Old leaders can be among the best. Just look at Konrad Adenauer, who became German chancellor when he was 73 or Ronald Reagan who was days off 70 when he became president. But the United States’s political leaders are at risk of taking it too far. President Joe Biden has already regressed to childhood.
Nowadays even the Democratic party do not consider him fit for purpose; he has lost credibility and authority. The 82-year-old US house speaker Nancy Pelosi, who arrived in Taiwan yesterday to much trumpeting by the West and much harrumphing by China, simply ignored Biden’s limp statement: ‘I think that the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.’
Pelosi wears her age well, albeit she has had more repair work than a British motorway. Sadly, cosmetic surgeons cannot work on her brain. At a time when cool heads are required on all sides, Nancy Pelosi has ignored warnings from all sides, including her own, that the visit by the most senior US government official for a generation, would raise geopolitical temperatures in the South China Sea.
On arrival yesterday she pontificated with staggering unoriginality and pointless provocation to China, that ‘our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honours America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy’.
Nancy Pelosi arrives at the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s house of parliament (Getty Images)
Not a statement or a visit worthy of risking war with China – a war, even if kept within the boundaries of conventional weapons, that would likely collapse the global economy. Because that is what is at stake. Bumbling Biden has already made the faux pas of saying that the US might intervene militarily if China invaded Taiwan – a statement immediately contradicted by the US State Department which has for a long time sustained a policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ on this subject.
For some who observe the start of Cold War 2.0, Taiwan is the next geopolitical shoe to fall after Ukraine. But this is a very different story. Since the famous Kissinger-Nixon rapprochement with China in the 1970s, the US has always accepted the legitimacy of the ‘One China’ concept. So has Taiwan; even President Tsai, leader of Taiwan’s pro-independence party, de facto continues to accept that Taiwan is a province of China. To do otherwise would provoke an immediate declaration of war by China.
Given that China’s ultra nationalist supreme leader Xi Jinping has openly stated his intention to take back administrative control of what it sees as its renegade province, tensions over Taiwan are inevitable. Military and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan has been massively ramped up over recent years. But jingoistic cat-calling by Pelosi stirs the pot and achieves nothing – gesture politics at its most absurd.
America should just quietly continue to arm Taiwan to the teeth, which it has done since it was authorised by Congress’s 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. The result is that Taiwan has built a high-tech tiger trap that will terrify China’s military commanders.
Moreover, the Belgium-sized island is, as anyone who has flown over Taiwan knows, two-thirds covered in dense forested mountains that are still inhabited by fiercely independent indigenous aboriginal tribes – ideal terrain for prolonged defence. Even a 1.5 million strong US army in Asia during the Pacific War passed on the plan to invade Taiwan (then Japanese controlled Formosa).
In the meantime, America should avoid any acts, such as Pelosi’s visit to China, that could unwittingly provoke hostilities. As the geopolitical guru of his age Henry Kissinger recently stated: ‘It is important for the overall peace of the world for the United States and China to mitigate their adversarial relationship.’ At the advanced age of 99, Kissinger, who has recently authored a brilliant new book Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy, has demonstrated that not all old politicos are past it. But he may be the exception that proves the rule.
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