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What does US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Taiwan visit mean for China?

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadAug 02, 2022 | 13:21

What does US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Taiwan visit mean for China?

Nancy Pelosi's possible visit to Taiwan brings the world to an edge. Photo: AP

It's just an American politician planning to visit a small Asian country as part of a boring diplomatic tour. That's what US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan should have been, except it has been turned into a geopolitical circus, with the world watching with its fingers crossed. 

Nancy Pelosi's maybe, may-not-be visit to Taiwan has triggered China, enough to threaten a literal military action. 

What's happening now: 

  1. China is ramping up military activity near Taiwan.
  2. Chinese fighter jets reportedly flew too close to the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday morning, August 2. 
  3. Reports say China's PLA, in charge of the South China Sea and Taiwan-related missions, are on "high alert".
  4. Financial Times reported that domestic air traffic to Fujian, the Chinese province closest to Taiwan, was "disrupted". It is possible that China may be preparing to clear the airspace for military activity.
  5. Reports said that Beijing sent rocket launchers to Fujian.
  6. PLA has been carrying out live drills in the South China Sea since last week. The drills also continued last night reportedly to bolster night-time attack response, according to Global Times, a Chinese nationalist news outlet. 
  7. The Chinese military also released a video meant as a show of force on Weibo (Chinese Twitter). 
  8. On the other hand, the live drills and military video all coincide with the 95th anniversary of PLA's founding day. 
  9. US military ships - USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) & USS Tripoli (LHA-7) - are reportedly near Taiwan in preparation for Pelosi's visit. 
  10. A US Air Force plane was reported landing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from Japan by netizens tracking Nancy Pelosi's flights. Netizens are speculating which of the two planes will be escorting Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. 

Context: Chinese President Xi Jinping recently dialed US President Joe Biden ahead of Nancy Pelosi's rumoured visit to Taiwan. Beijing has issued several warnings over Pelosi's possible Taiwan visit, which are not the usual diplomatic rebuke or threats to cut off trade. 

Beijing has warned of military consequences, threats to Nancy Pelosi herself, and even an invasion or "reunification" of Taiwan. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian during a press conference on Monday, August 1 said, "If you play with fire, you will get burned. I believe the US is fully aware of the strong and clear message delivered by China."

If you play with fire, you will get burned. I believe the US is fully aware of the strong and clear message delivered by China.
- Zhao Lijian

He also said that the "PLA will not sit idly by" and that they will take "resolute and strong countermeasures". 

Global Times, considered a CPC mouthpiece said that "PLA could send warplanes to intercept her (Nancy Pelosi) plane should she attempt to land in Taiwan".

It also said that "China will use this provocative move by the US to irreversibly change the Taiwan Straits situation and speed up the reunification process".

PLA could send warplanes to intercept her (Nancy Pelosi) plane should she attempt to land in Taiwan.
- Global Times

China's relations with Taiwan: China considers "Taipei", its name for Taiwan, as part of its national sovereignty. On the other hand, Taiwan has been fighting for independence from China and thwarting its sovereign claims. Due to its complicated status, China has efficiently barred the world from recognising Taiwan as an official country, even the UN or the US do not recognise the island as an independent country. 

China says it will take Pelosi's visit to Taiwan as a US state-sanctioned provocation against Beijing. Pelosi herself has a history of being hawkish towards China. She has a history of protesting against human rights violations in China, supporting the Tibet cause, and raising the issue of the Tiananmen Square massacre. 

What the US says: The US National Security Council (NSA) spokesperson John Kirby said that Pelosi has every right to visit Taiwan if she wishes. However, Kirby stopped short of confirming her trip. But US President Joe Biden himself admitted that the military thinks it might not be the right time for Pelosi to visit Taiwan. 

The White House has also made it clear that if China reacts aggressively to Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, then the aggression would be "entirely on China". 

While the US has not officially confirmed Pelosi's visit, Taiwanese official sources have confirmed to the media that she will be landing on the island as soon as Tuesday evening. 

Analysts look at it as a bullying situation, where China is the big bad bully and the US is in a fix. If the US listens to the bully, they will be emboldening it, if it doesn't it sends a strong message but also risks aggression. 

On the other hand, the Republicans in US have condemned Pelosi's possible visit to Taiwan saying that she's bringing the war to Americans. Others accused her of risking military tension between two world superpowers for her husband's business interests in the chip manufacturing industry, in which Taiwan happens to be the world leader.

Last updated: August 02, 2022 | 15:09
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