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Why Was Pelosi’s Visit Misjudged?

This translated commentary, titled ‘Why Was Pelosi Misjudged’ (为什么会误判佩洛西?), was published by the public WeChat account Wise People have Keen Observations (明人明察). The original commentary is still available on WeChat in Chinese, but archived versions can be found here and here.

It was originally published on August 4, 2022.

Pelosi came and Pelosi left, leaving behind a lot of things between her coming and going, leaving impacts on the situation in Taiwan and the world, some of which will be immediate and some of which will gradually emerge.

I’m still writing about Pelosi today. Some people may say, you have misjudged whether Pelosi will come or not, why are you still writing about it? Well, it is because of the misjudgment that I have to write about it. Today, I’m mainly going to sort out how and why the last two articles came to wrong conclusions. Although this should not be an important issue for you readers – after all, you do not just read articles here – but I think it is still necessary to sort out the reasons for coming to the wrong conclusions. Although our articles are updated irregularly and sometimes there are no new articles for a long time, whenever we do update, we try to present a more serious analysis. So this will be longer, and will involve a lot of detailed analysis that may be skimmed over in other articles, making arguments as to why this is so. This, naturally, may be laborious and unpleasant because many people do not want to read that many words or that much detail. Also, more detailed analysis will make it easier to make mistakes, but I still want to provide relevant conclusions while also presenting the full analytical process.

Is  my misjudgement caused by the use of a wrong logical framework of analysis?  Is it because  of one of the conditions supporting my calculation has changed? After sorting it out, I see no major problem with the logical framework of analysis, and all but two (actually, one) of the conditions supporting the conclusion hold.

These conditions include:

  1. Strength conditions:

It is indisputable that the overall strength of the United States is declining, China’s strength is rising rapidly, and the gap between the two strengths is closing rapidly. Although the United States still has the advantage of overall strength, that is in terms of the global scope, and around the Taiwan Strait, and even within the first island chain organized by the United States, the advantage of China and the United States has been reversed.

  1. The attitude of the United States in the face of war

The United States now does not have the ability and will to engage in war with the major powers, to maintain the deterrent power of the U.S. military, and cannot break out into war to expose the extent of U.S. weakness, which is the bottom line of U.S. decision-making. Now, the United States is even less likely to go to war with China for Taiwan, much less for Pelosi.

  1. The United States will not go to war with China for Pelosi and plug U.S. national fortunes.

The U.S. military’s attitude is obvious, and as long as China’s attitude is firm enough, in order to prevent Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, insisting on the attitude and determination of “burying the incoming enemy”, the U.S. side, which provides transportation services for Pelosi, will probably choose to stop Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

In addition to the reasons stated in the previous two articles, the following is added:

Pelosi’s forced visit to Taiwan now is not in the interests of the U.S. military, so the U.S. military chose this particular time to ground all F35 fighter jets and make just one aircraft carrier, or half of its battle group  around China, after Pelosi leaked the news to visit Taiwan. The actual attitude of the U.S. military is not to have a military conflict with China for the sake of escorting Pelosi.

The article by Maoge de Shijie (猫哥的视界)”The Showdown in the Taiwan Strait: Will Pelosi Visit Taiwan or Not?” analyzes the issue in more details and explains how Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan eventually happened despite U.S. military’s refusal to cooperate. The author composes a timeline:

First of all, when was the problem with the ejection seat of the F35 fighter plane discovered? It was April.

What happened in April? It was the first time Pelosi let it be known that she was going to visit Taiwan.

On July 18, foreign media broke the news that Pelosi would visit Taiwan.

On July 19, the U.S. Air Force ordered an investigation into the ejection seat of the F35 fighter jet.

Are the last two coincidences? Let’s say they are, then the third and the most wonderful coincidence came: 

The start of Pelosi’s departure on July 29;

On July 29, the U.S. Air Force announced the grounding of all models of F35 fighters because of the ejection seat problem!

What does stopping the F35 fighter aircraft mean? F35B and F35C are the U.S. carrier-based models, and F35A is the main fighter type of the U.S. Air Force. What would it mean if all F35 models were grounded?

The more critical question is why the above actions by the U.S. military [were] timed so well with Pelosi’s planned visit to Taiwan?

Does it want Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan to provoke China, or does it not? Is it to cooperate or not to cooperate?

I guess the reasonable explanation would be the latter. Some would say that in the end it was a U.S. military plane that delivered Pelosi to Taiwan. That was indeed the case. If the U.S. military did not even comply with the request to provide Pelosi with a military plane, it would be unjustifiable and not good domestically, and the U.S. military’s spending would have to be considered through the Congressional deliberations.

Even the U.S. military had  to make some moves, such as sending 22 refueling aircraft from Guam over to the Kadena base and deploying the Ronal Reagan aircraft carrier in the Sea of the Philippines to offer some support. But this support was based on the premise that there would be no military conflict with China. Otherwise, why ground all the F35 at this time? It is perfectly possible to find other non-sensitive times to begin the grounding. This problem was found many months ago and it was not necessary to make the announcement at this moment. If you say that the U.S. military can resume F35 operations at any time as needed, I also think you have a point, but still suggest taking into account the actual deployment of the U.S. aircraft carriers in the current situation: only half of the battle group of  USS Ronald Reagan were deployed around China. When fighting Iraq, all four aircraft carrier battle groups appeared in the same region. If the additional forces were temporarily delayed, would a few days not be enough time?

This also confirms, as we analyzed, the bottom line that the U.S. decision makers is now the following: it is politically correct to be anti-China, but it is politically incorrect to be so anti-China that direct military conflict may have to break out. The U.S. anti-China narrative is controlled to the extent that it does not get into direct conflict with China. If a major power makes preparations to preserve national sovereignty, dignity, and territorial integrity at the cost of war, then the United States will take a step back. This is also true in the case of Russia. It is certainly even more so in the case of Pelosi. If the U.S. military studied and judged that escorting Pelosi would cause a military conflict between China and the United States, they would step back. Because the U.S. military has made preparations to avoid war, this is in line with the bottom line of U.S. policymakers.

This is the reason why the U.S. Democratic Party wants to keep some distance from Pelosi on the issue of her visit to Taiwan. Of course, this distance is always dynamic and adjusted at any time according to the interaction between China and the United States. If they study and judge that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan would make the United States face the danger of war because of U.S. support, then the support was going to be very low, and they would keep some distance from Pelosi. The Republican Party would like to see Pelosi go to Taiwan because the Republican Party believes that it is very difficult and risky to go to Taiwan, and is trying to put Pelosi on the fire, so that the Democratic Party loses people and points. If Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was so easy to accomplish, or the Democratic government and the military were united to escort Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan no matter what, then would the Republican Party still support it? Because the success of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is not in the interest of the U.S. Republican Party.

Biden is Democratic president, and he should also be ambivalent. He did not want Pelosi to get into big trouble and make Sino-US relations out of control, so he had to repeatedly emphasize his commitment to uphold the One China Policy. Pelosi, as a major member of Congress, does not need to directly face the trouble when the Sino-U.S. relations gets out of control, but Biden has to directly face it, and the military does even more so.

Thus, the U.S. military was most opposed to Pelosi’s offending China, followed by Biden and his political team.

Biden’s lack of support was, of course, equally dynamic. It had to largely follow the military’s views, but it also had to maintain a certain degree of flexibility and space. If Biden believed that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan would cause relations between China and the United States to spiral out of control, then Biden would distance himself more from Pelosi’s visit. If he thought it would not, he would shorten the distance. If it was confirmed that it would not, he would stand with Pelosi to share the success of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

The distance between the U.S. military, the administration, and Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was a dynamic adjustment that followed the dynamic interactions of all the stakeholders involved. After Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, all parties had to come and share the victory cake, and also show to the outside that this was the result of the united and sincere cooperation of all government agencies. On the outside, it looks like a big success showing that the U.S. agencies are working together intimately.

This was all a dynamic adjustment of the U.S. based on whether it would thus touch that bottom line that the U.S. holds. It is not appropriate to use a static view of the relationship between the U.S. government, the military, and Pelosi.

  1. Pelosi’s personal will to go to Taiwan

The same goes for Pelosi. She was very eager to go, but whether she dared to go or not depended on how much resistance or risk she would encounter. More critically, if the U.S. military would not cooperate in transporting her, she could not do anything about it even if she wanted to go. Again, the dynamics were constantly changing.

A related question is whose will is Pelosi representing in her trip to Taiwan? This question is equally dynamic and changing. If she succeeds, she represents the will of the United States. If she is unsuccessful, it will be her personal will. The fact that she went to Taiwan this time despite pressure and resistance was more for her personal benefit and to divert the pressure she is personally under at home.

These conditions constitute a logic that, up to now, still looks fine. Then why was there a miscalculation?

Because there is another condition, the most important one, and several of the previously mentioned conditions have to be related to this condition and change according to this condition. The bilateral gaming is dynamic.

This condition is the phrase ‘as long as China is firm in its determination to use all means to stop Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, namely, unwaveringly sticking to the red line drawn’.

The importance of this condition is simplified in the article by Yuanfang Qingmu (远方青木) as follows:

Image translation: Whether China dares to fight and take back Taiwan simplifies the complicated question of Pelosi daring to visit Taiwan.

If China dares to go to war and succeed in taking Taiwan, then Pelosi would not dare to come.

On the contrary, if China does not dare to fight the war or is not sure of its success in taking back Taiwan, Pelosi would dare to visit Taiwan.

I was previously basing on some official statements, such as the military spokesman’s “the military will never sit idly by,” the Eastern Command’s “bury the incoming enemy,” and the Foreign Ministry’s “we’ll see what happens” information, which is to use all possible means to prevent Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, and think that this was the key factor that would prevent a visit to Taiwan by Pelosi.

The inaccurate understanding this time is mainly due to my own inability to fully appreciate the strategy deployed, and also, at that time, I was also influenced by the atmosphere of public opinion, thinking that the atmosphere had been set up here, and that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan would not take place no matter what. I didn’t expect that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan would be the beginning of our counterattack.

Image translation:

July 19, 2022

If Pelosi visits Taiwan, the PLA fighter aircraft can “accompany” Pelosi’s plane to enter Taiwan simultaneously, pass over its landing airport, and then pass through Taiwan to return to mainland China.

July 26, 2022

Once a maritime conflict happens, the PLA can wipe out the US carrier strike groups.

July 29, 2022

The PLA will keep its word, and the US will learn the iron will of the PLA once again.

July 30, 2022

If Pelosi insists on visiting Taiwan, China can shoot down the US planes.

Of course, from the beginning, I did not think it would take or need to take those tactics of Hu Xijin. Hu Xijin’s tactics, I think, were adding to the chaos. The options of establishing Taiwan as part of a Chinese-controlled air defense identification zone and also bombing the airstrip where Pelosi is going to land with missiles are both low-cost, effective options, and in line with the strategy of fighting Republic of China’s forces and not the U.S. forces. But in the contest of wills, we had to make a statement and prepare to fight all incoming enemies and deter the military adventures of the U.S. military.

At the time, I believed that in doing so, first of all, we were holding the higher moral ground because it was the United States that was changing the status quo, violating China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and breaching the One China principle. Secondly, we possess the military advantage in the Taiwan Strait. If coupled with the will and determination to make the U.S. military feel intimidated, there was a high probability that the U.S. military would not allow military aircraft to take risks and make itself passive, and would make plans to stop Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in advance.

The advantage of this line of action was two folds. First, Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan could be thwarted and face gained. Second, it could still use Taiwan’s invitation and Pelosi’s provocation as a reason to organize the island siege exercises now underway. This reason was also more than sufficient.  As long as Taiwan took the initiative to invite Pelosi to visit, China was  justified to do what it is doing now. There is no need to involve the United States. Third, by virtue of this, a clear line could be drawn to the United States, so that the United States’ Taiwan card could not be played subsequently. Fourth, it would allow the world to see clearly the nature of the U.S. as a paper tiger and lead to reconfiguration of different coalitions in the world that would be more favorable toward China.

Naturally, the pressure to do so was also very obvious. That was to have an early showdown with the United States. But according to the U.S. bottom line, the probability of a military conflict with China over Taiwan could be ruled out. The U.S. could put pressure on China in the supply chain in terms of weak links in China’s manufacturing industry such as chips, and to make moves in the security of energy supplies and overseas assets, all of which have been analyzed in the previous articles and will not be repeated. If the Chinese military engages in exercises around the islands, there is a high probability that the U.S. will also take the measures they think they can take.

Having made clear the reasons for my misjudgment, let’s state our attitude again: in this matter, we must have confidence in China and in the Chinese Communist Party. In the words of Li Guangman:

For the sake of the nation, the country and the people, we must be of one heart, one mind, and one soul, firmly believe in and support the decisions of the Central Government, resolutely overcome all difficulties and resolutely defeat all enemies!

I was reading all day yesterday and was deeply inspired and educated. A large number of articles are analyzing why Pelosi visited Taiwan, and there are a lot of insights, and the most representative statement is: one, although Pelosi has gained face (面子), we have gained the lining (里子). From now on, the median line of the Taiwan Strait will not exist anymore. The Chinese military can organize exercises around Taiwan where it has never been before. It will be the new normal in the future, making counter “sausage cutting” possible and making daily preparation for the eventual unification with Taiwan. Two, we can show the world the image of a victim of sovereignty violation, occupy the moral high ground, and win wider sympathy and support.

Our country has made substantial progress on many issues in the past few years, indicating that the country has had  more far-reaching considerations on many issues.

Image translation: When Japan claimed the Diaoyu Islands, we strongly condemned it. Now China’s cruising on the waters off the Diaoyu Islands has become the norm;

When China and India confronted each other along the Sino-Indian border, we strongly condemned it. Now India-China Border Roads have been constructed.

When the US warship entered the islands and reefs of the South China Sea within China’s territorial waters, we still strongly condemned it. In 2016, when the conflict between the three major Chinese fleets and the US dual carrier strike groups in the South China Sea was on the verge of breaking out, the US military withdrew.

You only see the condemnation, but not the action followed.

Today is August 4th, and according to the plan, the exercise should already be going on normally, with the U.S. military not intervening, in fact not daring to, but only sending observation planes to monitor the area near the exercise waters. This can already show that the initiative of the Taiwan issue is already in our hands, and the bottom line of the United States has been further revealed by Pelosi’s sneak visit to Taiwan.

So, even though Pelosi succeeded in her sneak visit to Taiwan, we could still bestow her a big medal. If she wanted to go and didn’t make it, she could have been issued a 10-ton one, and now she can get a one-ton medal.

Finally, to quote two morale boosting paragraphs from a spokesman for the Chinese Mission to the E.U. answering a reporter’s question on the G7 and E.U. Foreign Ministers’ statements on Taiwan:

A hundred years ago there was the invasion of China by the Eight-Power Allied Forces. Today the G7 plus 1 is again eight parties. Do you want to form a new Eight-Power Alliance? Do you think China is still the China of the past? Can you still get your way? Can you still do whatever you want? The Chinese people have long since ceased to be bullied and manipulated by the colonial powers. The affairs of Taiwan are purely internal affairs of China and are within the scope of Chinese sovereignty. The world today is no longer a time when the Western powers can run amok. The 1.4 billion Chinese people have the final say on what to do about Taiwan.

I am telling you, “if people do not offend me, I will not offend them; if they offend me, I will offend them.” Any infringement of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will be doubly returned by the Chinese people.