Democratic Party House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August 2-3 trip to the island of Taiwan was a major—and dangerous—provocation by U.S. imperialism against its nuclear armed rival China.1 Pelosi left Taiwan, but the U.S. imperialists have continued to rabidly escalate their game of “nuclear chicken” with China—a “game” which threatens the very future of humanity!
The Biden administration and the U.S. ruling class as a whole have identified China—which is no longer a socialist state but a rising capitalist-imperialist power—as the main strategic challenge to their global dominance, including in the Asia-Pacific region.2 The U.S. rulers calculate—recklessly—that pushing and goading China and simultaneously firming up/expanding U.S. military alliances is essential to thwarting its rise.
Taiwan: Flashpoint for Rivalry, Conflict, Potentially War
Taiwan and the 80-mile-wide strait between it and China are two of the main and most dangerous flashpoints in the increasingly antagonistic U.S.-China rivalry.
China has long considered Taiwan part of its sovereign territory. And for the current capitalist-imperialist rulers of China, Taiwan is a core strategic interest in terms of their domestic cohesion, national defense, and interests and ambitions in the Pacific and the world. (The U.S. has formally recognized the People’s Republic of China’s sovereignty over all of China including Taiwan since 1979 and does not formally recognize the sovereignty of Taiwan and its government.)3
The U.S. imperialists have never ceased maintaining their economic, political and military connections with Taiwan. It is strategically vital because of its location in a major manufacturing hub and one of the busiest trade routes in the world. It is highly militarized with U.S.-supplied weapons.
But now the U.S. is increasingly flouting the “one China” agreement they have had with the Chinese government for decades. It has stepped up discussions with Taiwan’s rulers over increasing arms shipments, as Taiwan moves to further build up its military and move away from China economically. Taiwan is also increasing its military and political ties with other pro-U.S. governments in the region.4 This past May, Biden threatened to go to war if China attacked Taiwan.5
So against this backdrop, the trip by Pelosi, the highest-ranking U.S. official to go to Taiwan in 25 years, and her meeting with top Taiwanese officials as if they were heads of a sovereign state, was seen by China as—and actually represented—a major U.S. provocation and a slap at Chinese sovereignty and the “one China” policy.
China had warned against Pelosi’s trip, but she went anyway, knowing it would provoke a Chinese reaction! And China did react: launching four days of extensive live-fire military exercises, then several more days of “joint anti-submarine and sea assault operations.” It announced it would be carrying out regular military patrols around Taiwan.
It also halted talks with the U.S. over a number of issues, including the climate crisis, anti-drug efforts and military relations. This is a very dangerous development. The U.S. and China are the world’s two biggest economic and military powers. What they do—or don’t do—regarding the climate and avoiding war, especially nuclear war, will have a big impact on all humanity. Things didn't even get to this level of breakdown in the 1980s when the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the main global imperialist rival of the U.S. at that time, were careening toward direct confrontation and possible nuclear war.
Flashpoints at Sea
The U.S. is also responding aggressively and belligerently to Chinese naval moves in the Pacific, in the Taiwan Strait in particular.
Following Pelosi’s trip, China reiterated it alone had sovereignty over the strait between China and Taiwan, a position China has taken for years (and asserted more frequently and forcefully recently).6
The U.S. responded by announcing that within weeks its Navy was planning to sail warships through the strait, in a direct challenge to China’s declaration. A Pentagon official claimed China was trying to “coerce” Taiwan and the “international community” and reiterated the U.S. insistence that “What we’ll do instead is to continue to fly, to sail and operate wherever international law allows us to do so, and that includes in the Taiwan Strait.”7
Over the past several years, China has claimed territorial control of much of the South China Sea. The U.S. insists that it has the “freedom of navigation” throughout the Pacific. That claim of “freedom of navigation” is basically a declaration by the U.S. imperialists that they are the dominant naval power in the region and are determined to keep it that way.
Pelosi’s trip, America’s embrace of Taiwan, and its insistence it and only it has the right to sail warships wherever it wants amounts to willfully embarking on a course that they fully realize could force China into military action... and risk an unimaginably destructive regional or even world war, which could very well go nuclear.
Democrats and Republicans: Indistinguishable in Their Imperialist Warmongering
In this moment in the U.S., with threats of civil war hanging in the air and the fascist Republican wing of the ruling class and the “bourgeois-democratic” Democrat wing bitterly divided over most every issue—their united antagonism to China is remarkable. In fact, Democrats and Republicans were virtually indistinguishable in their agreement that Pelosi’s visit was “positive” from the standpoint of representing U.S. (imperial) interests, and their denunciations of China and demands for tougher action. (To leave no doubt, 12 days after Pelosi’s visit, another Congressional delegation, led by Democrat Ed Markey, visited Taiwan.8)
This “bipartisan” consensus that the U.S. must ramp up confrontation with China shows, once again, that the Democratic Party, like the Republicans, is a party of the imperialist ruling class—a party of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Oppose ALL Modern-Day Slavemasters—Especially “Our Own”
This intensification of U.S. actions toward China is taking place as the U.S./NATO-Russia proxy war in Ukraine grinds on, with the real danger that it could escalate into a broader war or even direct military clash between the U.S. and Russia with unpredictable consequences.
The intensifying rivalry between the U.S. and China in the Pacific and beyond, and the U.S./NATO-Russia proxy war in Ukraine, are both battles between capitalist-imperialist powers—modern-day slavemasters—over who will dominate the Pacific, Europe, and the world. The people of the world have NO interest in siding with any of these predatory powers. Our interests lie in overthrowing them and getting beyond the dog-eat-dog, planet-destroying system of capitalism-imperialism.
And people here in the U.S. have a special responsibility to oppose the crimes of “our” rulers, and welcome their difficulties and defeats—because such setbacks can weaken their grip on the people and the planet, and can hasten the revolutionary demise of their rule and system which has brought such horror and suffering—and now threatens humanity’s very existence.
Bernie Sanders and the Democratic “Progressives” and “Socialists” on Pelosi’s Trip: The Silence of the Lambs
What was the response of leading “progressives” and “social democrats” in Congress to Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, which was a major—and dangerous—provocation against U.S. imperialist rival China, raising the specter of possible clashes between two nuclear-armed powers?
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren—two very vocal U.S. senators who many people see as being “anti-war”—refused to make any comment about the Pelosi trip when asked by Fox News. On August 3, a foreign policy advisor for Bernie Sanders said Sanders "hasn't commented on this."
Ro Khanna, a California Democratic Congressman and leading member of the “progressives” in the House, defended Pelosi’s trip in an August 10 interview. Khanna said she didn’t go to Taiwan “to provoke a new Cold War with China.” He assured his interviewer that “I want peace,” but then proceeded to join the chorus calling for action against China’s economic practices and human right’s record.
This tells you two things:
One, that a program of “fairer wealth distribution” in an imperialist country can only mean a more “equitable and inclusive” division of the spoils of worldwide plunder and super-exploitation. And if that’s your program, then you gotta have an empire.
Two, that whatever their “socialist” pretensions, these are Democrats—and the Democratic Party is a party of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Background: Why Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan Was a Provocative Act of U.S. Aggression
The U.S. rulers and the media have treated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August 2-3 trip to Taiwan as a perfectly innocent visit with a U.S. ally and normal act of peaceful diplomacy, without delving into the actual history of the relations between China, Taiwan and the U.S. That background shows why Pelosi’s visit was neither innocent nor normal, but an act of provocation and aggression by the U.S.
Taiwan, an island 80 miles off the coast of China, was part of China until 1949. When the revolutionary forces led by Mao Zedong came to power on the mainland, the pro-U.S. counter-revolutionary forces fled to and took over Taiwan with U.S. backing and declared themselves to be the “real” Chinese government. While China was still a socialist country (1949-1976), it maintained Taiwan was legally part of China, a position recognized by most of the world. Yet through the next 22 years, in an effort to isolate the new socialist People’s Republic of China, the U.S. recognized only their puppet government of Taiwan as the “legitimate” government of all of China—despite the fact that only 10 million people lived on Taiwan while 600 million—one-quarter of humanity—lived in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Beginning in 1971, as a result of changes in the world situation, the U.S. rulers began building relations with the PRC. U.S. President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, and in 1979 the U.S. established full diplomatic relations with the PRC and recognized it as the sole legitimate government of China, while ending diplomatic relations with the government in Taiwan, the so-called Republic of China, even as Taiwan has remained an important cog in the U.S. empire economically, political and militarily. (After Mao’s death in 1976, socialism was overthrown in China. The new capitalist rulers have continued to claim Taiwan.)
The U.S. claims to adhere to this “One China” policy to this day, yet Pelosi’s trip flew in the face of it because both she and Taiwan’s rulers treated it as a government-to-government visit.
This is yet another example of America’s long history—beginning with Native Americans—of trampling on or ignoring the very treaties and agreements it signs and claims to uphold.
In recent years with the escalation of U.S.-China imperialist rivalry, that understanding has been fraying and the U.S. is increasingly arming and bolstering Taiwan as part of “containing” China and maintaining U.S. domination of the Asia-Pacific region. Meanwhile, China has increasingly declared its intention to “re-unify” Taiwan with the mainland as part of its stepped-up efforts to project economic, political and military power throughout the Asia-Pacific Region.