Why Pelosi’s alleged visit to Taiwan heightens US-China tensions

Taiwan, an island of 23 million people 80 miles off the coast of China, has long been a point of tension between Washington and Beijing. Now this tension has reached a new high.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to embark on a tour of several Asian countries soon, which may include a stop in Taiwan. Mrs. Pelosi will become the highest-ranking US official to visit island since 1997 when Newt Gingrich visited it.

China claims Taiwan, a self-governing island democracy, as its territory and has vowed to retake it, by force if necessary. In his call with President Biden On Thursday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping sharply warned the US against intervening in the dispute. Beijing made a strong protest. Pelosi’s possible trip there, a warning of unspecified consequences for the United States.

His warnings echoed at the Pentagon and at the Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, where US military officials were tasked with guarding Ms. Margaret. Pelosi, as well as to assess what China can do militarily in response to her visit. Taiwan, the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturer, is also vulnerable to mounting economic pressure from Beijing.

Here is a look at the issues around Ms. Pelosi’s proposed visit.

China’s authoritarian leader Xi Jinping has made it clearer than any of his predecessors that he sees the unification of Taiwan with China as the main goal of his rule.

mr. Xi is expected to be confirmed for an unprecedented third term as leader at the Communist Party Congress in the fall. On the eve of this important political meeting, Mr. Xi will strive to create an image of strength at home and abroad, especially on the issue of Taiwan.

Last month, Mr. Xi sent his Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe to an international conference in Singapore, where Mr. Wei warned that China would not hesitate to fight for Taiwan.

“If anyone dares to break off Taiwan, we will fight without hesitation, we will not be afraid of the cost, and we will fight to the very end,” General Wei told his audience.

The timing of when Mr. Xi might try to swallow Taiwan remains a matter of much debate among military and civilian experts on China, but it is not expected to happen any time soon.

“China really wants to ‘take back’ Taiwan, but that doesn’t mean it wants an early bloody war that will destroy China’s economic miracle,” the magazine wrote. current issue of Global Asia.

In a fiery speech on the 100th anniversary founding of the Communist Party of China Last year, Mr. Xi stressed the need to unify the mainland with Taiwan, which he called “the historic mission and unwavering commitment of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Any country that dares to stand in the way will face a “great wall of steel” forged by China’s 1.4 billion people, he said.

Chinese incursions into the airspace and waters near Taiwan have become more aggressive over the past few years, raising the risk of conflict.

In June, Beijing upped the ante when the foreign ministry said China had jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait and could not be considered international waterway.

And last year, Chinese warplanes more research airspace near Taiwan, prompting Taiwanese fighters to take to the air.

Some US analysts have made it clear that China’s military capabilities have grown to the point where an American victory in the defense of Taiwan is no longer guaranteed.

Oriana Skylar Mastro, a research fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, recently spoke about the many weapons China has amassed to fight over Taiwan in commentary published in The New York Times.

China now has the world’s largest navy, she said, and the United States could use far fewer ships to participate in the conflict in Taiwan. “It is also believed that China’s missile force is capable of targeting ships at sea in order to neutralize the main U.S. instrument of power projection—aircraft carriers.”

Earlier this week, the Seventh Fleet ordered the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and her strike group to sail north from Singapore towards the South China Sea and towards Taiwan. A Navy spokesman declined to say whether the aircraft carrier would sail near Taiwan or through the Taiwan Strait.

Mrs. Pelosi has embarrassed President Biden. She and her staff insist that the speaker, as leader of a separate but equal branch of the US government, has the right to go anywhere.

For his part, Mr. Biden doesn’t want to be seen dictating where the speaker can go. He made it clear that he doubted the feasibility of a potential trip.

“I think the military sees this as a bad idea right now,” he said. Biden said.

In a deliberately ambiguous diplomatic arrangement made when Washington acknowledged that China was ruled by the Communists in 1979, the United States has adopted a “one China” policy that recognizes but does not support China’s position that Taiwan is part of China.

President Biden said three times: last time in maythat the United States will send forces to help Taiwan resist the Chinese invasion. Each time, the White House has retracted its statements, saying that the policy of “strategic ambiguity” remains, under which Washington remained unclear about how decisively the United States would come to Taiwan’s aid.

The United States maintains strong diplomatic relations with China, with a large embassy in Beijing and four consulates throughout the country. But relations are at a low level due to the military, economic and ideological rivalry between the two countries.

The current ambassador to Beijing, R. Nicholas Burns, is one of America’s most experienced diplomats. In Taiwan, the United States has an office, the American Institute in Taiwan, which is headed by a low-ranking official from the State Department. At the same time, Washington is supplying Taiwan with billions of dollars worth of military aid and weapons.

The speaker is a longtime critic of China. In Beijing, she is treated with hostility.

As a two-term congressman from California, Ms. Pelosi visited Beijing in 1991, two years after Chinese troops opened fire on student protesters in Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds if not thousands.

Mike Chinay, then a correspondent for CNN, recalled in an article this week how Ms. Then Pelosi left the square in a taxi. The police arrested the reporters, holding them for a couple of hours, he wrote.

Mrs. Pelosi is a strong supporter of the Dalai Lama and the rights of Tibetans. In 2015, with official permission from the Chinese government, Ms. Pelosi visited Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, on a tightly controlled trip that is normally closed to foreign officials and journalists.

The speaker’s plans to travel to Taiwan have attracted unexpected supporters. Senior officials in the Trump administration, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, have said they would like to join. mr. Pompeo tweeted that he was banned from entering China but would be happy to accompany the mistress. Pelosi to Taiwan.