POSTSCRIPT / August 7, 2022 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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China fires warning shots after Pelosi left

China fired “shots across the bow” of Taiwan last Friday, two days after the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi which made her the highest American official in 25 years to set foot on the democratic nation that communist China considers part of its territory.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit inflamed tensions between China and Taiwan Photo AP/ Huizhong Wu

Pelosi, 82, and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, 65, had ignored Beijing’s earlier warning against the US congressional leader visiting Taipei. Their meeting Wednesday triggered a Chinese outburst of displeasure on various fronts.

As US warships steamed to the hot spot before Pelosi’s arrival, China put up an air and naval blockade, complete with missiles, around the island to scare her away. But she apparently had set her mind to having that meeting whatever it took.

After Pelosi left on Wednesday, China unleashed a military show of force, including firing shots across the bow of Taiwan, with some missiles flying across Taipei the capital at the northern tip of the island.

In navy tactics, firing a shot across the bow or the front portion of a ship is done to force it to stop or alter its course. Such warning shot(s) could escalate into armed confrontation if challenged or mishandled.

As many as four of the missiles flew across Taipei, according to the Japanese defense ministry monitoring the maneuvers. Five missiles reportedly landed in Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone.

News agencies quoted official sources as saying that around 10 Chinese navy ships and 20 military aircraft briefly crossed the Taiwan Strait median line Friday morning. At least 68 warplanes were counted.

Washington condemned the reported firing of 11 ballistic missiles as a “disproportionate, significant, and unjustified escalation”.

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Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, a neighbor that employs some 155,000 Filipinos, may have given her publicity for her reelection bid this November, but we wonder what tangible contribution it has made to peace and progress in the Indo-Pacific region.

With Beijing smarting from the violation of the status quo and taking retaliatory action, Pelosi’s trip may even inflict unintended damage to innocent third parties.

China is already announcing cutbacks on certain imports from Taiwan and the US, raising the possibility of adversely affecting selected businesses on the mainland that depends on parts and inputs from Taiwan.

CNBC, citing official Taiwan data, has reported that mainland China and Hong Kong accounted for 42 percent of Taiwan’s exports last year, while the US had a 15 percent share. The data also showed that Taiwan carries on more trade with China than with the US.

The data added that 22 percent of Taiwan’s imports in 2021 came from the mainland and Hong Kong, versus 10 percent from the US. Many Taiwan-based companies have factories in mainland China. In 2021, Taiwan businesses received $200.1 billion in US export orders.

Taiwan exported $188.91 billion in goods to mainland China and Hong Kong in 2021. More than half were electronic parts, followed by optical equipment, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Finance.

Taiwan’s exports to Southeast Asia were even greater than those to the US – at $70.25 billion to the region, versus $65.7 billion to the US.

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How will China’s new trade and supply chain restrictions resulting from the Pelosi visit affect Filipinos?

Taiwan’s top imports from the Philippines are electronic integrated circuits, parts, and accessories; diodes, transistors, and similar semiconductor devices; photosensitive semiconductor devices, including photovoltaic cells whether or not assembled in modules or made up into panels; light-emitting diodes (LED); mounted piezo-electric crystals; automatic data processing machines; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data; discs, tapes, solid-state non-volatile storage devices, smart cards and other media for recording sound or other phenomena, including matrices and masters for the production of discs.

Its top exports to the Philippines are electronic integrated circuits; petroleum oils and oils from bituminous minerals, other than crude; preparations containing by weight 70 percent or more of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals; waste oils; printed circuits; oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, and other instruments and apparatus for measuring or checking electrical quantities; instruments and apparatus for measuring or detecting alpha, beta, gamma, X-ray, cosmic or other ionizing radiations cosmic or other ionizing radiations; and flat-rolled products of iron or non-alloy steel, hot-rolled, not clad, plated or coated.

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As Beijing imposed retaliatory measures, Apple Inc. asked its suppliers to ensure that shipments from Taiwan to China comply with Beijing’s customs regulations to avoid scrutiny.

Suppliers were told that China had started enforcing a long-standing rule that Taiwanese-made parts and components must be labeled as made either in “Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei”.

Pegatron Corp., an Apple iPhone assembler, said its plant on the mainland is operating normally, in reaction to a media report that shipments to its factory in China were being held for stricter scrutiny by Chinese customs officials.

Taiwanese supply and assembly partners Foxconn and Pegatron are ramping up manufacturing as Apple is set to launch its new iPhone in September.

Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu talked, meanwhile, of the Pelosi visit’s significance: “China has long been trying to isolate Taiwan internationally. For an important leader like Speaker Pelosi to visit allows the international community to understand that Taiwan is a democracy.”

He said that the island-nation wants to maintain the status quo “which is that Taiwan has no jurisdiction over mainland China and the People’s Republic of China has no jurisdiction over Taiwan. That is the reality.”

Hitting China’s “expansionist” behavior, he said, “Look at their behavior over Hong Kong, or claiming the East China Sea and the South China Sea. It is the typical expansionism of an authoritarian state.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 7, 2022)

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