How China Warns Of Pelosi’s Taiwan Trip

Por • 3 ago, 2022 • Sección: Internacionales

Wen-Ti Sung 

Jul 27, 2022. A short thread on China’s #rhetoric on @SpeakerPelosi ‘s rumored plan to visit Taiwan. So far Beijing’s wording has been far below the threshold of the kinds of words & phrases that China historically used for signaling impending war/brinkmanship.

 Let’s start with MFA spokesperson’s recent words: «China will act strongly to resolutely respond to it and take countermeasures. We mean what we say» (中方必將採取有力措施予以堅決應對和反制。我們說到做到) Many observers take ‘forceful response’ to mean war. That may be overselling it. Note his key operative words ‘有力’ can mean ‘forceful’ or ‘effective’. If they meant war, they would have said ‘武力 or 非和平’ (military/non-peaceful measuresChina’s rhetoric is currently in say borderline 3rd gear. Another level up would be #懸崖勒馬, or «you are standing on the edge of the cliff». Translation: if you take more one step, you’ll fall and die». That’s unfortunate, but the cliff is a wonder of nature, not a man-made trap. So the fall is partly a tragedy of circumstance. So next levels focus on anthropogeNext up, we have ‘是可忍孰不可忍’, or «if we could put up with this, what else can’t we put up with?».

This means the perceived provocation from others not only threatens China’s interests, but threatens its #identity, too. This rhetoric invokes the familiar ‘century of humiliation’ and Chinese nationalism narratives, and are meant to signal China has no room to back down. It shows a readiness to use #brinkmanship. E.g. China used this language before skirmishes with India (1962), Vietnam (1979).

Finally, top gear is ‘勿謂言之不預’, literally «don’t say I didn’t warn you», aka ‘last warning’. China used this language before skirmishes with India, Vietnam, and Soviet Union (1967).

In short, China’s current language is tough but far from its toughest. It can mean either:

1) China is still deciding what to do, so they keep harsher words in reserve for now. OR

2) China is trying (not too successfully) to make it less costly for Pelosi & US to back down.

The upcoming Biden-Xi phone call will tell us whether China has made up its mind, and whether the so-called strategic ‘#guardrails’ they have built up — precisely for containing these tactical-level turbulences from runaway escalation — are effective.

The Chinese English language readout for the Biden -Xi phone call does not use any of the above phrases. The most ‘threatening’ part is this:

Cont. reading: How China Warns Of Pelosi’s Taiwan Trip

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