Are Europe and the US threatened with a two-front war against China and Russia – triggered by a dramatic clumsiness of US policy? On August 1 of all days, tensions are growing with Beijing over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans to visit Taiwan.
On the founding day of the People’s Army, China celebrates its imperial ambitions with nationalist rhetoric. It regards democratic Taiwan as a breakaway province with no right to its own foreign policy.
China threatens to intercept Pelosi’s plane. “Those who play with fire will get burned,” President Xi Joe Biden warned over the phone. China is now holding live ammunition maneuvers across from the island of Taiwan.
Viewed from Germany, Taiwan may seem far away. And the conflict about its status under international law and the future of its democracy are of secondary importance.
The outbreak of war would change that in a flash. It would menacingly exacerbate Europe’s precarious security situation and economic and political susceptibility to blackmail, which the fighting in Ukraine has revealed.
Asia’s dependency on strategically important goods, from auto semiconductors to pharmaceuticals, is even higher than that of Russian gas. And how will Europe militarily stand up to Russia if the US is concentrating its forces on the conflict in the Pacific? The success of the Ukrainian counterattack owes more to US aid than to Europe.
The escalation in Taiwan is a double alarm signal for Germany and the EU: the danger of war must be averted in the short term. In the medium term, they must review all areas of their relationship with China where there is a threat of existential dependency and reduce it. Experts have been warning of a war over Taiwan for a long time.
Europe has little influence on the current escalation. It is reassuring that Biden and Xi have been on the phone for more than two hours. Your goal is relaxation. Domestic political crises are putting both of them under so much pressure that they must avoid a war over Taiwan at all costs.
Here, as there, the economy is the biggest concern. The US faces the twin threats of inflation and recession. China’s zero-Covid strategy has failed. In the absence of growth, there is a lack of money to combat the many structural problems and to keep citizens happy with gains in prosperity.
The residual risk of escalation comes from Xi and his nationalist zeal. Another war would not increase Biden’s popularity. Contrary to the usual limitations on power, Xi wants to remain at the top for more than ten years and needs the party’s blessing to do so.
The danger of a war over Taiwan will not decrease in the next few years. China is mainly to blame for this.
Pelosi is not to blame for wanting to visit Taiwan. Predecessors did the same, and European politicians do the same. Democracies must stand together and show it.
Pelosi’s mistake was the insensitive choice of dates after the original spring trip was canceled due to Covid. Your visit can be postponed again. He must not drop out, especially not after the unacceptable threats to shoot down their plane.
Germany and Europe must now do everything possible to ensure that their ability to act does not suffer from economic dependencies in the event of a Taiwan war, as was the case with Ukraine. Taiwan is the frontrunner in semiconductor production but has so far failed to meet Europe’s requests to move some manufacturing to the EU.
Why not back-to-back deals that benefit everyone, along the lines of: Taiwan will get more European and US political and military support if it builds chip factories here.
This is also for peace. China would then not be able to speculate that the West would not support Taiwan in an attack because it fears for supplies of essential goods from Asia.