 31, 2022, was interpreted as the United States taking a step back and decreasing the tension a bit, despite the heated language from Beijing and Washington escalating the tension:[3]

“Today, our Congressional delegation travels to the Indo-Pacific to reaffirm America’s strong and unshakeable commitment to our allies and friends in the region. In Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, our delegation will hold high-level meetings to discuss how we can further advance our shared interests and values, including peace and security, economic growth and trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, human rights and democratic governance. Under the strong leadership of President Biden, America is firmly committed to smart, strategic engagement in the region, understanding that a free and flourishing Indo-Pacific is crucial to prosperity in our nation and around the globe.”

The fact that Taiwan was not listed as one of the places to visit in the aforementioned statement was viewed as the USA withdrawing, and the first evaluations indicated that China had won this war of supremacy. However, the media reports on August 1, 2022 stated that Pelosi would go to Taiwan and this news was confirmed by the officials.[4]

To summarize briefly, the softening process that took place on July 31, 2022, once again turned into a risk of hot conflict on August 1, 2022. The US Navy sent the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and two amphibious attack ships USS Tripoli and USS America to the Taiwan region with F-35B Lightning II fighters.[5] In addition, on August 1, 2022, 4 Chinese J-16 fighter jets entered Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone and The Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, posted a video titled “stand by in battle formation, be ready to fight upon command, bury all incoming enemies”. In addition to this video, the Chinese Army has also released a video of 9 H-6 strategic bombers flying together. Another statement from Beijing announced that the Chinese Navy will start exercises in the South China Sea on August 2, 2022.

Amid escalating tensions and the possibility of a potential military confrontation, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said:[6]

“We want to once again make it clear to the US side that the Chinese side is fully prepared for any eventuality and that the People’s Liberation Army of China will never sit idly by, and we will make resolute response and take strong countermeasures to uphold China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, What the US should do is to abide by the one-China principle and the stipulations of the three Sino-US joint communiqués, fulfill President Biden’s commitment of not supporting “Taiwan independence” and not arrange for a visit by Speaker Pelosi to Taiwan.”

In addition to the military initiatives of China and the USA, Taiwan’s largest annual military exercise, the “Hanguang Exercise”, kicked off in the region. The exercise, which simulates how the Taiwanese Army will respond to the Chinese Army’s attack, is closely watched by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

Understandably, the Taiwan Strait is witnessing military deployments and tensions like never before. Both the USA and China are on the same rope and want to bring each other down. The USA intends to pressure China through Taiwan, which it sees as China’s weak point, and even force Beijing to take military action. As a matter of fact, the date Pelosi chose for her visit to Taiwan is also very meaningful. Because August 1 is the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army of China.

In the shadow of all these developments, Pelosi visited Taiwan on August 2, 2022. Despite the objections from Beijing that there would be a military response, this visit is extremely significant as it is a development that shows that the US has not taken a step back against China. With this move, the Washington administration has clearly demonstrated that it will increase the pressure on China, that it will continue to press the points it sees as Beijing’s Achilles heel, and that it is determined to its strategy of encircling China. Undoubtedly, this development will also be reflected in the relations of the USA with the actors with which it cooperates in the Indo-Pacific geography. It can be predicted that the actors, especially those who have some conflicts with China, will get closer to Washington. Because the inability to stop Pelosi’s travel harmed China’s ability to deter.

However, it is too early to say that Beijing will not take a step on the Taiwan issue. In this sense, the option of intervention against the island still maintains its place on China’s agenda. This option can have two different consequences. Considering the first possibility, Washington will use the sanctions card against China in the event of an operation being launched by Beijing and will try to make China lose strength by flowing its power into the Taiwan Strait. These steps could stop China’s rise which has been going on for years. Moreover, China does not have a serious war experience. Given the difficulty and experience requirement of an amphibious operation, there is no guarantee that Beijing will emerge victorious. Undoubtedly, a victory that cannot be achieved in a short time can have a devastating effect for China. The second possibility may appear as Beijing’s strong objection to American hegemony by demonstrating its determination on the “One China Principle” through an operation to Taiwan that will result in success. But this option is seen as not likely and logical.

[1] Prokhor Tebin, “How The Strategic Situation Changes in the World Ocean”, Global Affairs Russia, https://eng., (Date of Accession: 01.08.2022).

[2] “Statement by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan”, Xinhua News,, (Date of Accession: 01.08.2022).

[3] “Pelosi to Lead Congressional Delegation to Indo-Pacific Region”, Speaker of the House,, (Date of Accession: 01.08.2022).

[4] “Pelosi Expected to Visit Taiwan, Taiwanese and US Officials Say”, CNN,, (Date of Accession: 01.08.2022).

[5] Liu Zehen, “US Aircraft Carrier Group Heads Towards Taiwan as Tension Over Nancy Pelosi’s Possible Visit Continues to Grow”, SCMP,, (Date of Accession: 01.08.2022).

[6] “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on August 1, 2022”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People’s Republic of China,, (Date of Accession: 01.08.2022).

Mustafa Cem KOYUNCU
Mustafa Cem Koyuncu, Karabük Üniversitesinde Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde Master öğrencisi olup Hint-Pasifik Bölgesi, ABD-Çin Rekabeti, uluslararası güvenlik, jeopolitik ve stratejik araştırmalar alanları üzerinde çalışmalar yapmaktadır. Karabük Üniversitesi’nde eğitimine başlamadan önce, Boğaziçi Üniversitesinde Lisans eğitimini tamamlamıştır. Özel sektörde yöneticilik tecrübesi kazanmasının ardından Koyuncu, kariyerine ANKASAM’da devam etmektedir. Koyuncu, ileri seviyede İngilizce bilmektedir.