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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Editorial: U.S. and China need to rethink Taiwan risk management

  • August 3, 2022
  • , Nikkei Asia , 3:57 p.m.
  • English Press
  • ,

Beijing’s response to Pelosi’s visit is an overreaction


U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan Tuesday night, marking the highest-level visit by an American official in 25 years.


China’s response was to announce a “targeted military operation” in the island’s north, southwest and southeast. The People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command said it would conduct long-range, live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait.


These moves could amount to a blockade and are an overreaction. The trip to the island by a House speaker is not unprecedented and U.S. President Joe Biden has clearly said that the “One China” policy is unchanged. We urge Beijing to refrain from extreme measures.


Pelosi’s visit highlights the need for the U.S. and China to rethink how to establish a credible risk management scheme for Taiwan.


Currently, such risk management comes down to both sides flexing their muscles. What is needed instead is for Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet face-to-face, perhaps at the Group of 20 leaders meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in mid-November, and have a candid conversation.


The two leaders spoke by phone last week — the first discussion between the two since a virtual summit in March. Such talks between the leaders help to forestall accidental collisions. We hope the two countries continue to deepen understanding through whatever channels that are available.


The issue of Taiwan took up a large chunk of the two-and-a-half-hour discussion. Biden said the U.S. strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Xi warned that “those who play with fire will perish by it,” in an apparent reference to Pelosi’s planned visit.


There had been speculation that the Chinese military would try to obstruct Pelosi’s landing on the island. That did not happen, but China’s aggressions around Taiwan, now routine, have already heightened regional tensions. Beijing should refrain from further provocations.


The two leaders agreed to follow up on discussions regarding such issues as climate change and health security. Any cooperation between the two major countries in tackling global challenges would be a welcome development, even if immediate results are hard to come by.


Biden expressed concern over China’s unfair economic practices, but there was no specific mention of reducing tariffs on Chinese goods, a senior U.S. official told reporters.


Ahead of the call, Biden was reportedly considering removing some tariffs to tame inflation ahead of the midterm elections. But some in the U.S. oppose such a move without progress in China’s structural reforms. We hope the U.S. exercises careful judgment in reaching a decision on the matter.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also came up in the talks. Given the close relationship between Beijing and Moscow, China should do more to end the war as soon as possible.


Biden has yet to meet Xi in person since becoming president. The senior U.S. official said the leaders discussed the value of meeting face-to-face and agreed to have their teams work on finding a mutually agreeable time to do so.


We hope a face-to-face meeting happens at an appropriate time and that efforts to avoid a clash bear fruit.

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