U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taipei on the evening of Tuesday (August 2) local time with a delegation.
Taiwan media reported that Pelosi and his party will visit the Taiwan Legislative Yuan on the morning of the 3rd and hold talks with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
The report also said that Pelosi will accept a public interview with the media during her stay in Taiwan and is expected to leave Taiwan on the afternoon of the 3rd.
Since Washington cut diplomatic ties with Taipei and established diplomatic ties with Beijing in the 1970s, the highest-ranking US politician who has visited Taiwan has been the Speaker of the House of Representatives. In April 1997, Republican Newt Gingrich (Newt Gingrich, Taiwanese translation), the then Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, visited Taiwan in a “whirlwind”.
After Pelosi announced her plan to visit Taiwan, Beijing sparked a strong reaction. China saw it as a provocative move, saying it would respond with a number of military exercises and live ammunition.
Shortly before Pelosi’s flight arrived in Taiwan, Beijing’s state media CCTV News broadcast the latest news that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Su-35 fighter jet was crossing the Taiwan Strait. However, the report did not provide further details.
Pelosi: The world faces a ‘choice between democracy and authoritarianism’
Pelosi tweeted after landing in Taiwan that her delegation’s visit was in keeping with the United States’ “unwavering commitment to support Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”
“The unity of the United States and Taiwan’s 23 million people is more important than ever as the world faces a choice between dictatorship and democracy,” she said.
“The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo,” she said. The post is accompanied by a link to the full statement (in English) issued by the Speaker’s Office regarding the visit to Taiwan.
Bypass the South China Sea?
The US military SPAR19 flight that Pelosi and his party were visiting in Asia left Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, at 3:42 p.m. local time.
Seven hours after the flight, SPAR19 arrived in Taipei at 22:44 local time.
At one point, more than 300,000 people followed the SPAR19 flight, according to flight-tracking website Flight Radar 24.
Flights from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei usually fly over the South China Sea, and the flight time is generally less than five hours.
Since last week, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has carried out live-fire exercises in the South China Sea, Yellow Sea, Bohai Sea and other waters.
Responses from Taiwan and Mainland people
Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has sparked mixed reactions in Taiwan.
On Tuesday (August 2), protesters in Taipei marched near the Grand Hyatt hotel where Pelosi may be staying to protest her planned visit. They accused the visit of potentially triggering clashes across the Taiwan Strait.
But some supporters held up posters saying “Taiwan welcomes Pelosi” to welcome her visit. Taipei’s iconic building, Taipei 101, was also lit up to support US-Taiwan friendship.
On China’s tightly controlled social media platform, comments were mostly strongly opposed to Pelosi’s visit and encouraged Beijing to take military action.
Many social media users called on China to “take back” Taiwan, while expressing expectations for a “victory” for the motherland.
Only a few posts urged calm. “We don’t want war. People who like war don’t get too excited; all soldiers have families,” said one netizen.
But such posts are often heavily criticized by other commenters.
Chinese censors quickly delete social media posts that contradict official positions, so there is no way to know how representative online comments are.
“Military provocation in response”
Earlier, the White House warned that if Pelosi visited Taiwan, mainland China would respond with military provocation.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Monday (1st) that Beijing could launch missiles around Taiwan or make large-scale air or sea moves. Beijing may also make “false legal claims,” such as declaring that the Taiwan Strait is not international waters.
The official Taiwan Central News Agency reported that the National Army of the Republic of China ordered enhanced combat readiness on Tuesday, but did not enter a wartime state.
Analysts pointed out to the BBC that due to the issue of US sovereignty, Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is already in a difficult situation. Taiwan may receive the moral support of the United States, but it may also face the escalating military threat from Beijing from now on.
The sword is drawn, the gains and losses are unpredictable
On Monday, which coincides with the PLA’s “August 1st” Army Day, the PLA’s Southern Theater Command said its naval aviation units were conducting “multi-subject and multi-batch cross-day and night flight training.” The official China Central Television reported that the China Maritime Safety Administration had issued a navigational warning to parts of the South China Sea, which it said would be subject to “military training and no sailing.”
The PLA’s Eastern Theater Command also distributed propaganda videos, claiming to “stand ready to fight, follow orders to fight, and bury all incoming enemies.”
Lin Quanzhong, an international political scientist and an expert on cross-strait issues, believes that Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan has brought Taiwan’s attention in the international media to the highest point of the Taiwan Strait crisis in 1996. “It can be said that the fourth Taiwan Strait crisis is happening.” Judging only at this stage, this is “more gains than losses” for Taiwan.
Song Wendi, a lecturer at the Australian National University’s Asia-Pacific Institute, told the BBC Chinese that if Pelosi appeared in Taiwan, it would be “a strong symbolic support for Taiwan’s democratic values”.
It will also revive Taiwanese confidence in the U.S. commitment to Taiwan, Song Wendi said, while some may see Pelosi’s potential visit as merely a political drama, but sometimes symbolism is the substance. “For Taiwan, in the absence of a formal relationship, these symbolic gestures are particularly meaningful for U.S.-Taiwan relations, especially after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.”
He explained that since the outbreak of the Ukrainian war, public opinion polls in Taiwan have shown that the proportion of Taiwanese people who believe that the United States is willing to help defend Taiwan in the war has dropped significantly. Undoubtedly, a large portion of Taiwanese see the lack of direct U.S. military assistance in Ukraine as an ominous sign that U.S. security assistance is unlikely when Taiwan needs it.
As for the negative impact on Taiwan, Lin Quanzhong believes that it is still early to evaluate, but there is one observation point that can be further judged.
He said that in the past, Chinese warships never crossed the middle line of the Taiwan Strait in large numbers, and at most they sailed on the west side. However, if Pelosi crosses Taiwan’s central line during or after Taiwan’s defense against Taiwan this time, making “the theory of the central line invalid”, then it will be a huge loss to Taiwan, because it means that China has taken “historic” measures, and it will be a huge loss for Taiwan in the future. Actions make an impact.
In this regard, Zhu Zhiqun, a professor at the Department of International Relations at Bucknell University in the United States, told BBC Chinese, “Taiwan may have gained face, but lost its insides. What it has gained is the further and open support of the US government, especially Congress, and what has been lost is Control over current and future situations.”
Zhu Zhiqun predicted, “It may become normal for PLA military planes to cross the so-called center line of the strait and even enter Taiwan’s airspace.”
Song Wendi believes that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan could trigger a “retaliatory response” from Beijing, such as pressure on Taiwan or even the United States through diplomatic or economic sanctions, and could include military activities that risk escalation.
China just took over the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council on Monday, and China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, warned that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan would be “obviously dangerous and provocative.”
Zhang Jun repeated: “The Chinese side is on the defensive. If the US side insists on going its own way, the Chinese side will take firm and powerful measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the US side should be responsible for all serious consequences.”
“If the Speaker decides to visit, and China tries to create some kind of crisis, or escalate the situation, Beijing will be fully responsible,” Blinken told reporters.
“We hope they – if she decides to visit – act responsibly and refrain from any activity that would escalate the situation further down the line.”
Kirby pointed out that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, also visited Taiwan in 1997, and earlier this year, U.S. congressmen also visited Taiwan.
Kirby said: “Nothing has changed, there is no drama here. It is not unprecedented for the Speaker of the House of Representatives to visit Taiwan.” He also emphasized that Pelosi was traveling on a US military plane.
‘It is imperative’
Pelosi started her Asia visit on Sunday (July 31) with a public itinerary that includes Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.
The bipartisan support for Taiwan in the U.S. Congress is strong, and there are also private forces supporting Taiwan. Pelosi, a member of the Democratic Party, has long criticized the CCP regime in Beijing, condemned its human rights record, and even went to Beijing Tiananmen Square to mourn the victims of the June 4th incident in 1989.
Analysts believe that the United States cannot relinquish its sovereignty based on threats from Beijing, making Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan a must.
Nathalie Tocci, former special assistant to the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and director of the Italian think tank the Institute of International Affairs, believes that the situation has developed to a situation where there are no winners.
“On the one hand, as far as I know, outside of the symbolism, we don’t know exactly why she’s going, but on the other hand, it would be a disaster to step back,” Toch told the BBC.
“He shouldn’t go because he’s threatened, and America is being threatened.”
Dr. Weifeng Zhong, a senior researcher at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in the United States, believes that Washington’s confusing signal to Beijing has forced Pelosi to go to Taiwan, “otherwise the United States will look weak.”
Dr Zhong Weifeng told the BBC: “That’s why it’s not that big of a provocation for China, because Speaker Pelosi is just trying to save face for the US and not have to do it.”
Hagar Chemali, a former policy adviser to the White House National Security Council, also believes that the United States cannot accept that China has the final say on where American politicians go. But she also pointed out to the BBC that even if Beijing is not very cooperative on the issue of the Ukraine war, the United States still needs China to influence Russia’s decision-making. Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan at this time is awkward.
Pelosi was due to visit Taiwan in April, but it was delayed after she tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). In early July, Pelosi said publicly: “It’s an important thing that we show support for Taiwan.”
US President Joe Biden said recently that the US military believes that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan at this moment is “not a good idea.”
Zack Cooper, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the BBC: “It may be a legacy issue for her, maybe it’s something she wants to do before she leaves office, maybe it’s a bit of a political need — In Washington, everyone in Congress wants to appear tough on China, and she herself has a long history of doing that.”
Taiwan’s Palace Museum conducts its first “war drill”
The US House of Representatives President Nancy Pelosi (Nancy Pelosi) is rumored to visit Taiwan, and the military relationship between the two sides has become more and more tense. At the end of last month, the world-renowned National Palace Museum in Taipei also held its first “war exercise” to simulate the occurrence of war.
Professor Wu Micha, director of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, told US media CNN that the July exercise mainly trained 180 personnel from the museum to conduct various simulation exercises, including how to report to the military and police when objects are looted by the enemy or security facilities are damaged. Ask for help.
In fact, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February this year, Taiwan legislators questioned the Palace Museum, where, in addition to the earthquake and other natural disaster exercises, where should the Palace Museum urgently relocate 700,000 cultural relics in response to the outbreak of war? plan. At that time, President Wu Micha responded to the Legislative Yuan’s statement that “there is no such place in my mind”, which aroused attention.
After that, the Forbidden City promised to hold war drills in July this year.
According to the report, if the President of Taiwan orders the withdrawal of the Forbidden City, the entire collection of 700,000 items will not be relocated. According to the plan, about 90,000 high-value cultural relics will be rescued first. The Palace Museum declined to disclose the planned evacuation location and method.
The National Palace Museum in Taipei itself is a museum that has survived many wars. In the last century, the Forbidden City moved continuously in mainland China after the Anti-Japanese War and the Civil War between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party. In 1949, it moved to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek’s army. The museum mainly collects cultural relics from the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The treasures of the town courtyard include Fan Kuan’s Journey to the Streams and Mountains, Guo Xi’s “Early Spring” and Su Dongpo’s “Cold Food” and other masterpieces.
In addition to the Forbidden City, the three major museums in Taiwan, including the Taiwan Museum of History, have also indicated that they will follow up on planning war exercises.