US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (L) meets with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen

The danger of growth is that it is difficult to pull back.

Now that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has managed to visit Taiwan – the highest-ranking US official to do so in 25 years – shouldn’t others do the same in the future?

Now that China has conducted live fire exercises on such a large scale, so close to Taiwan, why not do it again? A new standard of “normalcy” is established every time Chinese fighter jets fly near or in large numbers over an island. So, if the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) doesn’t fly as close next time, what message is it sending?

Not long ago, Beijing’s plan with Taiwan included engagement. Young people from the mainland were backpacking around the separatist territory claimed by China, and businesses from Taiwan were popping up all over China.

However, the approach under Chinese President Xi Jinping has become more bellicose, putting more pressure on Taipei.

Ms. Pelosi’s visit may have been secretly welcomed by the more militaristic in the upper echelons of power here. War games around Taiwan have provided an ideal excuse to prepare for what they see as the inevitable day when it will be taken over by force.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to regional stability is that everyone’s public stance on Taiwan is ridiculous. It’s like a giant game of pretense that’s getting harder to maintain.

Although the island collects its own taxes, votes in its own government, issues its own passports, and has its own army, China still claims that Taiwan is currently part of its territory.

The US pretends not to treat Taiwan as an independent country, even as it sells high-tech weapons to Taiwan and occasionally pays high-ranking politicians what look like official visits.

It’s obvious that for this trivial show, designed to guarantee the status quo, it would take nothing to stand out.

The danger for the world is that there are those in Beijing who want to see it fall apart.

Chinese President Xi Jinping

The approach under Xi Jinping has become more belligerent

For decades, China’s Communist Party-controlled media has churned out similar rhetoric on Taiwan, but the idea of ​​war to reclaim it has never seemed imminent.

That is not the case now.

Many of the people you talk to believe that President Xi wants to take control of Taiwan while in office, thus immortalizing himself as the leader who unified the motherland.

He has already effectively reined in Hong Kong, which had become increasingly troublesome for China, ahead of schedule.

The fact that President Xi will begin his historic third term in a few months will actually ease the pressure a bit.

Now that he can stay in charge as long as he likes—unlike leaders before Mao Zedong who were limited to two terms—he doesn’t have to rush to attack the island.

But every day we are one step closer to it and one step further from peace.

Some of China’s propaganda, designed to rekindle popular support for a military solution, shows a level of pre-World War I naivety about what such a war would really entail.

Despite the heavily censored coverage of the Ukraine conflict, seeing this invasion unfold must have given the Chinese pause when considering involving their own country in a bloody conflict.

But nationalism is a powerful tool and illusion can easily take hold.

If Beijing were to attack Taiwan, even with the might of the PLA, it would have to make a massive landing across the treacherous strait—and then fight a dug-in, committed enemy for free. More important than patriotic justification for attacking an invading army.

Such a war could be protracted, defeat China for a long time, and destroy the Chinese economy. Even if the PLA wins, it will occupy a large island inhabited by millions who resent Beijing’s authority.

That would be disastrous, and the smartest minds in China’s capital know it.