Home / News / World /  Explained: Why China is opposing Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan

The US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is about to make one of the most high level visit to the island nation of Taiwan. This is the first time in 25 years, a high-level US representative is visiting the self governed nation of 24 million people. Taiwan is also the nation claimed by Beijing. 

However, this visit in the US House speaker's multi-stop Asia tour has garnered anger and threats from China. The last time a US representative had visited the island nation was in 1977, when Newt Gingrich visited Taipei days after visiting Beijing. His visit had only been criticised by China, but no physical harm was imposed. 

Pelosi's visit has the potential to initiate a much avoided US-Chinese friction at a time of military tension and escalating rhetoric.

Read below to understand the controversy

China Taiwan controversy

The People's Republic of China believes that Taiwan's sovereignty belongs to China, the PRC's government and supporters believe that the secession of Taiwan should be agreed upon by all 1.3 billion Chinese citizens instead of just the 23 million residents of Taiwan.

Nancy Pelosi visit

Pelosi's visit to Taiwan comes days after China President Xi Jinping had over a phone call with President Biden, warned the US President of unspecified countermeasures should Pelosi’s Taiwan visit proceed.

On Monday, the US House Speaker began her Asian tour with a visit to Singapore. She is also due to go to Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. Pelosi’s public itinerary has made no mention of Taiwan, but a senior Taiwanese government official and a US official told CNN on Monday that she is expected to visit Taiwan and stay overnight as part of her tour of Asia. It is unclear when exactly Pelosi will land in Taipei.

According to Bloomberg, Nancy Pelosi made a mark with China’s rulers early on in her political career, when she held up a pro-democracy banner on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The report further informed that a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen is on Pelosi’s schedule for Wednesday, although another person said such a meeting is still in flux.

A committed liberal on most foreign and domestic issues during her 35 years in Congress, Pelosi also is a China hawk and an advocate for the US to promote human rights.

Pelosi regularly commemorates the Tiananmen crackdown. On the 33rd anniversary in June, she expressed support for “activists on the mainland and throughout the region seeking to exercise their basic freedoms and rights" against the Chinese Communist Party’s “accelerating human rights abuses" of its citizens.

China warns US

China, who warned that its military would never “sit idly by" if she visited the island claimed by Beijing.

According to Reuters, China has suspended imports from 35 Taiwanese exporters of biscuits and pastries since Monday, in a warning salvo to the self-governed island ahead of a potential visit to Taiwan by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

An editorial of the Chinese media also warned that if Pelosi's aircraft flew over China, the Chinese military would shoot it down.

US response to China

The United States has asked China to refrain from responding to the US House Speaker's visit to Taiwan. They have asked China not to indulge in military provocation over the visit. The US reassured Beijing that such a visit would not be the first of its kind nor represent any change in policy toward the region.

On May 23, Biden urges the West to stand firm against Russia over Ukraine to deter China from trying to take Taiwan by force, and repeats that the US will defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion.

China opposes Pelosi visit because. . .

Beijing has warned that Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan would have “a severe negative impact on the political foundations of China-US relations."

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was quoted as saying that it would be “a gross interference in China's internal affairs" if Pelosi visits Taiwan, and warned that it would lead to “very serious developments and consequences."

“We would like to tell the United States once again that China is standing by, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will never sit idly by, and China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity," Zhao told a regular daily briefing.

Asked what kind of measures the PLA might take, Zhao said: “If she dares to go, then let us wait and see."

China believes that US officials visiting Taiwan would send an encouraging message to the pro-independence camp in the island. Washington does not have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is bound by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

US-China political relationship

Under Xi Jinping's rule, China and US has shared a rather amicable political relationship. 

A Vox report explains that the Chinese Communist Party will hold its 20th congress, a major gathering that occurs every five years and in which Xi Jinping is expected to take on an unprecedented third term as president. At the gathering, he will also likely discuss Taiwan at a time when experts see parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the power that China wants to assert over Taiwan.

Thomas L Friedman, an internationally renowned author, reporter, and, columnist, wrote in The New York Times, “If she (Pelosi) does go ahead with a visit to Taiwan this week, against President Joe Biden’s wishes, she will be doing something that is utterly reckless, dangerous and irresponsible.

Taiwan prepares for Pelosi visit

Taipei on Tuesday amid intensifying warnings from China, four US warships, including an aircraft carrier, were positioned in waters east of the island on "routine" deployments.

The carrier USS Ronald Reagan had transited the South China Sea and was currently in the Philippines Sea, east of Taiwan and the Philippines and south of Japan, a US Navy official confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday.

The Japanese-based Reagan is operating with a guided missile cruiser, USS Antietam, and a destroyer, USS Higgins.

"While they are able to respond to any eventuality, these are normal, routine deployments," the official said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to Reuters. The official added that they were unable to comment on precise locations.




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