What Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan means for China and the United States

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made history and angered China with her visit to taiwan, which lasted less than a day. But the consequences for the island claimed by Beijing and the wider region could continue long after he leaves.

China had warned for weeks against Pelosi, D-California’s visit, saying it violated the “one China policy,” under which the United States recognizes Beijing as the only legitimate government in China and have unofficial relations with autonomous Taiwan.

The threats fueled fears of a possible military standoff between the United States and China, elevating the political visit to the status of a global showpiece. Nearly 3 million people were watching Pelosi’s flight at one point on Tuesday to see if she would land on the island despite Beijing’s rhetoric, according to the site. Flightradar24.

A few minutes after arriving in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital, China angrily denounced the visit and said it would launch a series of military exercises around the island in response – parts of which would enter Taiwanese waters.

But Beijing is also largely following its usual playbook, experts say, with measures such as summoning the US ambassador and announcing the suspension of some trade with Taiwan.

China’s response so far is “most certainly concerning, but not surprising,” said Lev Nachman, a political scientist at National Chengchi University in Taipei.

“It doesn’t read as a new or increased threat beyond what they’ve done in the past or what we might have expected,” Nachman said Wednesday via a messaging app. “It’s not to shed light on a serious threat, but it’s a threat in the realm of what we might have expected.”

What is the background?

Taiwan was the Pelosi delegation’s third stop on a tour of Asia, which also includes Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. China saw his visit to Taiwan as an encouragement to the independence supporters of the island of 23 million people.

Pelosi, 82, a longtime critic of China’s ruling Communist Party, said it was important to support Taiwan, which has come under increasing pressure from Beijing during the last years.

“I think she has her own personal motivations,” Kharis Templeman, who studies Taiwanese politics at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said in an interview ahead of Pelosi’s arrival. “She’s nearing the end of her congressional career, [and] it would be a key visit to a career in which she has always focused on overseas human rights issues.

US lawmakers and other current and former government officials visit Taiwan regularly, but Pelosi was the highest-ranking lawmaker to visit the island since House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.

Image: US House Speaker Pelosi visits Taiwan
Nancy Pelosi with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on Wednesday. Getty Images

Beijing opposed his visit in part because it “creates a kind of space for leaders of other democratic parliaments and legislatures around the world to come to Taiwan,” Templeman said.

Although Pelosi’s visit was seen as having mostly symbolic value, it sends an important message to U.S. allies in the region, such as Australia and Japan, said Drew Thompson, a member of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy from the National University of Singapore. .

“Chair Pelosi’s visit shows everyone that the United States is not intimidated by China’s political, military and economic coercion,” said Thompson, the department’s former China, Taiwan and Mongolia director. American Defense. said Tuesday.

How is China reacting?

Pelosi’s visit was closely watched in China, where 22 million people watched a live stream following his plane on popular app WeChat. Another popular online platform, Weibo, briefly crashed amid increased traffic as Pelosi arrived in Taipei on Tuesday evening.

Social media was filled with nationalistic comments, with some users expressing disappointment that the Chinese military had not stopped Pelosi’s plane from landing, as some analysts had suggested.

“So what exactly is our country’s red line?” a user asked.

But China is acting.

On Thursday, the country’s military is set to begin four days of live-fire and other drills around Taiwan’s coast, some of them in an area within 15 miles. State-backed nationalist tabloid Global Times called the drills “unprecedented”.

Protesters in Taiwan take part in a demonstration against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
Protesters in Taiwan take part in a demonstration against Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, Taiwan on Tuesday.Annabelle Chih/Getty Images

Taiwan is also facing economic sanctions from China, its biggest trading partner, which has said it will stop importing several fruits and fish products from the island and stop exporting natural sand. , an important material in the production of computer chips, a major export from Taiwan.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Group of Seven countries of major economies expressed concern over China’s ‘escalating response’, which they said ‘risks heightening tensions and destabilizing the region’. .

This may not be the end, said Victor Gao, vice president of the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think tank. Pelosi and those traveling with her could also be permanently banned from entering mainland China and its territories, he said, and diplomatic relations could also be affected in the long term.

Pelosi’s visit “could actually serve to speed up and accelerate China’s reunification with Taiwan”, he added, saying it had galvanized the Chinese public.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

This does not mean that Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to see the situation spiral out of control.

Stability is crucial as Xi prepares to seek an unprecedented third term at a party congress later this year, especially as he faces serious domestic problems, including a economic downturn from sound “Zero Covid” policies. Billions of dollars in trade and investment across the strait are also at stake.

“There has been a lot of noise, but the signal is very clear: China is not looking for confrontation,” Thompson said, noting that a phone call last week between Xi and President Joe Biden was “fairly measured”.

How is the feeling in Taiwan?

President Tsai Ing-wen, whose government rejects China’s sovereignty claim, said she was determined to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, but also expressed her resolve.

“In the face of deliberately increased military threats, Taiwan will not back down,” she said in an appearance with Pelosi on Wednesday.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense reassured residents, accustomed to Chinese threats, that it would defend the island’s national security while seeking to avoid an escalation of the conflict. He condemned the upcoming Chinese military exercises as a serious violation of Taiwanese sovereignty that amounted to air and sea blockades.

Pelosi received a warm welcome in Taipei, where cheers erupted outside Taipei Songshan Airport as his military plane arrived. Lights on Taipei 101, Taiwan’s tallest building, displayed messages of welcome and gratitude for the speaker’s visit.

Some Taiwanese television commentators expressed support for Pelosi’s visit, but also expressed concern about the consequences for Taiwan after he leaves.

Many Taipei residents said Pelosi had every right to visit him and welcomed his arrival, seeing it as an opportunity for the world to learn more about Taiwan. Others were more skeptical.

“I think it’s all a conspiracy between politicians,” said Xue Fang, 50, a trader in Taipei, who said Taiwan’s future depended on the “good fortune” of its people.

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