What would happen if China sooner or later decides to indeed take Taiwan by force? Will the international community just allow it, as it did when China killed civil liberties in Hong Kong?

    Fears of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan have been heightened significantly by the visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, China began military exercises that will last until Sunday. China tried to encircle the island and got much closer to the coast of Taiwan than ever before. The army fired an estimated 16 rockets, all of which landed in the sea.

    Pelosi reiterated on Friday after her meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida that US support for Taiwan’s status quo is overwhelming, and that it is supported by both Republicans and Democrats. China then proceeded to impose sanctions on her and her family.

    Not just Taiwan

    With the exercises, China mainly wants to show that it is able to surround Taiwan and, for example, cut off the supply of energy. Japan also receives a warning: some of the missiles ended up in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). They landed near the Japanese island of Okinawa. America has about two-thirds of its Japanese troops there.

    China wants to show that it cannot isolate Taiwan alone. It can also attack Japan and the US bases. China is certainly not going to do that lightly. It is enough for now to be able to credibly threaten it.

    ‘One China’

    What will China do in the future? Interestingly, China spoke to a long line of foreign ambassadors, foreign ministers and others on state television on Thursday. They all said that there is only one China, and that they fully support that principle. That one China is President Xi Jinping’s communist China, which in the Chinese view also includes Taiwan.

    A number of countries went a step further in showing support for China. So tweeted Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in Chinese on Wednesday that “the provocative behavior of the US regime has become a source of threats to world peace.” The international community must put an end to this, he also said.

    Such a statement may be expected from Iran, but the series of statements of support from other countries is long. When broadcasting these statements, a microphone of the Chinese state channel CCTV was often in view on television. So it seems that in preparation for Pelosi’s visit, the state media has already been tasked with collecting a series of messages of support from friendly countries.

    For example, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Congo-Brazzaville, Jean-Claude Gakosso, who already met the Chinese ambassador on Tuesday 2 August. In it, he states that he “fully supports China’s actions to protect national security and territorial integrity.” The explanation, to be read on the site of the Chinese embassy in Congo-Brazzaville, is very similar in word choice to how the Chinese government itself would word it all. It therefore appears to have been written with the necessary assistance from the Chinese embassy.

    China is now Congo-Brazzaville’s largest trading partner: about two-thirds of all Congolese exports go according to some figures to China.

    At first glance, the series of statements appears to be empty propaganda, mainly intended for domestic consumption. But they fit into a broader perspective. The Chinese government is increasingly and more emphatically stating that the United States does not represent the will of the world. China believes that the US, and a small group of countries that follow America’s lead, have stuck in a past in which the US was supreme.

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    But that time is gone for good in Chinese eyes. If we want to know what the world really wants, China says, then the United Nations has the floor. There, for example, writes the Chinese state medium the Global Times, there is often a large majority who support the Chinese positions. The medium cites the example of Chinese activities against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. In recent years, a minority of countries in the United Nations Human Rights Council explicitly disapproved of Chinese behavior.

    ‘Morally right’

    Should China ever decide to take Taiwan by military force at any point, China hopes that a majority of UN members will not resist. And the chance of that happening is real, especially after this week. That would give China a kind of moral right internationally.

    Of course, that doesn’t stop the US from taking military action as well, but it does make it a lonelier and more difficult issue. Certainly if a president takes office in the future who is more focused on America itself, and less on what is happening in the world.