- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a controversial visit to Taiwan on Tuesday.
- In the days ahead of her arrival, China warned repeatedly of a possible military response if she visited.
- Pelosi is the highest-ranking US lawmaker to travel to Taiwan since 1997.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday, bringing an end once and for all to questions of whether or not she would visit the self-governing island democracy amid elevated tensions between Washington and Beijing, the Associated Press reported.
Pelosi made the visit in spite of warnings and threats of a possible military response from China, which considers Taiwan as Chinese territory and stands firmly opposed to its independence, as well as support and engagement from other countries.
China warned prior to Pelosi’s arrival that its military would “not sit idly by,” and as the US military aircraft carrying Pelosi landed in Taiwan, Chinese state media reported that Chinese Su-35 fighter jets were operating in the Taiwan Strait, their purpose unclear.
The House Speaker is the highest-ranking US lawmaker to travel to Taiwan in 25 years, since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich visited the island in 1997.
There are a confluence of factors contributing to China’s anger over Pelosi traveling to Taiwan.
China signaled that it would view Pelosi’s visit as undermining the US’s One China policy, which has guided Washington’s approach to Taiwan for decades.
Under the One China policy, the US does not support Taiwan’s independence and offers diplomatic acknowledgment of Beijing’s position that there’s only one Chinese government.
The US has not had formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan since 1979, when it established official ties with China. That said, the US maintains a robust partnership with Taipei, and it is Taiwan’s top supplier of arms, much to Beijing’s frustration.
The extent of US engagement with Taiwan is at the heart of the present contentious dynamic with China, which is led by the increasingly authoritarian Xi Jinping.
Xi is on the precipice of an unprecedented third term as China’s leader, and analysts say he does not want to appear weak on Taiwan, a core Chinese national interest.
Adding fuel to the fire is that Pelosi has repeatedly decried Beijing over human rights abuses throughout her career, drawing the ire of the Chinese government.
And on top of this, President Joe Biden, since entering the White House, has been accused of repeatedly undermining the longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity” by suggesting the US would come to Taiwan’s defense in the event of a Chinese attack, enraging Beijing. The US has long left that uncertain, and the White House was quick to walk back Biden’s comments.
Top China experts have said the US government’s inconsistent approach to Taiwan has exacerbated the thorny state of relations with Beijing.
The US needs “to be more clear and more consistent in our policy” toward Taiwan, Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Insider last week.
“The US says it doesn’t support Taiwan independence. We have to be clear about what that means we will not do,” Glaser added.
But Glaser also underscored that this issue is “not one-sided,” adding that the Chinese “have been using economic, diplomatic, and military coercion against Taiwan in ways that are extremely destabilizing.”
“I think it is not wrong to say that the Chinese bear more blame — certainly more blame than Taiwan — in changing the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and introducing the degree of instability that exists today,” Glaser said.
“But the US is a factor, it’s not only Beijing and Taipei,” she said. “And I just don’t think that this has been handled very well by the US. Congress is part of it too. It’s Congress, it’s the executive branch. We just have not been very consistent.”
This article is breaking and will continue to be updated.