On first hearing about U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned visit to Taiwan it struck me as a rather, shall we say, stupid idea. It would infuriate the Chinese, who claim the island as part of China, and the Americans hardly need a fight with another nuclear power while they are engaged in hostile relations with Russia.
Dealing with Putin’s aggression is not going to be made any easier by pushing Putin and Xi Jinping even closer than they already are. Minimizing Xi’s assistance to his fellow autocrat is a worthy goal in itself. So this didn’t seem like a propitious time to do any boat-rocking.
Furthermore, as China would undoubtedly retaliate against Taiwan, I wondered if it wouldn’t be more harmful than helpful to the Taiwanese themselves.
And indeed the Chinese have retaliated, expressing their anger in a variety of ways against both Taiwan and the U.S. And, for that matter, against Ms. Pelosi, who they have sanctioned.
China went into blockade mode, staging military exercises that encroached on Taiwan’s airspace and territorial waters. It also announced it was no longer talking to the United States on a variety of issues, including climate change and drug trafficking.
So does that make the visit a stupid idea? Perhaps only if you ignore the views of the Taiwanese. According to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, “Pelosi is one of Taiwan’s most devoted friends who has deep and longstanding ties with the country.” The president backed up her words by awarding Pelosi with the Order of Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon. Whatever that is, it sounds impressive.
An article in the New York Times by Yu-Jie Chen, a born and bred Taiwanese, offered a powerful perspective as she thanked Pelosi for the visit. Ms. Chen, an assistant research professor at the Law Institute of Taiwan, is an expert in international law and diplomacy as it applies to China-Taiwan relations.
She notes that “Each of Taiwan’s 23 million people is a living, breathing rebuttal of the Communist Party’s insistence that its repressive, authoritarian model is superior to democracy.” Her statement nicely reveals why Xi Jinpeng and his colleagues so fear the little democracy just off their shores.
The lady adds, “Freedom is worth fighting for, and all democracies will be strengthened by standing with Taiwan.” Hard to disagree with that.
As Xi tightens his autocratic grip and his security state extends its paranoia deeper into Chinese society, Taiwan becomes an increasingly bright beacon of freedom. And as we watch helplessly as the once vibrant democracy Hong Kong is sucked into the communist swamp, Taiwan’s freedom shines even brighter.
So maybe Nancy P got it right … but I still wonder a little about the timing.