Is Pelosi Visiting Taiwan? ‘A dangerous but important game for Taipei’

EPA

NOS News

  • Sjoerd den Daas

    correspondent China

  • Sjoerd den Daas

    correspondent China

It hasn’t been formally confirmed yet, but Taiwanese media say they already know for sure: Tonight (local time), Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi will set foot on Taiwanese soil. After the verbal gunplay of recent days, the question now is whether Beijing will live up to its word. “We must prepare as best we can for the worst possible scenario,” warns Wu Chong-Han of Chengchi University in Taiwan.

When the official program for Pelosi’s Asia trip was announced last weekend, a visit to Taiwan was not yet on the agenda. But Taiwanese media are now reporting that she will set foot in Taipei late in the evening. Former diplomat and Taiwan expert Gerrit van der Wees of George Washington University calls it “more than a quick visit” based on the leaked plans so far.

Hong Kong opposition newspaper Apple Daily, which is active only in Taiwan, reports that Pelosi is staying at the Grand Hyatt or Marriott Hotel in Taipei. On Wednesday morning, she was due to meet the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, before leaving again mid-morning. So go, but it cannot be called an official visit. A well-considered stopover from Southeast Asia, en route to South Korea and Japan, as Washington will explain.

tensions

“Visits like this are important for Taiwan to push back against China,” said former diplomat Van der Wees. “People in Taiwan realize that this creates tension, but the goal has always been to have high-ranking politicians visit on visits.”

The fact that this visit was leaked earlier played into Beijing’s hands, China supporters say. That gave Beijing time to increase the pressure and carry more weight than it would have otherwise.

This is also the reason why the authorities in Taipei are keeping their lips tight for now. “To keep the risks manageable, Taiwan needs to be smart about this,” said Wu Chong-han of Chengchi University in Taipei. “We are caught between two superpowers, between America and China,” Wu said. “That’s why people are choosing it at the moment low profile to become.”

Push and pull

Because where Washington pulls, Beijing pushes back. China’s defense ministry said that if the visit goes ahead, “the Chinese military will not sit back and take strong countermeasures”. They were not told what they look like. But foreign affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian added: “We Chinese mean what we say,” the outspoken diplomat said. “A dangerous game,” his colleague Hua Chunying said today of the intended visit.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is preparing for war, it added on the social media platform Weibo. But where new boiling points are reached on a verbal level, it is so far a matter of pinpricks in deed.

Beijing said it had flown a drone around Taiwan for the first time last week. Taipei had not reported the flight movement, which Chinese state media is explaining as “vulnerability” to Taiwan’s air defenses. On Thursday, the Taiwanese twice reported a Chinese drone around Taiwan’s Matsu Islands. Taipei said it chased the drone away.

Muscles

“People will try something in several areas and show their muscles,” says Gerrit van der Wees, about the possible consequences of Pelosi’s Taiwan trip. How? “It’s hard to assess, but if they do it too drastically, they will cut themselves. They won’t catch a company like Foxconn, for example,” he says, referring to the Taiwanese manufacturer of iPhones, which provides many jobs in the world. China cares.

Taiwanese media already reported an import ban today. A hundred Taiwanese food companies are no longer allowed to sell their products in China. In the past, something similar happened with Taiwanese pineapples.

Party chief and President Xi Jinping called for “de-escalation” in the region in a phone call with his American counterpart Biden last week. Biden suggested staying in close contact to avoid “miscalculations.”

Whether there will be military reactions remains to be seen. Xi wants to “bring back” Taiwan under Beijing’s wing, if necessary by force. But it seems unlikely that the time has come for him to realize, as it is called in party jargon, “the Chinese resurrection”.

“In the short term, this visit strengthens Taiwan-US relations,” said Wu, of Taiwan’s Chengchi University. “In the longer term, Taiwan should proceed with caution and pay attention to Beijing’s military maneuvers.” He is not referring directly to war. “But this is what Taiwan needs to be prepared for. Caution is advised.”

NOS on 3 explains the role Taiwan plays in the dispute between the superpowers China and the United States:

Taiwan: the country that is not a country

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