Nancy Pelosi touched down in Taiwan on Tuesday, ignoring the critics at home and abroad who strongly encouraged her not to go. Only days before Pelosi left for Asia, President Joe Biden acknowledged that “the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.”
China had a much angrier reaction:
Latest footage circulating on Chinese social media WeChat shows armoured vehicles on the move in the southern Chinese city of Xiamen, as US Speaker Pelosi is reportedly heading to Taipei. pic.twitter.com/ePpJsO2VyM
— Bang Xiao 萧邦 (@BangXiao_) August 2, 2022
Pelosi has defended her visit as a way for the United States to “honor our commitment to democracy,” but in the immediate future, the effect seems to be more security concerns for Taiwan. China’s Communist government, which views Taiwan as a “breakaway province” that ought to be unified with the mainland, pledged a military response to Pelosi’s visit, including drills “encircling Taiwan” this week.
This is all serious stuff, not least for the people of Taiwan who have to actively live with the threat of a Chinese military intervention. Beyond China’s military posturing, the government has flooded social media with disinformation and slapped an import ban on more than 100 Taiwanese businesses.
Reasonable people can disagree over the wisdom of Pelosi going to Taiwan, but the timing is certainly a bit odd. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has doubled down on nationalist rhetoric ahead of a major Communist Party meeting in the fall that should lead to him winning an unprecedented third term. US officials, speaking to the New York Times last week, are increasingly fearful of Xi moving against Taiwan in the “next year and a half.”
As she touched down in Taiwan, Pelosi released a Washington Post op-ed saying, “We cannot stand by as the CCP proceeds to threaten Taiwan—and democracy itself.” The question her and Biden will need to answer is what it means to not “stand by” when those CCP threats become harder to ignore.