Nancy Pelosi’s travel plans could further upset the already tense relationship between the US and China. Even the US Army advises against the trip.
Will she come or not? So far, the expected visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has not been officially confirmed. But the speculation alone has already angered Beijing’s party leadership to such an extent that observers on both sides of the Pacific fear a serious strain on the already strained relationship between the US and China. Even military action does not seem out of the question. The fact is that a trip by the American Democrat would be a provocation for Beijing, to which it would have to respond with the strongest possible show of force to prove how unshakable its own claim on the island nation is. The only question is: How far would the state leadership be willing to go?
In any case, the threatening gestures of China’s state journalists and diplomats have reached a threatening level. There is open debate that Beijing could establish a no-fly zone around Taiwan to prevent Pelosi from landing in Taipei. Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief of Nationalist Global Timeseven demanded in a social media post that Pelosi’s plane be escorted by the People’s Liberation Army.
The US Army warns against traveling to Taiwan
The reaction of the US army shows how seriously the danger is taken: the leadership of the armed forces considers Pelosi’s plans “not a good idea at this time”, President Joe Biden said recently. The only problem is that Washington has maneuvered itself into a dilemma from which there is hardly any good way out. If Pelosi embarks on her trip to Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province, it could trigger a dangerous spiral of escalation in the Indo-Pacific. If, on the other hand, the 82-year-old cancels the trip, Beijing’s party leadership will feel strengthened in the belief that the threat has had an effect – and may appear even more belligerent in future disputes.
For years, Beijing has more and more openly asserted its claims to power over democratically-ruled Taiwan. The military regularly sends fighter jets into the island state’s so-called air defense zone, also to wear down its armed forces in the long term. In his speeches, President Xi Jinping leaves no doubt that he intends to integrate Taiwan into the Chinese motherland – if necessary by military means. An open war would be only one of many possible scenarios. It is also conceivable that China may try to bring Taiwan to its knees with an extensive sea and air blockade. “One would expect Beijing to remain steadfast in its determination to unite Taiwan with the mainland,” argues Brookings Institute security expert Ryan Hass. “Cross-strait tensions are likely to continue to escalate in the coming years.”
Xi Jinping could inflame nationalism
The timing of Pelosi’s visit is also particularly critical. In China, there is a sense that the Biden administration plans to tighten its so-called “One China Policy” – gradually upgrading Taiwan diplomatically. At the same time, Xi Jinping wants to secure his third term of office at the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th Party Congress in the autumn. With the economy currently in decline due to the drastic “zero Covid” strategy, Xi may be tempted to cover up growing popular discontent with a nationalist outbreak. A show of force over the Taiwan issue would likely be welcomed by most of the 1.4 billion Chinese.
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