Xi Jinping is experiencing a moment of weakness. That increases the danger of overreacting to a visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi.
When powerful people experience moments of weakness, political interaction tends to become especially difficult. President Joe Biden is currently experiencing this with China’s state party leader. Xi Jinping may have managed to see to it that he is celebrated as the greatest Chinese individual since Mao Zedong. But in real life, things aren’t going all that well.
The economy is stagnating, a consequence of the “zero-COVID” policy that was implemented primarily by Xi. In addition, not everyone is excited by the prospect of their leader being appointed to the country’s highest office for several more years at the Communist Party’s convention in October. After all, term limits on leading representatives were considered a significant achievement of the post-Mao years.
Spirits He Has Conjured
Under these circumstances, if Xi allowed such a high-ranking representative of the United States as Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan, he would face aggressive nationalists who would be up in arms. They may be the very forces that Xi has supported during the last 10 years as president, yet he can’t expect any gratitude from them in this situation. Thus, he may be reacting more aggressively than even he may wish to.
The U.S. defense secretary was correct in his assessment that it’s not a great idea for Pelosi to be traveling to Taiwan during this precarious moment.