US’ policy and strategic design to engage, contain and manage both its potential rivals for global dominance continues unabated. It is pursuing a two-pronged strategy. In Europe, it has embroiled Russia quite irretrievably in Ukraine; in the Indo-Pacific Region (IPR) it has fired its first shot across China’s bow by sending Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, on a visit to Taiwan.

Rubicons have been crossed—by the US in allowing Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan despite vociferous protestations by China and by the latter in laying out a “literal air and maritime blockade” of Taiwan. These are the first ominous signs of a stirred, shaken, tentative and fragile strategic environment whose paradigms now stand aggravated for good!

Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan cannot but be a whole of the US government’s policy decision. It has serious implications at the bilateral, regional and global levels and would, of necessity, have had the concurrence of the White House, Pentagon, CIA and the State Department. It appears to have been a well-thought-out plan with specific objectives/end states in mind.

At the geopolitical level, Nancy Pelosi’s visit rubbishes US’ One-China policy. It appears to be extremely well timed, too. One, it precedes the 20th National Congress of the CPC where President Xi Jinping is expected to get a predictable third term in office. This will test his leadership, his popularity and force him to tackle a serious international issue at a particularly sensitive time. Two, it was intended to judge China’s political will, resolve and readiness to respond to such run-ins. Three, Chinese reactions would reveal the CPC’s policy and strategic options in case large-scale hostilities break out. Four, China’s response would also identify its limits and the risks it would be willing to take. Five, it would also determine the positions that the international community and in particular the regional countries adopt. Six, the US will thus be able to formulate a better-informed policy and consequent strategies for the future.

At the geostrategic level, the US is asserting its global strategic reach and sphere of influence by demonstrating its political will and military capacity to deal with two major regional powers/conflicts, simultaneously. Was Nancy Pelosi’s visit a preliminary operation to that end? Reports indicate that the US and Indian militaries are gearing up to hold joint military exercises at high altitudes (Auli, Uttarakhand) close to the Sino-Indian border/LAC too; creating the strategic environment for a potential double-envelopment of China! The US objectives could be many. One, determine the combat worthiness of the PLA. Two, ascertain the operational methodologies, military capabilities and capacities of the PLA through its response. Three, study Chinese military leadership, its professional competence, decision-making prowess and its conduct during this period. Four, analyze the PLA’s operational strategies, joint and combined arms operations, tactical employment of troops, military technologies applied in various domains et al and draw the relevant conclusions. Five, study the “literal air and maritime blockade” of Taiwan in the minutest detail. Further, scrutinize their skills and techniques, handling of weapons and equipment and their speed of operations. Contingency plans will thus be (re)drawn accordingly.

The US will, however, analyse this “blockade” in the overall context of its plans for the Malacca Straits, its inevitability for Chinese trade and the significance of the CPEC and Gwadar Port, too. Six, reassess the degree of China’s domination of the South China Sea and the SLOCs in the light of the recent conflagration. Seven, review the combat potential of the PLA and weigh it against the military capacities of its alliances (NATO, QUAD, AUKUS etc) and future coalition partners. Eighth, appraise the type, quantum, quality and location of forwarding deployments/pre-positioning of troops, munitions and materials in the IPR. Nine, re-evaluate and modify its operational strategy plans vis a vis China, and Taiwan, ensuring a Free and Open IPR including maintaining air and maritime corridors/blockades, sustaining SLOCs and supply chains, controlling the exploitation of maritime resources, etc. Then, the US military will thus be well-prepared and positioned to deal with the PLA at a time of its choosing.

Any conflict over Taiwan will have enormous implications for the geoeconomics environment of the IPR and will severely impact all bilateral, regional and global trade—currently worth about US $ 5 trillion annually through the IPR! A free and open IPR, unrestricted shipping, functional supply chains, exploitation of maritime resources, “air and maritime corridors and blockades”, dominating the SLOCs, trade routes, choke points etc will henceforth define the geoeconomics-geostrategic environment of the IPR. Any major conflict over Taiwan could throw the entire region and its economies off-kilter and into a veritable tailspin. It will engender a catastrophe of global proportions!

China’s immediate response has shown political will, military capacity, and capability and resolves to take it to the next level if required. It summarily isolated Taiwan from the outside world. It has shown remarkable tenacity and commitment to the inviolability of its One-China policy and its territorial integrity. China is likely to follow it up with a detailed, well-considered multidimensional response. The US’ global hegemony is being challenged by China’s unparalleled progress at the geopolitical, geostrategic and geoeconomics levels. It can either accept China’s growing global status and co-exist with it or take it to war to stymie its galloping economy including its BRI, its evolving sphere of influence and concomitant strategic reach.

The US has fought most of its wars East of the Atlantic with Continental USA never coming under any meaningful direct threats, ever—WW II, Korea, Vietnam, skirmishes in Latin America, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, et al. The paradigms of the global strategic environment and strategic balance have since changed drastically. Continental USA is now within Chinese and Russian strategic reach. The stakes have risen enormously and have universal ramifications. Large-scale war will lead to mutually assured destruction. The US must recognize and acknowledge this. It must never start anything that it cannot fully control and bring to a timely and favourable closure!