Whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s risky trip to Taiwan was a valuable statement of US resolve or provoked China for no strategic gain depends on when, or if, Beijing’s consequent fury and military posturing abate.
Pelosi visited legislators and President Tsai Ing-Wen on the democratic self-governing island on Wednesday, giving her hosts the trappings of a nation-state visit sure to enrage the Chinese.
Her trip has already caused uproar in tense US-China relations, with the communist giant sending jets to the edge of Taiwanese air space and launching military exercises that sent an unsubtle message that Taiwan is surrounded.
However, if these eruptions stop short of a full-scale crisis in the Taiwan Strait, a vital strategic waterway, and avoid the possibility of miscalculations between Chinese and Taiwanese forces, or even Chinese and US assets in the region, the storm over Pelosi’s mission could be temporary. The imagery of the US House speaker bolstering a democracy under China’s giant shadow could become one of the signature moments in US Asia-Pacific foreign policy.
US-China tensions: The geopolitical relationship between Washington and Beijing is the most important nation-to-nation clash on the globe. It is unfolding as a generational tussle between two civilizations keen to imprint their values, economic systems and strategic hegemony on the rest of the world.
While the Biden administration has followed the Trump White House in treating China as an adversary rather than as a competitor, the prime goal of US policy is still to avoid what could be a disastrous future war between the two nations.
So if Pelosi’s visit — a personal rebuke to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has made the takeover of Taiwan an existential quest — permanently worsens already poor US-China relations and brings forward what some see as an inevitable superpower confrontation, it might turn out to be a massive miscalculation.
The same will be true if her trip prompts Beijing to take steps that rock the peace and prosperity enjoyed by the Taiwanese in their dynamic island home, a factor often ignored by China hawks taking tough stands to bolster their political position in the US.
Read the full analysis here.