Discourse Power | August 8, 2022
The Art of War, the Queen's Gambit, and On Contradiction
Following a brief visit, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi safely departed Taiwan today.
With all eyes on the island, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) announced last night that it would conduct live-fire drills all around it, including missile launches. Mainland customs authorities halted the imports of dozens of items, with MOFCOM suspending the exports of building materials, while Taipei reported a massive upsurge in cyberattacks.
It seems that the entire state-media apparatus, as well as diplomats stationed all over the world, have been mobilized to tell the China story well. Notably, ambassador Qin Gang called his host country’s move "reckless and provocative";
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi dubbed it a "farce,” 闹剧 warning that "Tsai Ing-wen and her ilk's decision to cling to America’s "big, fat leg" 粗腿 is a betrayal and a grave act of injustice to our nation 背弃大义." Doubling down on the ethno-nationalist zeal, Wang added that “those who play with fire will not enjoy a happy ending, and those who violate our Chinese nation 犯我中华者 will suffer the consequences.“
For a thorough breakdown of authoritative and semi-authoritative Chinese remarks on the visit, check out this helpful thread by Amanda Hsiao, Senior Analyst for China at Crisis Group.
The recent actions and statements can be seen as a case study of how the PRC operates to actively shape the global narrative and seize control over the discourse power in response to significant global events and relating to China's "bottom line" (core) national interests.
Because this newsletter focuses primarily on mainland perspectives, I would only like to stress the obvious, that at a time like this, it is crucial to supplement your reading with Taiwanese voices and reports by Taiwan scholars and journalists.
Please keep the comments coming, and if you find Discourse Power useful, consider sharing it on social media and in your professional circles.
Thank you for reading,
“The will of the people cannot be broken, and the great momentum cannot be reversed. Reunification is necessary and inevitable. Time and momentum are always firmly in our hands as we work toward realizing the reunification of the land of our ancestors”
According to a front-page commentary by the People's Daily, the Party's mouthpiece, the Biden administration made a "grave mistake" by "allowing" Pelosi to visit Taiwan, a "dangerous act" by the US that "hollows out" and "distorts" the one-China principle.
For a longer synopsis and additional important translations of Wednesday’s edition of the People’s Daily, click through Tracking People's Daily by Manoj Kewarlamani.
“Pelosi's "invasive visit" is being closely watched, as evidenced by public opinion around the world, which pays particular attention to the outrage and the voice of China”
Recognizing that China's comprehensive national power remains relatively weaker than that of the US, Renmin University Professor Wang Wen suggests that the best way to deal with Pelosi's "invasive visit" 窜访 is through "cost-effective measures."
Wang serves as the executive dean of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China (RDCY) and the executive director of the China-US People-to-People Exchange Research Center.
“China's recent actions have been the "most cost-effective" way to respond:
“Diplomatically, mainland China's diplomatic deterrence has repeatedly compelled the US side to explain that Pelosi's "visit" to Taiwan was merely a "personal affair" and did not represent the US government's own intentions.
“Militarily, Chinese fighter jets flew over the so-called "median line" to assert our de facto sovereignty. This is in addition to the previous declaration [in June] that the Taiwan Strait is no longer considered by China an international waterway.
“Pelosi's "invasive visit" is being closely watched, as evidenced by public opinion around the world, which pays particular attention to the outrage 愤怒 and the voice 声音 of China.
”In the past, Western nations would frequently use the terms "Taiwan" and "China" interchangeably in an effort to normalize and internationalize "Taiwan independence" in the eyes of the general public. This time, Pelosi has come under almost universal criticism for inciting and escalating the situation from the New York Times to two former Australian prime ministers, Kevin Rudd and Paul Keating, as well as other dignitaries.
“In a way that has not been seen in years, the entire West and the rest of the world are paying close attention to mainland China's policy toward Taiwan, which amounts to a global advertisement of China's assertion of sovereignty over the island.
“Some netizens were disappointed that we had not used the opportunity to carry out an "armed reunification" with Taiwan, but they underestimate the wisdom of the present response. It is brilliant and rational, and it represents China as a responsible and peaceful global power.
“In terms of military power, China is more than capable of toppling Taiwan, that is, "reunifying with Taiwan by force." However, as I have previously stated, "armed reunification" is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
“Not only do we need to consider when to start the reunification process, but also how to best serve our national rejuvenation following the reunification. The crux is that China needs to outperform the US in terms of economic power, attain financial and military strength comparable to that of the US, and develop an overwhelming capacity to counter international sanctions. By doing this, the US will no longer be able to form an external force to interfere in our affairs after the reunification and in the long run.
“Consider what would have happened if Pelosi's plane had been shot down, as some have speculated, or if armed force had been used directly against Taiwan. Such actions could have resulted in a major military clash between China and America, possibly leading to a world war.
“A major military clash with the US is not the goal of China's foreign policy, nor is it the path to a better life for the common people. Recall what Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War: "Do not act unless there is something to gain 非利不动; do not use military force without the certainty of victory 非得不用; do not go to war unless the situation is critical 非危不战.
“I concur with one Big-V ("influencer") mingshuzatan's 明叔杂谈 assertion that "perhaps one day we will all thank 'Comrade Pelosi' 佩洛西同志. If you look at the big picture, the mainland’s response to Pelosi's "invasive visit" has actually achieved three "tangible advances 实质推进":
“It provides a concrete pledge of sovereignty on a global scale, demonstrating to the rest of the world, as well as the US and the island of Taiwan, that China possesses the power and strategic resolve to safeguard its sovereignty.
“There have been substantial gains to both the PLA's operational map and the military blockade [capabilities]. The median line, airspace, and surrounding waters that originally made up the so-called "status quo" in the Taiwan Strait have been henceforth invalidated.
“A strong public consensus in favor of national unification has started to emerge. The Chinese people's outrage has reverberated throughout the world, and the Chinese government has sensed the true will of the entire populace. The world is awestruck by China's tenacity, endurance, and reason.
“But the fun part is yet to come; we're only getting started 好戏还在后头. Those who play with fire will burn themselves 玩火者必自焚 [as Xi warned Biden last week]" and the flames are shooting up as we speak.”
“It should come as no surprise that Pelosi and her entourage will be sanctioned by China. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has started [live-fire] drills in six ["exclusion zones" and four] directions just off the island's shores. This will give "Taiwan independence" proponents something to worry about for a long time to come.
“The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will face increasingly painful 打疼 measures in the coming months so that Taiwanese citizens can truly appreciate that the costs of supporting their foolish policies outweigh the benefits [DPP is the majority ruling party of Taiwan].
“[For example,] Mainland China has halted natural sand exports to Taiwan, and with the mainland supplying 90% of the island's building materials, this sector is expected to take a huge hit.
“It would seem that Taiwan's annual trade surplus with the mainland, which hovers around $100 billion USD on average, would be significantly diminished. The "Taiwan independence" proponents and their "relying on America 倚美" policy will face significant opposition from Taiwanese society and people as a result of this serious impact on their daily lives.
“Although China has surpassed the US in many areas, including trade and manufacturing, it must be acknowledged that China's comprehensive national power is still relatively weaker. With this assurance 有恃无恐, Pelosi is comfortable huffing and puffing 飞扬跋扈 to the point where she's willing to risk a war that will have a devastating impact on the lives of the Chinese people.
“‘Humiliation’ 耻感 is the greatest driving force behind progress. In the past, [national] ‘humiliation’ has produced a generation of committed and hard-working people and sped up China's development in the first two decades of the twenty-first century, taking it from the ninth largest economy in 2000 to the second largest economy today. Let's hope that the current "humiliation" will help to advance internal reforms, external openness, and all human advancement.
“The protracted war 持久战 for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will not be won in a single battle. The [winners and losers] of the great game [between China and the US] are determined by dozens, if not hundreds, of small battles such as the trade war, the fight against the suppression of Huawei, or the countermeasures to Pelosi's "invasive visit to Taiwan." (Guancha)
"It is not necessary to flip the ‘chessboard’ over just for a single ‘piece’”
The Central Committee of the Communist Youth League quotes Professor Wang Wen (see previews item), who advises China's "angry youth" to take a deep breath and consider the big picture.
“The competition between China and the US is like a great game of chess. It is not necessary to flip the "chessboard" over just for a single "piece." It is irrational 不理性 for China and the US to engage in an all-out "showdown" or a "fierce conflict," as some netizens have been imploring.
“While it is critical that anyone who crosses the line on Taiwan feel the pain 感受到痛, this does not mean that we should allow the situation to spiral out of control and encourage the US and China to engage in a full-fledged military conflict.” (Central Committee of the Communist Youth League | h/t @Maoviews)
“Some people were disappointed to see we chose not to engage in combat, despite the fact that the old hag had made it to Taiwan. While we salute their spirit, it's important to be clear about our goals so that we can act upon them when the time is right”
Dr. Mei Xinyu, a well-known columnist and economist with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (CAITEC) under the Ministry of Commerce, exhorts impulsive compatriots to keep in mind the objectives of unification with Taiwan.
“Can you recall how, back in the day, our party chose to withdraw from Yan'an? Look how far we’ve come. Rather than impeding the process with every passing gust of wind, we should stay focused on the end result.
“Looking at the map of the scheduled live-fire drills, it is immediately evident that we have officially begun our preparation for offensive and denial exercises in anticipation of future combat.
“Our special forces have been practicing on the mock-up of the [Taiwanese] "Presidential Palace" set up at Zhurihe [Training Base in Inner Mongolia] for so long, that they’re now capable of capturing the false "President" Tsai Ing-wen right there and then with their eyes closed.
“The troops have prepared for this scenario numerous times with a Tsai Ing-wen "lookalike" 模特. Different versions of the document of surrender are printed and ready for use by our ground forces during the upcoming live broadcast of Tsai's capitulation.
“The sooner live-fire drills like this become standard, though, the better, as a future war of reunification will require much more training than can be accomplished in any Zhurihe target practice.
“I don't think America is as “awesome” 神 as some portray it; the balance of power is gradually tilting in our favor, so what's the big rush?
“The old hag's visit to Taiwan doesn't necessarily bother me because such trials had to occur sooner or later. In light of the negative repercussions and limited gains, Western politicians who wish to exploit Taiwan will be forced to rethink their plans if we can make the other side pay a high enough price this time around. In fact, her visit facilitates Taiwan's eventual liberation.” (Mei Xinyu’s Lunheng)
“It's critical to realize that Wall Street, not the American people, is responsible for escalating US conflicts”
Leftist scholar and military strategist Zhang Wenmu, uses a Maoist lens to analyze Pelosi's visit and exhorts China to "let her go" while sticking with the "principal contradiction" of cross-strait unification.
Zhang is a professor at the Center for Strategic Studies at the prestigious Beihang University in Beijing and executive director of the World Socialism Research Center of the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
He is also an outright antisemite who has written on several occasions about Wall Street ties to “Jewish capital groups,” so keep that in mind as you read the following (also refer to my recent article on Chinese racist nationalism).
“The principal contradiction 主要矛盾 in the East China Sea at the moment is cross-strait reunification, and it is entirely a cross-strait affair. If this 这个 Pelosi is dragged into the fray, reunification will become a major issue in Sino-US relations, further complicating matters and replacing the principal contradiction with a secondary contradiction 次要矛盾.
“We shouldn't make a move on her because the main contradiction is a cross-strait issue; instead, we should let her go. This will ensure that the principal contradiction remains pure 纯粹.
“This will most likely aggravate Tsai Ing-wen, Japan, and Wall Street. All of them must turn cross-strait reunification into a Sino-US conflict akin to the one that occurred in the early 1950s.
“It would provide Tsai Ing-wen with an exit strategy from the crisis, much like Chiang Kai-shek did back then. Japan would get another chance to reap the spoils of a Sino-American conflict, while Wall Street is always eager to increase its arms sales.
“Pelosi is out, and all she got was the "face" 面子 (i.e., praise) she came for. The cross-strait issue is currently back to its original, pure state, we still have what's important, the essence 里子 of the situation.
“Recently, there have been some calls from people who wanted to "see some action" 不嫌事大 and turn the cross-strait issue into a Sino-American problem. In doing so, they would have made it the principal contradiction, with some even demanding to shoot down Pelosi's plane to get there. This, however, would only serve to distract us from the principal contradiction.
“The cross-strait problem is a Chinese-only concern. Although it cannot be completely separated from the US problem, we should seek to minimize its influence as much as possible.
“It's critical to realize that Wall Street, not the American people, is responsible for escalating US conflicts. This is why Mao Zedong only fought Chiang's army and not the US forces.” (Guancha)
Playing in the Background
Grandmaster Jon Anderson advises, "don't surround yourself with yourself."
Discourse Power is written by Tuvia Gering, a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, and a Tikvah’s Krauthammer Fellow, specializing in Chinese security and foreign policy, and emergency and disaster management. Any views expressed in this newsletter, as well as any errors, are solely those of the author. Follow Tuvia on Twitter @GeringTuvia