Typically, a plane crash is big news, while a plane taking off or landing is no news at all.
But the sight of Nancy Pelosi’s US military plane on Tuesday Landing at Taipei Songshan Airport in Taiwan – smoothly and without incident – was certainly new and cause for a collective sigh of relief.
In this case, however, the destination is just as important as the journey. China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and his bellicose response to the arrival of the House Speaker suggested the risk of unintended consequences remains high. For those who believe a US-China confrontation over the self-governing island is someday inevitable, the speaker’s provocation may have only hastened the timetable.
Pelosi, second in line for the presidency, has defied a series of increasingly stronger threats from China that has done so fuels tensions. Chinese President Xi Jinping told Joe Biden in a phone call last week that “if you play with fire, you will get burned”.
Biden himself acknowledged that the US military didn’t think it was “a good idea at the moment” but knew better than to try to interfere with the plans of Pelosi, who has long been marching to the beat of her own drum.
She wrote in The Washington Post, “We cannot stand by as the CCP [Chinese Communist party] continues to threaten Taiwan – and democracy itself.
“Indeed, we are undertaking this journey at a time when the world is faced with a choice between autocracy and democracy. As Russia wages its deliberate, illegal war on Ukraine, killing thousands of innocent people – even children – it is important that America and our allies make it clear that we will never give in to the autocrats.”
Even if American democracy is collapsing at home, there is nothing like a rallying cry for democracy abroad to rally the major political parties. Twenty-six Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, issued a joint statement in support of Pelosi’s visit. Even Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News praised her.
Newt Gingrich, a Republican who visited Taiwan in 1997 as the last speaker of the House of Representatives, told the Guardian: “When it became public, she had to go through with it. Otherwise Xi Jinping would have got the impression that we could be bullied. She had no choice when it became public and it was disappointing to have the Biden administration confused by that reality.”
Which is reassuring to a point, although Pelosi would normally have cause to at least reconsider her course of action if she earned the full-bodied support of McConnell and Gingrich. Some analysts believe they were all wrong.
Lyle Goldstein, director of Asia engagement at the Defense Priorities think tank, said: “This stupid political stunt is unlikely to start a war per se, but it will only hasten the sad process of sleepwalking into a global and national catastrophe at some point in the future.” . Maintaining Washington’s one-China policy and strategic ambiguity are the best approaches to maintaining Taiwan’s autonomy.”
Some have also asked: why now? It could simply be voting arithmetic for Pelosi, as she seems poised to lose the Speaker’s gavel republican to vote in the midterm elections in November and possibly retire at the age of 82. The Taiwan visit could be the culmination of a long career denouncing Beijing’s human rights abuses.
But for critics, while the cause is just, the timing is wrong. Thomas Friedman, opinion columnist for The New York Times, called the visit “absolutely inconsiderate, dangerous and irresponsible,” not least because the White House was involved in delicate negotiations to prevent China from providing military aid to Russia in Ukraine.
Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program at the US-based think tank German Marshall Fund, argues that it would have been better after the 20th and after the US has clarified its Taiwan policy. Biden raised eyebrows earlier this year when he pledged to defend the island militarily, calling into question longstanding policies of “strategic ambiguity.”
Glaser said, “There have been many statements about our policy towards Taiwan, some of which have been contradictory, and there is a need for some consistency and clarity in US policy. One of the reasons why China is reacting this way – and there are many reasons – is that it is losing confidence in US commitment to One China and sees a gap between US words and US actions.
“The Chinese see the need to strengthen their red lines to avert a major crisis with the United States. They want to get US attention and react strong enough now so they can avoid a crisis later that could lead to a decision in China that they must use force to stop the United States going down that route. The US needs to be more consistent and disciplined.”
In fact, the Chinese Foreign Ministry wasted no time in condemning Pelosi’s visit, saying it has “serious implications for the political basis of China-US relations and seriously violates China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” It could respond by breaching Taiwan’s air defense identification zone or launching missiles into the Taiwan Straits – risking an accident leading to an escalation.
Democrats around the world can thank Pelosi for standing up to autocrats — while praying that she can keep the peace, too.
Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan trip sparks excitement among US analysts and Democrats Nancy Pelosi
Source link Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan trip sparks excitement among US analysts and Democrats Nancy Pelosi