China suspended cooperation with the United States on climate change, criminal justice, and drug enforcement issues on Friday. Beijing also canceled military communications and maritime deconfliction with the U.S.
In the context of People’s Liberation Army weapons drills surrounding Taiwan, it is increasingly clear that Xi Jinping’s regime has embraced a new strategy of escalation. Motivated by a mix of ambition, paranoia, and genuine fury, Xi has decided that patience is no longer tolerable.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was the immediate cause of this shift, but this has been a long time coming. Xi’s sense that he must act more urgently and aggressively has been brewing for years. Beijing has been deeply alarmed by Taiwan’s increasing international prestige and associated de facto sovereignty credentials and by the Biden and Trump administrations’ willingness to strengthen Taiwan’s defense.
Pelosi’s prima facie rejection of numerous Chinese warnings against her visit will have suggested to Xi that he has now lost the strategic initiative. Considering China’s global ambitions and Xi’s personal leadership narrative, he evidently feels cornered and is lashing out in response.
This evinces Xi’s particular focus on Taiwan as his keystone concern. He does not want a war with the U.S. if he can seize Taiwan without it.
U.S. and PLA strategic nuclear forces have quietly moved to higher readiness posture levels in the Pacific. China’s cancellation of military dialogue with the U.S. is also clearly designed to show a willingness to escalate if needed.