BEIJING — China declared Friday it was stopping all dialogue with the United States on major issues, from climate change to military relations, in a day of rapidly escalating tensions over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. The White House summoned China’s ambassador to protest what it called China’s “irresponsible” actions since the visit.
China’s military exercises off Taiwan in reaction to Pelosi’s visit earlier this week were of “concern to Taiwan, to us, and to our partners around the world,” spokesman John Kirby said in a statement after Thursday’s formal diplomatic rebuke to Ambassador Qin Gang at the White House.
China’s measures, which come amid cratering relations between Beijing and Washington, are the latest in a promised series of steps intended to punish the U.S. for allowing the visit to the island it claims as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary. China on Thursday launched threatening military exercises in six zones just off Taiwan’s coasts, and they will run through Sunday.
Missiles have also been fired over Taiwan, Chinese officials told state media. China routinely opposes the self-governing island having its own contacts with foreign governments, but its response to the Pelosi visit has been unusually strong.
China’s Foreign Ministry said dialogue between U.S. and Chinese regional commanders and defense department heads would be canceled, along with talks on military maritime safety.
Cooperation on returning illegal immigrants, criminal investigations, transnational crime, illegal drugs and climate change will be suspended, the ministry said.
The actions were taken because Pelosi visited Taiwan “in disregard of China’s strong opposition and serious representations,” the ministry said in a statement.
China has accused the Biden administration of an attack on Chinese sovereignty, although Pelosi is head of the legislative branch of government and Biden had no authority to prevent her visit.
Kirby said that senior U.S. officials have been meeting regularly with their Chinese counterparts over the dispute. Calling China’s actions “provocative,” Kirby said the Biden administration condemned China’s military maneuvers as irresponsible and “at odds with our long-standing goal of maintaining peace and stability and across the Taiwan Strait.”
“Finally, we made clear once again as we have done privately at the highest levels and publicly: Nothing has changed about our one-China policy. We also made clear that the United States is prepared for what Beijing chooses to do.”
“We will not seek and do not want a crisis,” Kirby said, in language that acknowledged the risky conflict between the two rivals over Taiwan. “At the same time, we will not be deterred from operating in the seas and skies of the Western Pacific, consistent with international law, as we have for decades – supporting Taiwan and defending a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The missile strikes are China’s most strident response to Pelosi’s visit
China’s actions come ahead of a key congress of the ruling Communist Party later this year at which President Xi Jinping is expected to obtain a third five-year term as party leader. With the economy stumbling, the party has stoked nationalism and issued near-daily attacks on the government of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, which refuses to recognize Taiwan as part of China.
China said Friday that more than 100 warplanes and 10 warships have taken part in the live-fire military drills surrounding Taiwan over the past two days, while announcing mainly symbolic sanctions against Pelosi and her family.
The official Xinhua News Agency said Friday that fighters, bombers, destroyers and frigates were all used in what it called “joint blockage operations.”
The military’s Eastern Theater Command also fired new versions of missiles it said hit unidentified targets in the Taiwan Strait “with precision.”
The Rocket Force also fired projectiles over Taiwan into the Pacific, military officers told state media, in a major ratcheting up of China’s threats to attack and invade the island.
The drills, which Xinhua described as being held on an “unprecedented scale,” are China’s most strident response to Pelosi’s visit. The speaker is the highest-ranking U.S. politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
U.S.-China exchanges have been halting at best
Dialogue and exchanges between China and the U.S., particularly on military matters and economic exchanges, have generally been halting at best. Climate change and fighting trade in illegal drugs such as fentanyl were, however, areas where they had found common cause. Beijing’s suspension of cooperation could have significant implications for efforts to achieve progress in those issues.
China and the United States are the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 climate polluters, together producing nearly 40% of all fossil-fuel emissions. Their top climate diplomats, John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua, have maintained a cordial relationship that dated back to the 2015 Paris climate accord, which was made possible by a breakthrough negotiated among the two and others.
China under Kerry’s prodding committed at last year’s U.N. global climate summit in Glasgow to working with the U.S. “with urgency” to cut climate-wrecking emissions, but Kerry was unable to persuade it to significantly speed up China’s move away from coal.
Ordinary people in both China and Taiwan show a range of responses
On the Chinese coast across from Taiwan, tourists gathered Friday to try to catch a glimpse of any military aircraft heading toward the exercise area.
Fighter jets could be heard flying overhead and tourists taking photos chanted, “Let’s take Taiwan back,” looking out into the blue waters of the Taiwan Strait from Pingtan island, a popular scenic spot in Fujian province.
Pelosi’s visit stirred emotions among the Chinese public, and the government’s response “makes us feel our motherland is very powerful and gives us confidence that the return of Taiwan is the irresistible trend,” said Wang Lu, a tourist from neighboring Zhejiang province.
China is a “powerful country and it will not allow anyone to offend its own territory,” said Liu Bolin, a high school student visiting the island.
His mother, Zheng Zhidan, was somewhat more circumspect.
“We are compatriots and we hope to live in peace,” Zheng said. “We should live peacefully with each other.”
China’s insistence that Taiwan is its territory and its threat to use force to bring it under its control have featured highly in ruling Communist Party propaganda, the education system and the entirely state-controlled media for more than seven decades since the sides were divided amid civil war in 1949.
Taiwan residents overwhelmingly favor maintaining the status quo of de facto independence and reject China’s demands that the island unify with the mainland under Communist control.
China’s military exercises have repercussions for the entire region
Five of the missiles fired by China since the military exercises began Thursday landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone off Hateruma, an island far south of Japan’s main islands, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said. He said Japan protested the missile landings to China as “serious threats to Japan’s national security and the safety of the Japanese people.”
Japan’s Defense Ministry later said they believe four other missiles fired from China’s southeastern coast of Fujian flew over Taiwan.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday that China’s military exercises aimed at Taiwan represent a “grave problem” that threatens regional peace and security.
In Tokyo, where Pelosi is winding up her Asia trip, she said China cannot stop U.S. officials from visiting Taiwan. Kishida, speaking after breakfast with Pelosi and her congressional delegation, said the missile launches need to be “stopped immediately.”
China said it summoned European diplomats in the country to protest statements issued by the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the European Union criticizing the Chinese military exercises surrounding Taiwan.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday called the drills a “significant escalation” and said he has urged Beijing to back down.
Taiwan has put its military on alert and staged civil defense drills, but the overall mood remained calm on Friday. Flights have been canceled or diverted and fishermen have remained in port to avoid the Chinese drills.