Photo: cnn.io

Note: this is a machine translation from the original Russian text

The last days have become the point of the highest tension between China and the United States since, perhaps, the Korean War.

Beijing responded to the intention of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to pay a visit to Taiwan extremely harshly, showing that in this way Washington crosses the red line. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that in the event of Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, Beijing will take all measures to protect the state sovereignty and integrity of the country. The classic phrase preceding the use of force was deciphered by the official speaker of the Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian: "China has recently repeatedly expressed serious concern to the United States and stated its firm position, which is that Beijing strongly opposes the visit of Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan." "The responsibility for all the serious consequences arising from this will be fully borne by the United States," the diplomat stressed. The Ministry of Defense of the People's Republic of China promised to fight separatism on the island "by all means" and "not to sit idly by" if the trip takes place. According to the representative of the Chinese defense ministry Tan Kefei, Pelosi's visit will seriously violate the principle of "one China" and the provisions of the three joint Sino-American communiques.

Despite this, a US Navy carrier strike group led by the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, armed with 90 aircraft and helicopters, entered the South China Sea, and China began military exercises with live firing in nearby areas. Missile units were additionally deployed to Fujian Province. For greater clarity, the Chinese conducted a demonstration launch of a DF-17 ballistic missile with a hypersonic warhead.

The fact that the post "Preparing for war" in the account of the 80th army of the PLA, responsible for the defense of this region, caused a strong approving reaction in Chinese social networks speaks about the intensity of passions: "PLA soldiers, fight! We support you guys!". And army veterans in social networks have massively stated that they are ready to return to service if the Motherland demands it. Chinese military experts predicted the introduction of a no-fly zone over Taiwan to prevent the visit. This development, according to CNN, was also seen by Biden's closest advisers in the White House. And the former editor-in-chief of the Chinese English-language Global Times, Hu Xijin, known for radical views, in his account even suggested shooting down a plane with Pelosi on approach to Taiwan, as an aircraft that violated the state border.

All this took place against the background of preparations for the celebration of the 95th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army of China. At a solemn meeting of the CPC Central Committee, Chinese President Xi Jinping paraphrased a catch phrase from Confucius: only those who are ready to fight can stop the battle, and those who are ready for war should not start it. And he called for strenuously continuing the modernization of the PLA in accordance with the international situation.

In this very environment, Pelosi classified the program of her tour. With reference to anonymous sources, there were reports about the cancellation of a trip to Taiwan. Then it came from Taiwan: Pelosi is still coming.

Sources in Beijing are inclined to believe that the visit to Taiwan will still be canceled. The stakes are too high and the risk is too high. It remains to wait a few days, and we will find out how events will unfold. Let's hope that it won't come to an armed conflict.

But there are plenty of signs that the American provocation was prepared in advance and that such things will be repeated until the goal is achieved – to force China to start hostilities against its blood brothers on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, actually against the province belonging to the PRC.

Firstly, Pelosi's visit was originally planned for April and did not take place due to her illness, read - the beginning of a special operation in Ukraine, when all Washington's attention was switched to anti–Russian sanctions and assistance to Kiev. Despite the fact that Beijing warned Washington through all possible channels that this time the matter could go very far, the Americans did not stop preparing for a provocation. At the same time, Biden personally tried to reduce the heat or show that he was not ready for war. "The military thinks it's not a good idea right now," he said last week about the possibility of Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

Even when Pelosi's visit was announced, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Biden had a telephone conversation. "We strongly oppose separatism – "Taiwan independence", as well as interference by external forces, and we will never leave room for Taiwan independence forces in any form. The position of the Chinese Government and the Chinese people on the "Taiwan issue" has been consistent and more than 1.4 billion Chinese are determined to resolutely defend China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity. You can't go against public opinion. Playing with fire, you will set yourself on fire," China Central Television CCTV quoted the President of the People's Republic of China.

As reported by CCTV, President Biden, in turn, said during the conversation that today's world is in a critical period, and cooperation between the United States and China is beneficial not only to them, but also to the peoples of other countries. The United States hopes to maintain dialogue with China, strengthen mutual understanding, seek cooperation in areas where interests coincide, and properly resolve differences. "I would like to repeat that the US 'one China policy' has not changed and will not change, and the US does not support the 'independence' of Taiwan," Biden vowed once again.

Despite this, the probing of Beijing's red lines continued.

It seems that the White House is finding out whether Beijing is really "teetering on the brink of war", seeking to cancel Pelosi's trip, and what he really intends to do. On the battlefield, the enemy's air defense system is provoked in such a way that a preemptive strike is launched at the moment of the outbreak of hostilities. Dave Butler, a representative of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the military informs decision-makers in Washington about possible risks. "We warn what the enemy can do, discuss logistics, military plans and readiness."

And on the eve of the assistant to the US President for National Security, Jake Sullivan, avoided answering a direct question whether the US would be ready to defend Taiwan militarily if necessary. "Our policy has not changed. We maintain strategic uncertainty," Sullivan traditionally responded. "As part of this policy of creative tension, we have been maintaining peace and stability around the Taiwan Strait for decades."

By the way, the former US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (2019-2020), who made his way to Taiwan as part of the American NGO Atlantic Council, criticized this uncertainty on the eve:

"In my personal opinion, the policy based on the "one China principle" has outlived itself, it is time to move away from strategic ambiguity." According to Esper, it is China that poses the greatest challenge for Western countries. However, the problem with the American policy of "strategic uncertainty", in his opinion, is that the United States does not directly say whether they will be ready to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack. That is, it is proposed to make it clear unequivocally: the United States will defend Taiwan by all means.

And then Europe, which is usually restrained in relation to Taiwan, gave its voice. "In the event of a military invasion, we have made it very clear that the EU, together with the United States and its allies, will introduce similar or even more extensive measures than we have now taken against Russia," said EU Ambassador to China Jorge Toledo. And the UK offered to jointly arm the Taiwanese regime.

What is in the dry residue? Convinced of the futility of the strategy of "color revolutions" to defeat China, the United States found another Achilles heel of Beijing and shifted the center of gravity to Taiwan. The Taiwan problem is the most acute from the point of view of the Chinese leadership. His official plans are to return the island to the bosom of his homeland, but preferably peacefully. A military solution to this issue is the most extreme and undesirable option for the PRC. Especially on the eve of the twentieth Congress of the CPC (congresses are held every five years), at which the issue of extending Xi Jinping's stay at the head of state and the party will be resolved.

In addition, the outbreak of hostilities at one point would change the world image of the PRC, its foreign policy, built on solving problems "peacefully and diplomatically." Taiwan has been a hotbed of intense tension more than once. But now the situation is critical. Washington is forcing Xi Jinping to make difficult choices and abandon many plans. And the Chinese leader has no right to slack off.

Author: Mikhail Morozov, columnist of the newspaper "Trud"