House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who acts as the third person in the country, has paid a diplomatic visit to the Indo-Pacific region. Almost to the end, it was unclear whether she will also visit Taiwan. Despite the Chinese threats, it eventually happened. It though stirred repercussions both in Beijing-Taipei and Beijing-Washington relations. Some commentators even argued that the visit might lead to the fourth crisis in Taiwan Strait.
The visit to Taiwan
The plane carrying Nancy Pelosi needed as many as seven hours to get to Taiwan from Malaysia since it had to circumvent the South China Sea. The flight was followed by more than 600 thousand people. The visit to Taiwan commenced on the 2nd of August at 10:43 p.m. (TWN) and concluded on the following day at 4:45 p.m. (TWN). Nancy Pelosi is the highest American official who visited Taiwan since Newt Gingrich. He held a similar journey 25 years ago. Initially, the visit was planned for April, but due to COVID-19 infection, Pelosi had to postpone it.
After her arrival, Pelosi published a short statement in which she explains the motivations behind her trip to Taiwan. “[In the face of increasing aggression from the Chinese Communist Party], our Congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy.” – wrote Pelosi. The communique also underscored that the Congressional delegation’s visit is a part of a broader trip to the Indo-Pacific — including Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan.
On Wednesday, Pelosi addressed the Taiwanese Parliament and held talks with the Vice-Chairman of the Parliament Tsai Chi-chang and Mrs. President Tsai Ing-wen, who decorated Mrs. Speaker with the First-Class Order of Propitious Clouds – the highest-ranked Taiwanese civil medal. She also met with Mark Liu, CEO of TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) to talk about semiconductors and American legislation CHIPS (280-million package for development of the American semiconductor market). After the official engagements, she found some time to meet a couple of NGO activists and dissidents working on human rights. Pelosi’s comments generally indicated that Taiwan and the USA have common grounds for cooperation in the areas of economy and security. Moreover, they are driven by convergent values, particularly concerning democracy. In her remarks, she did not touch upon the One China Policy.
Our Congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy – wrote Pelosi.
Before the arrival of the Congressional delegation to Taiwan, during the phone call with Joe Biden on the 28th of July, CCP’s Leader Xi Jinping warned about “playing with fire” about Taiwan. On the 1st of August, the Chinese Eastern Theatre Command published a spot calling “Be ready and fight, bury each enemy that comes along”. Chinese Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe vowed that “if anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost”. The day after, he announced that the Eastern Theatre troops will be on high alert. China’s Maritime Safety Administration issued a navigational warning indicating that part of the South China Sea will be excluded because of the Chinese military drills between the 2nd and the 6th of August.
Americans responded similarly by deploying a strike force consisting of aircraft carriers and other Navy vessels closer to Taiwan. They also increased the intensity of electronic intelligence in the vicinity of the island.
On the first day of Pelosi’s trip, the Chinese initiated the transports of military equipment in the Fujian Province (province located in south-east China, upon the Taiwan Strait) and the military drills. As a demonstration of power, the Chinese moved also self-propelled missile launchers DF-16, with an estimated range of around 1000 km and the ability to carry nuclear bombs. On the same day, Taiwanese governmental websites suffered a cyberattack that probably was orchestrated by Chinese hackers.
The aforementioned threats did not startle the Speaker. She and the delegation made it to Taiwan in the evening which triggered a further escalation of Beijing’s fury. In response, China announced military drills around Taiwan with live ammunition from Thursday to Sunday. The scheduled range of the maneuvers infringes both the air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and the territorial waters of Taiwan. The spokesman for the Eastern Theatre Command said that they are meant to serve as “a serious warning for the Taiwanese independence forces”. Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense noted that the Chinese military drills violate UN regulations. On the 4th of August, the Chinese announced that maneuvers will be extended until Monday and to other territories.
The statement issued by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized the journey and labeled it a serious political provocation which should be harshly condemned. A couple of hours later, another, more explicit, statement was published in which Americans were described as the “biggest destroyer of peace in Taiwan Strait”.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs condemned the American interference in the Chinese sovereignty, whereas the Chinese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Xie Feng summoned the USA Ambassador to China, Nicolas Burns, and issued a decisive protest on behalf of the Government.
Also in Polish media, namely in Rzeczpospolita, the Chinese Ambassador to Beijing shared his remarks concerning the tensions. He described Pelosi’s visit as “an impertinent interference in the internal affairs of China” and added that “the perfidy of the United States is abominable and that it can only further ruin the strained credibility of the USA on the international stage”. He also encouraged Polish authorities to officially recognize the American delegation’s visit as wrong and harmful.
Beijing’s leadership decided also to hit Taiwan economically. On the 1st of August, the China Customs bureau introduced temporary bans on imports from more than a hundred Taiwanese food producers. On the 3rd of August, they suspended imports of more than 2000 Taiwanese food products (out of a total number of 3200). Finally, they announced the suspension of the export of natural sand which is used to manufacture silicon wafers in chip production.
Pelosi’s journey will lead to a significant deterioration of the Chinese-Taiwanese and Chinese-American relations. Beijing continuously labels that a provocation and has embarked on military drills around Formosa. The maneuvers entail a partial air and naval blockade of the island. Through these means, CCP expresses its maximal discontent and, at the same time, retains the Chinese capacity to control the dynamics of escalation. However, I would not expect the invasion of Taiwan. Preparations for such an operation would take weeks, and so far, no significant military forces have been mounted upon the Chinese shore.
Despite very harsh and aggressive rhetoric and military muscle-flexing, the CCP did not manage to deter Americans from visiting the island. For Xi Jinping, it is a truly critical moment. For this year’s fall, the CCP arranged its 20th Party Congress, where the Party’s Leader is about to be granted his unprecedented third tenure. He cannot present himself as a weak leader, and that could be considered a possible threat of further escalation. On the other hand, the possible war defeat could effectively wipe out his prospects for keeping power.
We should expect the intensified activity of Chinese military forces in the vicinity of Taiwan and further economic sanctions. Taiwan and the Taiwanese have plenty of experience in both matters therefore these retortions cause rather a little panic in Taipei. Nonetheless, they will have to intensify efforts to expand their military capabilities and seek new outlets for their commodities (China is their primary trade partner).
Pelosi’s trip tightens the ties between the USA and Taiwan, and indicates a profound commitment of the USA to the region of Indo-Pacific. Americans showed that Eastern-Asian allies can rely on them and made it clear that they will not escape given provisions.
Photo: Nancy Pelosi’s twitter
Translator: Marcin Pijaj