Beijing cuts U.S. cooperation to protest Pelosi’s Taiwan visit

“High-level bilateral military contacts have long been a vexed issue. Beijing repeatedly rebuffed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s efforts to secure a call with his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe. Austin finally succeeded in speaking to Wei in April after almost 18 months of efforts.

“We want more open communications particularly between our militaries at a time like this,” John Kirby, National Security Council spokesperson, said Friday. “Because when you have this much military hardware steaming and sailing and flying around, the chances of misperceptions and miscalculations only increase.”

But the relatively low-level nature of the canceled talks suggests that Beijing’s cancellation was more form than substance.

“These are all useful engagements but ones that are not at the very top level and …[bilateral] communications will remain open,” said Ret. Vice Adm. Robert B. Murrett, professor of practice at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. “I would hope that as opposed to being canceled, these [meetings] are actually just being suspended and that cooler heads would prevail sometime into next year.”

The announcement of cancellations allows Beijing to publicly vent about the Pelosi visit while providing time to walk them back in the coming months. That performative aspect of the Chinese response reflects President Xi Jinping’s domestic political considerations and the need to burnish his image as an iron-willed defender of China’s territorial integrity. That effort is particularly urgent in the run-up to autumn’s 20th Communist Party Congress, where Xi is widely expected to emerge with an unprecedented third term as a paramount leader.”

Xi Jinping asserts his power on Hong Kong’s handover anniversary

“Lee’s tenure — and Xi’s support for it — mark a low point for civil rights and political freedom in Hong Kong. They also show Xi’s disdain for global human rights norms and a growing geopolitical divide between East and West, Lai said. “Xi Jinping’s vision is not to bring China in line” with those norms, he told Vox, but to assert dominance in places like Hong Kong and Taiwan, which threaten to provide alternative visions of political and social life. “Hong Kong seems to be the lesson.””

Why Biden’s off-the-cuff comment about defending Taiwan matters

“at a news conference in Tokyo, Biden was asked by a journalist: “Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”

“Yes,” said Biden. “That’s the commitment we made.”

Biden’s remark might be a big deal. US policy toward Taiwan has been one of “strategic ambiguity” for four decades — supporting Taiwan’s independence without quite saying so. As part of the “One China” policy, the US does not recognize the democratic island nation of Taiwan, but maintains “a robust unofficial relationship” with it, according to the State Department. (The US supports Taiwan with weapons and has deep economic ties with the country.) In a phrase, Biden broke down that convention.

At the same time, it wasn’t a particularly revelatory moment. It was actually the third time that Biden has said something along these lines. In October 2021, Biden stated a similar “commitment” to Taiwan. In August 2021, Biden compared the US approach to Taiwan to its pledge to defend NATO countries. (An official then walked back those remarks).

All of those comments reveal a lot about Biden’s tendency for undisciplined, off-the-cuff responses — another example is his remark in late March that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” — but don’t necessarily represent major policy shifts.

Today, once again, the White House quickly disavowed Biden’s statement. “As the president said, our policy has not changed,” a White House official said.”

America is trying to fix the chip shortage one factory at a time

“Making chips is an intricate process, but building a factory that can do this type of manufacturing is even more complicated. For one thing, fabs can’t go just anywhere. They need to be close to a reliable source of electricity, since they can use as much energy as 50,000 homes in a single year (they release a lot of carbon emissions, too). These factories also need to be near a large body of water, which they use to clean and cool down their equipment, which, in turn, produces wastewater that needs to be treated. And it’s better if they’re not particularly close to any airports or geological fault lines; seismic activity can disrupt the incredibly precise machinery they use.

Then there’s the matter of the supply chain. Beyond the fab, making a chip can involve 70 different border crossings and more than 1,000 steps, and a single disruption in one country or during a particular step can throw the entire process off course. That’s because there are usually very few, if any, other options for supplies when something goes wrong. For example, just one company in the Netherlands, ASML, makes the specialized, $200 million lithography tools that many advanced chip fabs rely on. And just two firms, both based in Ukraine, supply about half of the specialized neon gas that fabs throughout the world use to control these lasers. Of course, securing all this equipment has gotten even more difficult during the pandemic.”

“concern is based, in part, on fears that China may invade Taiwan at some point and attempt to take control of its chip-manufacturing capacity. But there are other reasons to be worried about the state of US semiconductors. The US doesn’t currently make very many of the most basic, or legacy, chips, which are typically produced where they can be made for less. These are the chips that became unavailable during the pandemic, and that made lots of technology hard to find and drove up car prices. The US will also need to manufacture more chips to maintain its hold on the auto industry, since EVs will likely need at least twice as many chips as their gas-powered counterparts do.”

Lithuania wins microchip windfall from Taiwan in China clash

“Because of the warming diplomatic ties between Lithuania and Taiwan, China has unleashed a strict embargo against the Baltic nation — boycotting not only its exports but even goods from other EU countries made with Lithuanian components.

To help ease the pain for its most dogged European ally, Taiwan has announced a $200 million investment plan. And that raises the prospect of co-operation on chips.

Taiwan’s investment plans in Lithuania are not yet finalized, pending studies to be conducted by a team of Taiwanese experts within the next few months. But in an interview with POLITICO, the top Taiwanese diplomat in Vilnius said nothing was off the table, and that Lithuania could act as an inroad to the rest of the European semiconductor market.”

““Taiwan is playing its economic cards smartly,” Mathieu Duchâtel, director of the Asia Program at the Paris-based Institut Montaigne said. “Clearly, Taiwan has something concrete to offer to strengthen the European semiconductor ecosystem, and the message is that this is linked to deepening Taiwan’s international space — so this is a form of economic statecraft.””

The many signals China is sending with its Taiwan flyovers

“We’ve got a couple different signaling audiences.

There’s Chinese domestic politics. National Day was October 1. It’s often a day for the Chinese government to emphasize their nationalist credentials and project hope for the future about reunifying China, whether that means Taiwan or suppressing the Uyghurs or that kind of thing.

There’s a Taiwanese politics component, specifically an attempt to demoralize the public that China is stronger and you can’t win. The quote-unquote pragmatic choice is just to unify with us. Those tend to backfire. In 1996, China launched a couple missiles across the Taiwan Strait. It ended up — there was an election in Taiwan at the time — boosting the less pro-China candidate. And recently, with the protests and the crackdown in Hong Kong, going into this most recent election the current president, Tsai Ing-wen [of the pro-Taiwan independence Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP], was looking a little bit shaky, especially among youth. But when all that happened in Hong Kong, it was like, “Nope, we don’t want this to happen to Taiwan.”

It also feeds into Taiwanese party politics. The Kuomintang Party [Taiwan’s other major political party, which favors closer ties with mainland China] talking point is to say things like, “Well, the DPP can’t stabilize Taiwanese-Chinese relations. This is clearly an example of that — look at China’s belligerence, we’re better caretakers of the cross-strait relations.”

Then there’s international politics. The US, the UK, and four other countries are doing military exercises in the East Philippine Sea. So it’s partly as a demonstration of, “Stay out, we have a dog in this fight as well, we have the ability to strike too.””

“I think recently — not just this October, but the previous few months — has been a response to the broader tightening of US alliances in the region. The Joe Biden administration has, kind of surprisingly to me, quickly coalesced a coalition against China and tightened those alliance relationships that have been atrophying a bit under the Trump administration.

A lot of the countries in the region — Japan, South Korea, Philippines probably — they look at Taiwan as a litmus test for US commitment and Chinese assertiveness, which just puts China’s back up.”

“the US has a really tricky job here. It has to reassure Taiwan and take the lead in solidifying this coalition, but it has to do so in such a way that China doesn’t think “better strike now, or else we’re going to lose this thing forever.” And then the US has to kind of moderate its own policies toward China so it doesn’t jumpstart a war on its own for some other issue area, like the South China Sea. It’s a really tricky balancing act.”

Why there’s talk about China starting a war with Taiwan

“No American president has had to choose whether to go to war to defend Taiwan against a Chinese military invasion. President Joe Biden might have the decision thrust upon him.

The outgoing commander of US forces in the Indo-Pacific region, Navy Adm. Philip Davidson, told US lawmakers in March that he believes Beijing will attempt a takeover of the neighboring democratic island — which it considers part of mainland China — within the next six years. Davidson’s successor, Navy Adm. John Aquilino, expressed a similar concern days later.”

“The four-stars’ predictions aren’t wholly shared by everyone in the administration. “I’m not aware of any specific timeline that the Chinese have for being able to try and seize Taiwan,” said one senior US defense official, who, like others in the administration, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive foreign policy issue.”

“Experts I spoke to also felt Davidson and Aquilino’s claims are too alarmist and may be in service of trying to boost defense spending for operations in Asia.

But all agree that China is a more credible threat to Taiwan today than in the past. Beijing flaunts it, too. In recent weeks, China sent 25 warplanes through the island’s airspace, the largest reported incursion to date, and had an aircraft carrier lead a large naval exercise near Taiwan.”