Wednesday, November 30 2022


As U.S. lawmakers led by Senator Ed Markey wrapped up the second delegation from the U.S. Congress just weeks after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the Chinese daily “Global Times” accused the U.S. media of “nihilism history” by distorting the history of Taiwan.

“Washington elites fantasize about China crossing the red line using the ‘slicing the salami’ approach, but the existence of the ‘breakaway Taiwan’ regime is the salami that will ultimately be cut by history .” said the Chinese spokesperson.

In military parlance, “salami slicing”, also known as “cabbage strategy”, refers to the process of dividing and conquering threats and alliances used to overcome opposition and the means by which the aggressor can influence and ultimately dominate a landscape.

In the Chinese context, slicing salami refers to its strategy of acquiring new territories, at the expense of its neighbors. The Doklam stalemate, the capture of Aksai-chin and the annexation of Tibet are just a few of many glaring examples of China’s aggressive foreign policy and expansionist policy.

In 1996, a report by the American Institute of Peace on territorial disputes in the South China Sea wrote: “[…] analysts point to China’s ‘salami tactics’, in which China is supposed to test other suitors with aggressive actions and then back down when it encounters significant resistance.”

The term was coined by the Stalinist dictator Mátyás Rákosi in the 1940s. He used the term to justify the actions of the Hungarian Communist Party to seize complete power in Hungary.

Tibet was an independent state after the fall of the Qing dynasty. In 1950, the People’s Liberation Army entered Tibet and occupied the entire kingdom militarily. China seized the Paracel Islands in 1974 from Vietnam and built the town of Sansha on the island to legitimize its illegal claim.

The acquisition of the Paracel Islands was followed by the capture of Johnson Reef in Vietnam in 1988, Mischief Reef in 1995, and Scarborough Shoal in 2012; both from the Philippines in the South China Sea.

Recent skirmishes include the dispute over the Senkaku Islands, which China calls “Diaoyu” and which regularly sails its coastguards into Japanese territorial waters.

The presence of more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels in the Pentecost Reef has prompted the Philippines and Vietnam to file diplomatic protests against China, with the Philippines alleging it is ‘a prelude to a takeover China of the maritime service”.

The responsibility does not end here. Besides territorial claims, economic coercions like debt trap diplomacy are also a feature of the modus operandi. Pakistan, Tajikistan, Malaysia and several other African countries are overwhelmed with unsustainable lending and have been forced to cede their strategic leverage to China.

The docking of the Yuan Wang 5, a vessel capable of extensive surveillance at the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, proves China’s financial and strategic strength. The Yuan Wang 5, a ballistic missile and satellite tracking vessel, is a security concern for India as several ports in Tamil Nadu, Kerala will be on the vessel’s radar once it docks at Hambantota.

Sri Lanka tried unsuccessfully to push the ship back but had to postpone the docking dates. Facing what is arguably its worst economic crisis, Sri Lanka can only be bailed out by IMF loans and a debt restructuring program, but Beijing has so far refused to cut its loans.

The divide and conquer tactic is effective over a longer period of time because it presents the target with only two choices: either silently suffer China’s salami or risk a costly and dangerous war with China. The absence of strong responses from China’s adversaries had also facilitated its takeover of territories, particularly in the South China Sea.

However, recent Chinese expeditions have drawn strong reactions from its opponents, especially in the case of Taiwan. Countries are increasingly looking to form partnerships to counter the rise of China.

For example, The Quad, the Australia-Japan-India-US alliance, seems to have been revitalized. Rising defense spending is also a growing response. Taiwan, Japan and Australia have increased their defense budgets, with Japan investing in the development of stealth fighters and long-range missiles. The United States has also increased its presence in the Indo-Pacific.

China has said it will blacklist seven “secessionist” Taiwan officials for their alleged support for the self-governing island. As its adversaries adopt a resolution to counter security policies, it remains to be seen whether China’s salami slicing will be more effective due to its bolder and sometimes clumsy moves that have resulted in thick slices unable to pass.

(Disclaimer: The views of the author do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. WION or ZMCL also does not endorse the views of the author.)


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