Although Pelosi – an outspoken critic of Beijing – has so far refused to confirm the reports, she said it was important for the US to show support for Taiwan, and lawmakers on both sides of Washington’s political divide have urged her to leave. China, meanwhile, has lashed out at the idea, vowing to take “strong and decisive action” if any trip takes place.
However, the island, which was at the center of controversy, became much less vocal.
There were no statements in favor or against Pelosi’s potential trip from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen or her office, although Premier Su Tseng-chang said Wednesday that Taipei is “very grateful to Speaker Pelosi for her strong support and kindness towards Taiwan on over the years” and that the island welcomes any friendly guests from abroad.
Analysts say the relative silence is because Taiwan, a democratic self-governing island of 24 million that China’s ruling Communist Party considers part of its territory despite never controlling it, is in an awkward position.
They point out that Taiwan is dependent on American weapons to protect itself from the possibility of China invading and forcibly seizing its power, so it doesn’t want to be seen as a rogue from one of the most powerful US politicians.
However, if Taiwan appears overly enthusiastic about Pelosi’s possible visit, experts say, it could fuel Beijing’s ire.
On Thursday, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it “has not received any definite information about Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan” and “has no further comment on the matter.”
Political analysts say part of the reason why Taiwanese authorities are keeping a low profile is that it could help clear any blame if such a trip did take place: Beijing would then be more likely to blame Washington than Taipei, they say. they.
“It’s in the Taiwanese government’s best interest to keep a low profile and not give the impression that Taiwan is actively encouraging Pelosi’s visit,” said Wen-ti Sun, a political scientist at the Australian National University’s Taiwan Studies Program.
“If Taiwan stays silent and Pelosi comes, it will probably be taken as a decision made by the US or Pelosi,” he said.
“But if Taiwan openly invites her, Beijing may present it as a Taiwanese conspiracy. Countries in the region such as Japan, South Korea, or even Australia may also become less sympathetic to Taiwan if they feel that Taiwan is actively creating a problem out of nowhere.”
However, this may be only one reason for Taipei’s relative silence.
While Pelosi’s possible visit was heavily covered by international media, it barely made headlines in Taiwan this week.
Instead, Taiwanese news is mostly focused on scandals surrounding the upcoming local elections and the island’s largest annual military exercise.
Wang Ting-yu, a Taiwanese MP from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said this was partly because Taiwanese audiences were accustomed to threats from Beijing, which had plans for the island since the end of the Chinese civil war more than seven years ago. decades ago
Brian Hyoe, a Taiwanese-American based in Taipei and founder of New Bloom Magazine covering Taiwan politics, said Taiwanese people were generally not overly concerned about the potential impact of Pelosi’s visit, as Beijing has made similar threats in the past.
“Threats from China are heard with such frequency that it is something like background noise,” he said. “And so people here don’t really think seriously about the potential repercussions of Pelosi’s visit.”
“China must respond”
At the same time, analysts warn against interpreting Taiwan’s lack of official response as meaning that it is unaware of the potential dangers if Pelosi visits.
As the hype around her potential trip grows, commentators say each side will feel they need to stick to their stance so they don’t look weak.
The issue was discussed at length in a phone call Thursday between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who warned that “those who play with fire will die from it,” according to a statement released by China’s foreign ministry.
Analysts say if Pelosi doesn’t come, the US risks looking like it’s spooked by a possible Chinese response. Meanwhile, growing rumors about what China might do in response could push Beijing into a corner where it felt it had to do something to avoid losing face if the visit went ahead.
“At this point, since there have already been so many comments and discussions about how China might respond, I think China has an obligation to respond at this point,” Hioe said.
“So I think there will be some reaction from China and they will try to make it look much more significant.”
Despite such concerns, MP Wang said that Taiwan “is not anyone’s pawn” and that China should not have the right to dictate who visits the island.
“China has no right to interfere in diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the United States,” said Wang, a member of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and national defense.
“We welcome all our friends from the United States and around the world. So whether Pelosi comes or not, we respect their decision. However, don’t let China interfere.”
Su Tzu-yun, director of Taiwan’s National Defense and Security Research Institute, said the island “welcomes any friends from other countries, and we appreciate any support from the international community.”
He said that in the event of an aggravation of the situation, the responsibility for this would lie with Beijing.
“Taiwan will never become a so-called freerider (from the US). We will show our willingness to defend ourselves,” he said.
Additional reporting by Walid Berrazeg from Taipei.