Taiwan is the flashpoint of the “new cold war” that is driving the great power rivalry between the U.S. and China. And thus as soon as news broke out that the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi is planning a visit to Taiwan in August, it already caused a crisis.
The office of Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, neither confirmed nor denied the visit. U.S. President Joe Biden acknowledged the planned visit plan by saying, “The military thinks it's not a good idea for Pelosi to travel to Taiwan right now.” Judging by the information circulating in U.S. media, top figures from Biden's national security, defense, and foreign policy team are trying to dissuade Pelosi from going. It seems that there is friction between the Biden Administration and House Speaker Pelosi.
The U.S. Congress is recognized as an arm of the Government. That's why Pelosi's visit to Taiwan is perceived by Beijing as the decision of the U.S. Administration. In fact, American Lawmakers, Senators, and former Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs go to and from Taiwan. Trump-era Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were in Taiwan last March. Pompeo, an anti-Chinese hawk, wanted the United States to officially recognize Taiwan, while Esper said Washington's "One China" policy was no longer useful. Likewise, the news that Pelosi would go to Taiwan in April elicited a strong reaction from Beijing. The visit was postponed on the grounds that Pelosi's Covid test was positive.
When U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich visited Taiwan in 1997, China remained silent. Pointing out that Bejing is much stronger than it was 25 years ago, analysts state that the Chinese leadership will react violently to Pelosi's visit in a way that the United States is not accustomed to. In August, in addition to the anniversary celebrations of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, the annual meeting of the Chinese Communist Party, where important decisions are discussed, will take place in China. Therefore, the dose of Chinese President Xi Jinping's reaction to the visit is a matter of curiosity.
During the visit of American delegations to Taiwan, Chinese jets were making harassing flights over the Taiwan Strait. Since the Pelosi visit is perceived as a delegation visit at the highest political level (and incitement at the highest level), there are various interpretations of the severity of Beijing's reaction.
According to some strategists from the hotheaded wing of the anti-Chinese hawks in Washington, one should not hesitate to provoke China to strengthen Taiwan's defense capacity if necessary. Hawks think that China's harsh response to provocations will play a role in increasing the defense spending of the United States. They assume that the greater the threat, the easier it will be to advocate increasing the defense budget. Of course, the increase makes the Military Industrial Complex very happy.
American foreign policy elites are split on the visit. The hawks that I dubbed the "anti-Chinese party" argue that postponing Pelosi's visit would be a sign of weakness for the United States. Accordingly, postponing the visit would be a very wrong message for the U.S.'s allies in the region. “Ignore the naysayers, Nancy Pelosi,” said Henry Olsen, columnist for the Washington Post. He expressed this view in his article titled “Go to Taiwan.”
American strategist Edward Luttwak, on the other hand, argued in several tweets that no strategic responsibility should be given to those who told Pelosi that a trip to Taiwan was risky. Luttwak harshly criticized those who suggested that the visit be postponed due to reactions from China. Lindsey Graham, one of the influential hawkish Republicans in the Senate, stated that she appreciated Pelosi's visit plans and wanted the Biden Administration not to bow to China's reactions. According to Senator Graham, China's closing of Taiwan airspace due to the visit should be considered an "act of war" against the United States. Some cautious hawks advise Pelosi to use civilian aircraft instead of military aircraft for travel.
Visiting Taiwan is a "red line" that Nancy Pelosi should never cross, according to Chinese observers. Will Pelosi go to Taiwan or not? In the wilderness of geopolitics, China and the U.S. are engaged in a staring contest. Let's see who will "blink first"!