America's hypocrisy over Taiwan reflects its longstanding playbook
When US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited China's Taiwan last week, she triggered an unprecedented crisis in the diplomatic relationship between China and the United States by deliberately, and provocatively, undermining America's commitment to the one-China policy and the three China-US joint communiques.
The Biden administration, despite publicly voicing that such a trip was a "bad idea," ultimately approved the trip, setting off an escalation of tensions in which they have also sought to unilaterally blame on Beijing. If you read rhetoric and statements by US officials, as well as the allies it has co-opted, one might be inclined to believe that nothing the US has done throughout this saga could ever be possibly to blame for the crisis.
Anyone who is prudent enough to follow US foreign policy, over a long-term period, will find this kind of rhetoric uncomfortably familiar. That is because US strategy seeks to maximize its global military footprint as it sees fit, encircle potential adversarial states, and when those states respond by taking their own measures, brand them as threats to international peace and the system as a whole.
In doing so, the US deliberately creates crises, denies responsibility in such, but then uses such to demand the participation and support of others, framing itself as the champion of peace, progress and morality. Such a strategy has been applied to Russia, Iran, North Korea, Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein, and for that matter any other state which has posed to challenge US hegemony in some way, be it direct or indirect. Now it is China's turn.
Why is the United States like this? America's foreign policy from the 20th century onward has sought to justify the structurally imperialist and hegemonic traits of European empires, whilst nonetheless repackaging them under the new ideological guise of "American exceptionalism" which would justify expansionist policies under the moral requirement to evangelize America's values and system to the rest of the world and being a champion of "self-determination" and "free people." It was once these empires were discontinued following the first and second world wars that the United States subsequently attained "global leadership" and took the liberty of framing its own interests as the interests of all.
In doing so, the US portrays its human policy as the moral imperative of the whole world, than more realist and materialist notion of national interests. In framing its national interests in such a universalist way, it then proceeds to legitimate its foreign policy on the premise that perceived threats to America are in fact threats to the entire world concurrently, and frames every foreign policy issue into a myopic binary struggle of "good vs evil."
This allows America to drive its foreign policy goals by deliberately igniting crises, provoking hostile responses from other countries and then framing them as threats to global peace, driving a cause and urgency for action. As it does this, it concurrently instills fear in its own population that America's freedom at home is continually "under threat." All of this allows the United States to be a global aggressor, whilst appearing not to be and claiming to act in the interests of the people who it targets.
The Nancy Pelosi trip to China's Taiwan is the most explicit, but not exclusive, weaponization of this foreign policy playbook against China to date. It involves a sheer disregard of diplomatic commitments made against China, a deliberate crossing of its red line and then when a known response is weaponized, a predictable lambasting China's behavior as being "irresponsible" and "provocative."
The fact that the US could have pursued actions which aggravated tensions is deemed as simply impossible in the American exceptionalist playbook, as above all it assumes its ideology, and by extension its foreign policy and national interests are beyond any possible question or accountability.
However, nobody should be fooled of America's true intentions in respect to Taiwan Island. This is not about freedom or democracy, but the belief that China must ultimately be subjugated and contained in the name of American hegemony, which also espouses a long running strategy of dividing and "balkanizing" larger states into smaller ones, who then through the ideology of "self-determination" seek US protection in preserving their political independence, thus reaffirming an "international order" rigged in America's favor.
This is certainly the pattern seen in Eastern Europe following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the fundamental driver of the conflicts in Ukraine. This is the moral façade which drives American foreign policy, but China is under no illusions as to what it means, and is not prepared to let them succeed in purposefully undermining national sovereignty.
(The author, a postgraduate student of Chinese studies at Oxford University, is a South Korea-based English analyst on international relations. The views are his own.)