Taiwan’s days are numbered. Not in terms of their existence, but in terms of their energy reserves. The Chinese military exercises encircling Taiwan are essentially an economic blockade preventing vital energy supplies from arriving on time. On August 3, 2022, the Asia Times quoted Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs saying "the island had only 146 days of oil, 10-11 days of gas, and 39 days of coal in reserves."
Also, the Asia Timescited a report stating that these exercises are probably not a one-time reaction from China, but most likely will be a regular and repeated tactic. This is what Tod Hall, Director of the China Center at Oxford University, calls the "diplomacy of anger" employed "to make the US, Taiwan and other potential audiences realize the sensitivity of the issue."
China risks embarrassment at this point since it voiced such stringent warnings against Pelosi’s visit. However, it’s not just their external reputation they are worried about. Internal politics are at stake too, and no one wants to be seen as responsible for mishandling and exacerbating the crisis in Taiwan.
As Hall points out, China’s 20th Party Congress is scheduled to meet in a few months, and in addition to several high level leadership changes, President XI Jinping will seek an unprecedented third term. Any misstep in the Straits could be catastrophic politically and geopolitically. China can neither afford to underplay or overplay their hand. If they play it just right, then after China’s Party Congress meets things may settle down a bit. However, if they are seen as overreacting by the West then things could quickly escalate out of control.
If things do escalate, there’s no doubt that Beijing will hold Speaker Pelosi responsible for being the spark that ignited the hostilities between China, Taiwan, and the US. Pelosi, has already been sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party.
On August 5, Speaker Pelosi said, "We will not allow Taiwan to be isolated." Astonishingly, she said this at the same time as 13 Chinese warships and 68 planes crossed the median line in the Straits. The ships were conducting live fire drills, and launching ballistic missiles. More than 200 shipping vessels have been forced to move out of the area because of these military maneuvers. So, Taiwan is already isolated as a direct result of the Speakers visit. The drills are supposed to be suspended on August 7, but how long they actually lasts is entirely up to the China.
To be sure, the clock is ticking for Taiwan, and if they don’t get oil, gas, and coal soon independence will be the last thing on the minds of the Taiwanese people. It’s most likely apparent to the people of Taiwan now, that Speaker Pelosi has not only left them isolated, she has left them in a terribly vulnerable position both militarily and economically.
Jim Fitzgerald is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and a missionary serving in the Middle East and North Africa.