Interview with General (Retired) Domroese on Pelosi’s visit: „I wouldn’t call it warmongering“
Global Review had the honor of having another interview with General a. D. Domroese on US-China relations after Pelosi’s visit. General Hans-Lothar Domroese is a former army general of the Bundeswehr. He was Commander of Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum (2012-2016). In 2011 General Domroese was appointed German military representative MC/NATO and EU in Brussels. He took command of the Eurocorps in Strasbourg (2009-2012). During a 2008 deployment to Afghanistan, he was Chief of Staff at ISAF Headquarters. General Domroese received a variety of awards and honors during his military career. He is a senior consultant in the consulting firm Friedrich 30, which also includes ex-BND President Schindler, and in the global network of the Agora Strategy Group of the Munich Security Conference.
Global Review: General Domroese, instead of ending on Sunday as planned, China’s military maneuvers continue. Is there anything else to come or does the CCP just want to make it clear that such actions as the Pelosi visit do not come cheaply and without a price, especially since they also suspended talks on climate change and other issues, as well as between the Indo-Pacific military. On the other hand, Taiwan has complained that China practiced invading Taiwan during the maneuvers. The Global Times even says that instead of the Anti-Sezzionism Law, a Taiwan Law should follow at the 20th Party Congress, which provides for the unification with Taiwan within 5 years as the time horizon. So far, the CCP has kept the period flexible so as not to put itself under artificial pressure. What are the implications of Pelosi’s visit? Is this a „game changer“ – the GT claims that the 3 communiques, the maritime centerline between Taiwan and China and the previous status quo no longer apply – and fundamentally changes the US strategic ambiguity regarding Taiwan? Are such visits recommendable or not not pro-war?
General Domroese: Indeed, the visit of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives caused some unrest – I wouldn’t call it warmongering. Despite all the military demonstrations of power, it is clear that nobody wants a war. Nevertheless, this situation is extremely dangerous because ultimately two nuclear powers are directly opposed to each other and no one can rule out a slide into a world war if it comes to armed conflict. This visit in challenging times (Russia’s war in Ukraine – upcoming Communist Party Congress – global climate change & food shortages) has once again made it clear that freedom, human rights and self-determination are at stake – in short: freedom of choice. And with it, questions of geopolitical power and influence. Russia is currently the greatest physical threat to our (European) security. China, on the other hand, is the greatest economic threat. The autocratic leaders of China and Russia do not let their people choose how they want to live. Coercion, intimidation and violence characterize their form of government. And for the exact opposite, namely free choice, human rights, independence of the judiciary and freedom of the press, Nancy Pelosi stands – our democratic nations stand. In Hong Kong, in Xinjiang and in Tibet, these values are sorely disregarded – in Taiwan this should not happen. The Chinese side reacts instinctively and nervously with a military show of force – instead of simply ignoring or downplaying the visit. But Western ambiguity, i.e. the ONE CHINA POLICY, is also reaching its limits in the massive support for Taiwan and should be reconsidered in order to create clarity and trust and to promote peaceful coexistence.
Let us take as an example the so-called HALLSTEIN doctrine of young Germany; it said that the Federal Republic considered it an „unfriendly act“ when third countries established diplomatic relations with the GDR. This doctrine was abandoned in order not to lead DEU into a self-made isolation (because many states recognized the GDR). Nevertheless, the Federal Republic never recognized the GDR diplomatically. Realpolitik would be called that today. China should examine the Brandt government’s approach; it would bring great respect and eliminate the latent threat of war. A WIN-WIN situation! We can then deal pragmatically with Taiwan and China – in the long term we also need embassies in Taipei.
Global Review: Conversely, the Global Times recommends that the US government take a pause for reflection in order to fundamentally review and correct its relations with China and to take clearer positions on the Taiwan issue. She also points to clear criticism of Pelosi’s visit as „reckless“ – from the New York Times, former US ambassadors to China and the head of state of New Zealand. The ball is now in the United States. Do you think there will be a reorientation of US China policy after Pelosi’s visit? And if so, in which direction? Especially since Trump is flirting with running for office again.
General Domroese: This demonstrative visit by Ms. Pelosi doesn’t really help either side – neither the US administration nor the Chinese government wanted it. This shows that both governments are aware of the diametrically opposed strategic goals and want to avoid „a stir“. It will be important to promote cooperation and to organize “peaceful coexistence”. As I pointed out above, I tend to see the ball in the Chinese field. It is clear that political „independence“ for Taiwan is only possible with close economic cooperation with China. I could imagine a kind of “neutral Austria” – whether that would correspond to American and Chinese ideas remains to be seen.
Global Review: RAND previously issued a 2016 study, War with China- Thinking through the Unthinkable, which envisages a protracted war with China but believes the US could more easily win it in 2025 than say 2035, albeit by a lot would be costly for both sides. US strategist TX Hammes advocates offshore control – a naval blockade by China to force China to give in, but doesn’t seem to give much thought to the implications for the global economy. If a Sino-American war does break out, how would it likely play out? Could this be limited, regional, and conducted below the threshold of nuclear war, or would it rather take the form of a world war?
General Domroese: I am firmly convinced that both governments are aware of the „diabolical dimensions“ of a nuclear weapon attack – and therefore will not resort to the last resort. This means that a conventional war of arms remains conceivable in principle, although this would not be a “walk in the park”; The losses would be too great, the suffering and misery too great, the economic damage too great, and the infrastructural destruction too immeasurable. We see this every day in the Russian war in Ukraine. At the time of Bill Clinton, when there was tension, it was enough for the Americans to station two or three aircraft carrier groups in the South China Sea to persuade China to give in. This maritime and overall military superiority of the USA has shrunk significantly today – and could end in inferiority in 2035. But even then, an invasion of Taiwan would not be easy. High blood toll, high material losses and above all many „unintended effects“ would be the result: First the „moral or sense question“ or the question of the „fratricidal war“: Chinese shoot at Chinese. Why ? …because the Taiwanese want to be FREE? The huge mainland people are not threatened at all – only the rulers feel threatened. They perceive the call for freedom as an attempt to overthrow. I’m not sure how a Chinese government can and wants to explain that! A war would lead to significant slumps in the economic sector and, on top of that, to noticeable losses in the allegiance of the CP. Unemployment, flight and expulsion, large-scale demonstrations, political isolation and loss of reputation as a world power, China cannot afford today and tomorrow. After all, an invasion of Taiwan would involve the neighboring countries of South Korea, Vietnam, Japan, India and Australia with the UK and France. And so forth.
In short: I don’t think a military solution to the Taiwan question is possible. A peaceful solution must and can be found by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the “New China”.
Global Review: Amid the Ukraine war and the Taiwan crisis, US President Joe Biden has offered Russia and China disarmament talks. Isn’t this the worst time? In addition, China has already declared that it does not want to be restricted in its armament efforts by the USA and Russia. Furthermore, US media reports on the construction of 120 nuclear missile silos in Xinjiang and 100 in northeast China and suspect that China could greatly increase its ICBM numbers. China claims the silos are bases for wind turbines. The CSBA study „Rethinking Armageddon“ mentions the scenario of an increase in the number of Chinese ICBMs, sees this as destabilizing. How would arming China with ICBMs affect strategic balance and nuclear deterrence? Does it matter at all whether China has 20, 200 or 1000 nuclear missiles?
General Domroese: Many rabbits are the hedgehog’s death – they say. In this respect, great potential is important. Politically and militarily. But there are limits, i.e. more does not bring more. We military like to talk about the „operative minimum“, i.e. in „war gamings“ you calculate a certain number of different systems for exercising national security, add a certain reserve for extraordinary events to the calculated number X and then have „your number“. For example, I think the approximately 6,600 warheads of the Russians are far too high – the Russians probably see it differently. From my point of view, one could disarm without fearing any actual breaches in one’s own security. So you get the same security and have to invest less. A win-win situation. In this respect, the Biden initiative is correct – sometimes you can’t choose the point in time… China never wanted to bring its potential into the so-called START talks – and certainly not at this point in time. After the Pelosi visit, I believe you even suspended the urgent negotiations on climate change. Regarding your question: whether China has 100 or 1000 nuclear warheads is relatively unimportant from a military point of view. More significant, however, is the “alliance between China and Russia” – at its core, it is about the question of the political system: democracy or autocracy. We are in the midst of global power shifts – and it is becoming difficult to negotiate about disarmament if one does not yet finally see where the journey is going.
Global Review: The 20th Party Congress of the CCP begins in the fall, at which Xi Jinping is to receive a third term. However, this is controversial, especially since XI’s Ukraine policy, the Zero Covid strategy with its total lockdowns with effects on the economy and supply chains and the embarrassment during Pelosi’s visit to Xi seems to have come under criticism within the party. What do you expect from the 20th party congress? Will there be a course correction, perhaps more distance from Russia and a Taiwan law, or even closer ties between China and Russia after the Pelosi visit?
General Domroese: I do not expect any political changes that indicate a „thaw“ in the frosty relationship with the US. On the basis of a stable alliance with Russia – here there will be no loud criticism of the „special operation“ in Ukraine – President XI will promise domestic prosperity and economic strength to secure allegiance. And with regard to COVID, he will emphasize the superiority of the „Chinese way“ over the West. In terms of foreign policy, he will rate the United States as THE challenge because it threatens the unity of China. And so he will finally announce when he intends to “take back” Taiwan. A vision up to the 100th anniversary of the founding of the state by Mao would be wise. So I’m relatively relaxed about the 20th party congress – President Xi will strengthen his power and essentially rule „inwards“ with unchanged severity. Charming and conciliatory to the outside world, in order to secure long-term economic success – and thus followers.