If in their respective speeches at the United Nations Joe Biden and Xi Jinping used relaxing tones, the harshness of the confrontation between the United States and China is evident in the great maneuvers – diplomatic and military – that are taking place in these hours. A week after the announcement of the Aukus pact for the supply of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, the American president is preparing to receive the leaders of the Quad, the quadrilateral dialogue for security made up of the United States, Japan, India tomorrow in Washington and Australia.
Beijing is seething with anger at the intensification of US and allied involvement in the Indo-Pacific, of which increasingly loud speeches in support of Taiwan are an important component. China reiterated today its opposition to “any agreement of a sovereign and official nature” between countries with which it has established diplomatic relations and Taiwan, following the submission of the request for membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPPP) by part of the island over which Beijing claims sovereignty.
To make the message clearer, Beijing has conducted a major new foray into the airspace of the “rebel” island. The Taipei Defense Ministry has identified twelve J-16 fighters in its Defense airspace and two other J-11 fighters, as well as two H-6 bombers and three military transport aircraft, for a total of 19 aircraft. Chinese military. In response to the raid, Taiwan raised its fighters, sent the radio warning signal to order exit from the area, and deployed its missile system to monitor the activity of Chinese aircraft. China holds almost daily forays into Taiwan’s airspace, but today’s particularly massive one comes in the aftermath of the island government’s request to join the free trade agreement in the Pacific, against which Beijing has expressed open opposition.
China has increased military pressure on the island, which it considers part of its national territory, and is opposed to any form of international recognition of Taipei: the issue of Taiwan – the global fulcrum of the semiconductor market as the first manufacturer of chips intended for international companies – is the most important knot for China to unravel in relations with the United States, which has increased contacts with the island already during the administration led by Donald Trump. Taiwan’s largest foray into airspace dates back to June, when 28 Chinese military aircraft entered the island’s Defense Air Identification Space in a single day.
The Taiwan node will be one of the points at the center of tomorrow’s summit in Washington. Biden, the Japanese Suga, the Indian Modi and the Australian Morrison will discuss geopolitical scenarios, military balances, vaccines, but also very concrete and important economic issues, starting with the securing of semiconductor supply chains. According to a draft of the joint statement obtained by the Nikkei newspaper, the four leaders will highlight the importance of “resilient, diverse and secure technology supply chains for hardware, software and services”. The document also refers to the definition of common principles for technological development: “the programming, development and governance of technology should be informed by our common democratic values and respect for universal human rights,” the document states. The statement is further confirmation of the progressive widening of the Quad’s reach, an alliance increasingly focused on countering the expansion of Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.
On the occasion of their meeting in Washington, the four of the Quad will express their opposition to Beijing’s attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas. According to informed sources cited by the Kyodo news agency, the joint statement that will be published concurrently with the summit will adopt a harsher language than that spread after the last virtual meeting of the four leaders, last March: the new document should state that Quad members “oppose any challenge to the rules-based maritime order”. The four leaders will reaffirm their commitment to promote a “free and open” Indo-Pacific and intensify cooperation on emerging technologies and cybersecurity.
From increasingly strong statements in support of Taiwan to the announcement of the Aukus Pact, to the launch of a European strategy for greater engagement in the Indo-Pacific, the past few weeks have been characterized by greater assertiveness from the United States and its allies towards a rising and rearmament China, which continues to build military outposts by pushing its maritime claims on the crucial routes of global trade. The Quad summit comes one week after the bombshell announcement of the pact between the US, UK and Australia for the sharing of US military technology hitherto reserved only for London. The news overshadowed the launch of the European strategy to strengthen political and defense ties in the Indo-Pacific, an important part of which is a law in the pipeline on microchips which, however, does not convince experts. On Friday another episode of the gradual move east of the center of the world will be staged. And Europe, once again, will be watching from afar.