This week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi became the most senior United States politician to visit Taiwan. Her trip was met by harsh criticism from some Conservatives and open threats from the Chinese government, who acted on their threatening words by launching the biggest military exercises in the region to date.
Here are five things to know about her visit:
1. The Purpose of the Visit:
Speaker Pelosi originally had planned to visit Taiwan in April, but this trip was postponed when she had tested positive for COVID-19. The Speaker’s trip was unannounced but highly anticipated by officials in the U.S., Taiwan, and China. Upon her arrival in Taiwan, Pelosi stated the trip was to reaffirm U.S. commitment to Taiwan saying, “Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.” Pelosi also stated, “We cannot stand by as the CCP proceeds to threaten Taiwan – and democracy itself.” Aside from meeting with the Taiwanese President and Foreign Minister, the Speaker also met with human rights leaders and business leaders during the trip.
2. Territorial Claims:
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, many have questioned if other nations around the world would follow on territorial claims. The world’s eyes turned to China and what they would do regarding their claims over Taiwan. On Feb. 24, after speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “China maintains that the Cold War mentality should be completely abandoned and a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism should be finally established through dialogue and negotiation.” Yi also noted Russia’s “legitimate security concerns” in the phone call. Since then, China has repeatedly stated that all reports of them previously knowing about or militarily supporting Russia’s invasion are “disinformation.” Mirroring Yi’s statements to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia was quick to denounce the visit to Taiwan by Speaker Pelosi. The Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, called the U.S. a “state provocateur” and reaffirmed Russia’s position on the One-China policy stating that Russia “opposes the independence of the island in any form.”
3. China’s Response:
Ahead of Speaker Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan, the Chinese military sent warplanes that flew near the dividing line in the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese Foreign Ministry protested fiercely against the delegation’s visit and claimed it “seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” along with claiming the visit damages the peace and stability of the region. China then held joint air and sea military exercises along with tests of conventional missiles near Taiwan.
4. Regional Response:
Many Southeast Asian nations near the South China Sea were hesitant to step on any toes, noting that they do not want the region to become an area of a major power conflict. The Philippines Foreign Affairs Ministry stated that they want to avoid “any miscalculations and further escalation of tensions.” Indonesia has taken a similar stance requesting “all parties to refrain from provocative actions that may worsen the situation.”
5. Domestic Response:
The White House tried to get the Speaker to cancel her trip to Taiwan, sending members of the National Security Council and the State Department to warn her of the potential risks associated with the visit. The Biden administration worked to avoid escalating tensions with China, though Pelosi remained adamant in her decision. This was met with bipartisan support, with Mitch McConnell and 25 other Republicans coming out in support of her decision. However, it was also met with much criticism from Republicans as well. Former President Trump attacked Pelosi, saying “Why is Crazy Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan. Always causing trouble. Nothing she does turns out well (Two failed Impeachments, loss of House, etc.). WATCH!” in a post on his TruthSocial platform.