A Warning Within the Warning

It’s never a good sign when the Defense Ministry assumes responsibility for communications concerning certain matters in the place of the Foreign Ministry.

Action is the most powerful language, said the Chinese Defense Ministry on Thursday as its spokesperson stressed the sensitivity of the Taiwan question again after China issued six warnings against US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan island over the past few days.

The frequency of Chinese warnings and the remarks different departments use fully demonstrate China’s determination to take any necessary military measures to counter US provocations and safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, analysts said.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will not tolerate any “Taiwan independence” moves or interference from external forces, and will resolutely stop such attempts, Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Defense Ministry, said at Thursday’s press briefing.

The root cause of a turbulent Taiwan Straits is the collusion between “Taiwan independence” forces and external interfering forces, Wu said, urging relevant parties to learn to adapt to the new reality (PLA operations near the Straits), to reflect on their own deeds and “most importantly, to pull back from the brink.”

Though Wu was responding to a question about PLA operations on the Taiwan Straits, analysts interpreted Wu’s words as another stern warning against the US government and some US politicians who are pushing Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan island.

The US should not underestimate the crisis and possible disastrous results it will bring to the Taiwan Straits if Pelosi ultimately makes the trip, experts said. On edge of the cliff for bilateral relations, if the US does not pull back but keeps challenging the guardrail, the price will be beyond US capabilities to pay.

It’s an interesting historical lesson in the use of the phrase yanzhen yidai, which literally means “streamlining army formation to wait for the enemy” and has very seldom been used in the diplomatic context. It more accurately translates into modern American English as “fuck around and find out”, such as when Zhou Enlai warned the USA not to cross the 38th Parallel prior to the Chinese intervention in the Korean War.

In other words, the Chinese are no more bluffing over Taiwan than the Russians were bluffing over Ukraine.