Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan Raises Concerns over Unexpected Consequences

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan could have negative consequences for the Taiwan Strait.

Pelosi’s arrival on a private plane marked the first visit to Taiwan by a sitting speaker of the House in 25 years.

Pelosi met with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and said that “America stands with Taiwan.” The purpose of the trip was to show America’s support for Taiwan in the face of mounting pressure from Xi Jinping to unify with China. Pelosi tried to rein in the impact of the visit, saying, “The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo.”

National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told the press that “nothing has changed about our ‘One China Policy.’” President Joe Biden, recognizing the separation of the three branches of U.S. government, differed with Pelosi.

However, like Biden, Pelosi is a Democrat, and the House speaker is second in the line of succession to president. China will surely see her visit to Taiwan as part of an integrated strategy.

China opposed the visit, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs voiced “strong protests.” China announced it would conduct military exercises with live ammunition close to Taiwan between Aug. 4 and Aug. 7.

In response, the U.S. military deployed a carrier strike group to nearby waters, while Taiwan’s military has also heightened its state of alert.

If China intensifies its actions to the extent that it appears it is planning to invade Taiwan, there is an increasing likelihood that something unexpected could happen. Both sides must exercise restraint and maintain ongoing dialogue.

Pelosi must have known that the visit to Taiwan would aggravate tensions.

In a telephone conversation between Biden and Xi on July 28, Xi warned that “those who play with fire will perish by it.”

Even so, President Biden effectively signed off on the Taiwan visit, and Pelosi forced the issue given an increasingly hard-line stance against China within the United States.

China‘s unparalleled economic growth and rapid military development have posed a threat to the United States. If Pelosi had canceled the trip to Taiwan, the U.S. may well have invited criticism for kowtowing to China’s threats. There may not have been many options but to proceed with the visit given the difficulties the Democrats are expected to face in November’s midterm elections.

With Xi looking to secure a third term as the Communist Party’s general secretary at the party congress in the fall, China is said to be looking to stabilize relations with the United States. The leadership is already facing a number of difficult challenges, including responding to COVID-19 and the economic downturn.

Moreover, the United States can ill afford to intensify confrontation with China amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. The highest priority should be on easing tensions and finding common ground.

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