December 24, 2022
American politicians and their, often times bigoted, zeal to find foreign bogeymen culminated in the latest trip by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s to Taiwan – the first in 25 years by a high ranking US official.
In an impassioned Op-ed published in the Washington Post, Nancy Pelosi spelled out her reasons for going on a tour, which even her president publicly said was advised against by the military.
“We cannot stand by as the CCP proceeds to threaten Taiwan – and democracy itself. Indeed, we take this trip at a time when the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy,” she wrote, while acknowledging that her stance did not contradict the One-China policy.
To sum up, Pelosi borrowed a page from America’s well-thumbed, but also misguided at times, tome of “Freedom and Democracy”.
At 83, it would not be wrong to say Pelosi is at the twilight of her career. This could be her last big hurrah. This isn’t, however, to detract from her long-standing criticism of China, something she has clearly never wavered from.
Thirty years ago, she unfurled a banner honouring dissidents killed in the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, inviting rebuke from China. She has long campaigned against human rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party. In short, Pelosi has always kept an eagle-eye on China.
But as most experts attest to at the moment, her visit to Taiwan was unnecessary.
Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L Friedman, in an op-ed for the New York Times, termed Pelosi’s visit utterly reckless.
“Nothing good will come of it. Taiwan will not be more secure or more prosperous as a result of this purely symbolic visit, and a lot of bad things could happen,” he wrote.
Stressing that he had a lot of respect for Pelosi, he, however, pointed out that with Europe already entangled in a war, the trip was not needed at this particular point in time.
“There are moments in international relations when you need to keep your eyes on the prize. Today that prize is crystal clear: We must ensure that Ukraine is able, at a minimum, to blunt — and, at a maximum, reverse — Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion, which if it succeeds will pose a direct threat to the stability of the whole European Union,” he wrote, adding that China’s role in the matter was crucial and they had agreed to not support Russia militarily.
Pelosi’s visit, however, could upend all that.
The Washington Post’s editorial board said the fallout from the visit had to be “contained”.
Terming the move unwise while lauding the strong support for Taiwan, it wrote, “What we do not comprehend is her insistence on demonstrating her support in this way, at this time, despite warnings — from a president of her own party — that the geopolitical situation is already unsettled enough.”
The piece mentioned that perhaps her visit was a capstone event for her as a speaker, adding that but the time was to focus on Ukraine at the moment.
“The United States must never sacrifice its principles or cave to Chinese threats. All the more reason to prepare carefully where and when to confront China. No thanks to Ms. Pelosi, the Biden administration finds itself forced to react and improvise instead,” it said in conclusion.
Meanwhile, Russia has also expressed solidarity with China, a favour it may want returned at some point in the future.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has termed the visit a violation of the One-China policy.
If it was only for the optics, then Pelosi’s visit has backfired spectacularly.
Apart from the criticism, it has also caused on-the-ground which will reverberate across the world.
“This issue will linger far longer than the market’s attention span will allow,” Michael Every, head of Asian financial market research at Rabobank in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg. “Yet geo-strategists are largely united in the view that we are still worryingly close to a potential Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis.”
China has also demonstrated its anger with a burst of military activity, summoning the US ambassador in Beijing and halting several agricultural imports from Taiwan.
Twenty-seven Chinese warplanes flew into Taiwan’s air defence zone on Wednesday soon after Pelosi’s visit.
Beijing announced six exclusion zones encircling Taiwan to facilitate live-fire military drills from Thursday to Sunday. Some of the areas cross into the island’s territorial waters, threatening to disrupt airline traffic and shipping in the Taiwan Strait — one of the world’s busiest trade routes, Bloomberg reported.
China’s customs department announced a suspension of imports of citrus fruits, chilled white striped hairtail and frozen horse mackerel from Taiwan, while its commerce ministry banned export of natural sand to Taiwan.
Separately, Chinese organizations, companies and individuals were banned Wednesday from dealing with Taiwan companies. China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner, meaning it has a strategic edge.
China also vowed to hold diehard Taiwan “separatists” accountable and impose criminal punishments on them, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, meaning what Pelosi feared is what may happen.
Although the United States has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is bound by American laws to defend it.
China views visits by US officials to Taiwan as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the island.
While it may never result in any military engagement, it does beg the question whether the provocation was necessary. The last time the US dangled Nato membership in front of Ukraine, Russia responded with force. Was another unnecessary incitement even the call of this hour?
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi / US-China tension / China-Taiwan
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