Expressions of mutual support and admiration were broadcast live and went off without a hitch.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reaffirmed its support for Taiwan, saying on Wednesday that America’s resolve to preserve democracy on the self-ruled island remains “iron”. Then, grateful Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen presented the San Francisco Democrat with a turquoise belt and an Order of Auspicious Clouds medal in honor of Pelosi’s contributions to US-Taiwan relations.
But while those ties may have been strengthened during the visit, which will last less than 24 hours, the most serious consequences of Pelosi’s trip are expected to manifest themselves in the coming days, weeks and even months, analysts say, as China reacts violently to what it considers an insult. its sovereignty over Taiwan. The result is likely to be increased instability in Asia, home to more than one-third of the world’s population, and more serious problems for the US.
Beijing began deployment punitive measures even before Pelosi left for South Korea on Wednesday, adding hundreds of products, including fruits and fish, to Taiwan’s banned export list to China to increase economic pressure on the island of 23 million, which considers the mainland its biggest trading partner. . Taiwanese government websites also suffered a series of cyberattacks while Pelosi was in Taipei.
On Thursday, China plans to begin an unprecedented four-day military exercise in the waters surrounding Taiwan. A live fire exercise involving naval assets and missile tests is expected to paralyze one of the world’s most important commercial waterways and normally busy air traffic.
While experts say China has no intention of starting a war just yet, the risk of a miscalculation leading to an accidental collision with nearby US or Taiwanese military units is extremely high. Taiwan’s defense ministry said on Wednesday that China’s plans amounted to a blockade that violated Taiwan’s sovereignty and international law. In addition, US allies such as Japan and South Korea are increasingly nervous about China’s readiness to project its military power.
Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund, an unbiased public policy think tank, said Pelosi’s visit caused potentially irreparable damage. already busy times between Washington and Beijing.
“We all know how bad that relationship was last year,” Glaser told reporters on Tuesday. “This visit by Nancy Pelosi will lead to a new low. I think it will be very difficult to recover from that.”
Pelosi’s visit — which was aimed at strengthening democracy in Asia — threatens to upset the delicate balance that governs US-China relations with Taiwan. China claims the island is part of its territory, although Taiwan is governed by a democratically elected government that sees itself as politically and culturally separate from Beijing. The US recognizes China’s position but does not support it by maintaining informal relations with Taiwan.
While the US and China are bickering over everything from tariffs to technology, Taiwan is arguably the hottest point of contention between the two countries, and experts say it could lead to military conflict.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping has gambled on the idea of uniting with Taiwan, by force if necessary, and he has little incentive to soften his stance. His uncompromising approach helped him historic third five-year term as president.
“He really benefited from this behavior. It will only reinforce such behavior in the future,” said Alfred Wu, a professor of Chinese politics at the National University of Singapore. “There is no reason to change course.”
Similarly, Pelosi’s visit and China’s aggressive response to it likely bolstered support for Taiwanese leader Tsai’s administration and attracted more voters to her Democratic Progressive Party ahead of November’s local elections. In a sign that China’s political support has waned, even the more China-friendly opposition party, the Kuomintang, said it welcomes Pelosi’s visit on Tuesday.
“The Tsai administration and the DPP will tout Pelosi’s visit as a foreign policy success because she was able to strengthen her relationship with the US,” said Brian Hyoe, founding editor of Taiwan’s New Bloom.
A greater electoral success of Tsai’s coalition, known as the pan-green camp, will further inflame Beijing at a time when it is already convinced that Washington is leading Taiwan towards independence through visits from high-ranking officials such as Pelosi.
The US disagrees and says it still adheres to its longstanding “one China” policy. US officials have repeatedly said they support the status quo.
One of China’s main concerns is that stopping Pelosi in Taiwan would spur high-ranking officials from other countries to visit, boosting diplomatic support for the island, which Beijing is doing its best to isolate.
The Guardian reported this week that the British Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee is planning its own trip to Taiwan to show its support later this year. According to a British newspaper, China’s ambassador to Britain opposed the possibility, warning of “serious consequences” and not “dancing to the tune of the US.”
“Speaker Pelosi is opening the door wider for Taiwan,” said Fang-Yu Chen, assistant professor of political science at Taiwan Suzhou University. “I think there will be more high-level visits to Taiwan in the coming years.”
Another consequence of Beijing’s harsh reaction to Pelosi’s visit could be a rethinking of China’s neighbors’ security policies.
The United States has already strengthened defense ties with countries such as Japan, South Korea and Australia in response to The Rising Power of China, but this could spread to other countries if the situation in Taiwan becomes more volatile. On Wednesday, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles announced a strategic review of his country’s military, prompted by rising geopolitical risks and China’s own military buildup.
“Southeast Asian countries are also watching with great interest, because if the Chinese manage to conduct an exercise of this magnitude around Taiwan, they can imagine similar scenarios in the South China Sea,” said Collin Koh, a research fellow at the Singapore Institute. or defense and strategic studies.
Given its proximity to Taiwan, Japan has tried to deepen security ties with the island by sending a delegation there last month that included former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba.
On Wednesday, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno expressed concern over planned military exercises by China that could serve as a dress rehearsal for a blockade that extends to Japanese and South Korean waters.
Such fears have failed to allay the excitement of some Taiwanese over Pelosi’s brief presence among them. One bakery in Taiwan’s Changhua County gained attention for adding free egg yolk pastries to order boxes for every hour Pelosi was on the island.
As she prepared to take off, Pelosi shook hands and posed for photos with Taiwanese officials, U.S. officials and airport workers on the runway before the 6 p.m. flight to South Korea. With a few final waves, she and the rest of her delegation vanished on the plane, leaving Taiwan in potentially greater danger than when she arrived.
Pearson reported from Singapore and Yang from Taipei.