Saturday, August 6, 2022

Pelosi's Visit To Taiwan

 I wish to present a view of Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan that is different from what I have seen from others. Most commentary I have seen is either very for or very against her visiting there.  On the favorable side has been wide praise from across the political spectrum, with many Republicans joining in who almost never praise her for anything.  Many people support providing a positive message of support for Taiwan. There is also the matter of personal courage on her part.  There was an actual threat from the Chinese government that her plane might be shot down. Obviously it was not, but with this threat, it obviously did take some courage on her part to go ahead and do it.  For all that she is to be applauded.

On the negative are several views. There are those who strongly support the Chinese government's claim on Taiwan, which is widely recognized diplomatically and officially, even though since 1895 the only time the mainland government has ruled Taiwan was 1945-49, and the regime still ruling it is the extension of that government that fled to Taiwan when it lost control of the mainland to the Communist Party under Mao. Unsurprisingly strong supporters of the PRC taking control of Taiwan would not and do not support her visit. There are also various people in the US on the farther right and left who either want the US to withdraw from any or much activity in the rest of the world, either out of viewing such activity as violating an America First position or because they view US activities outside the US as being inherently or likely imperialistic, including supporting Taiwan. The pro-PRC people are likely also to take this latter position or some version of it.

So, my position is a bit more complicated. I note that i have been to Taiwan several times and have friends there.  Of the three Chinas, PRC, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, the latter seems to me the best governed and best in broader social terms. Hong Kong has a higher per capita income and also a higher life expectancy, as well as for those who admire such things, still greater identified economic freedom, although that is being cut back as PRC direct control increases in Hong Kong.  But on some other measures Taiwan looks better than Hong Kong, more democratic, more income and wealth equality, and also greater social freedoms, such as allowing gay marriage.  Indeed it is better than PRC as well on all those, as well as having higher per capita income and higher life expectancy than PRC. There is much to admire about Taiwan, with much of this likely to be lost if the PRC takes control of it.  

The PRC has long offered a "one country, two systems" model that is what supposedly is in place in Hong Kong. That had some credibility for quite some time. But the recent crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong and the imposition of more direct control on education and public expression in Hong Kong by the PRC government has seriously damaged the credibility of that model. Support for the more pro-independence party in Taiwan has increased since that crackdown, unsurprisingly.

What are my complications then?  Well, I am unhappy about the major increase in tension that has occurred, which I think serves no good purpose at all.  I think Pelosi should have realized this would happen, and I understand that the Biden administration tried to talk her out of going, even as they publicly supported her right to go, which was a reasonable position.  I know that she has long promised to go and has had a hawkish position towards the PRC. But it also seems to me that this has been motivated by a constituency within her Congressional district, many Chinese Americans who strongly support Taiwan.  I think this is a case where she should have thought about the broader national interest rather than fulfilling a longstanding promise to some voters in her district.  This is especially the case as we already have a major conflict going on in Ukraine, with the Chinese supporting Russia to some degree.

Now I get it that the Chinese should not be making such a fuss about it. Quite recently a bipartisan group of US senators quietly visited Taiwan, and there were no problems, no threats from China, no reactions.  If Pelosi could have snuck in and out without any publicity, that would have been fine. But somehow the fact that she was thinking about visiting, indeed apparently had planned to visit in April, but got delayed due to Covid or something, got publicized.  Then China began demanding that she not go.  It looked like maybe she would not after the Biden administration apparently appealed to her not to. But with China making these threats, well then it became a matter of principle, that she would not cave to these threats, something I understand. So, she and five other Dem House members (GOP members were invited to join her group, but all declined), did visit for 18 hours. It seems they were largely very well received, with a few negative protestors. But now we have the PRC making some very serious military responses that have fallen short of invading or taking an island, but that amount to a temporary blockade.  I hope that they end this soon and pull back.

Something that concerns me more broadly here is that we see warlike moves being politically popular.  Pelosi is now being highly praised.  The other example much on my mind is what is going on in Russia, which is especially why I think she should have just quietly shelved this trip before it turned into this big public confrontation.  It is in Russia. Putin's invasion is horrible and massively damaging the Russian economy, with many other negative effects, politically and socially. But all reports have Putin's popularity up. All of this worries me greatly.  I wish this had turned out differently, even as once the threats were made, I understand Pelosi felt she had to follow through.

Barkley Rosser


Anonymous said...

The Chinese may have tipped their hands a bit militarily and I suspect we monitored their exercises. All in all I thought it was a good move. Back in the 70s it seemed we were to support democracies but the one China policy had a different focus. Chang Kai-shek's widow visited George C. Marshall at his home in Virginia which shows the close relationship that existed with nationalist forces there in Taiwan.

run75441 said...


Thank you for the history

Anonymous said...

There was an actual threat from the Chinese government that her plane might be shot down....

[ This is distressingly incorrect. There was no such threat from the Chinese government, and this assertion should be corrected. ]

Anonymous said...

August 7, 2022

The vainglory of being Pelosi
By Radhika Desai

Other than a silly week of sound and fury, what did U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accomplish with her ill-advised and ill-timed visit to China's Taiwan region?

Pelosi's Taiwan visit was no personal decision on her part. High-ranking officials like her take few "personal" decisions. She is second in the line of Presidential succession. She belongs to the same party as Biden and to the same neoconservative faction with close ties to the U.S.'s vast military industrial complex.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden did nothing to prevent her visit, confining himself to reporting the Pentagon's alleged displeasure, in all probability to leave open an escape hatch, while there was cross-party praise for the Speaker after her visit was concluded.

If the aim was to provoke Beijing into a reckless response, it failed. In the face of a gratuitous crossing of its reddest of red lines - the one-China principle that even the U.S. still officially acknowledges - the Chinese government acted as a model of restraint, by confining itself to strong verbal condemnations and following up with military exercises that leave Taiwan authorities in little doubt that allowing Washington and Pelosi to destabilize the status quo will go nowhere.

If the U.S. aim was to aid Taiwan secessionists - that failed as well. Polls have disclosed that large majorities of people in Taiwan considered her visit as destabilizing....

Radhika Desai is a professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba in Canada.

Anonymous said...

Not exactly a "government official" but this kind of hot air was largely encouraged by Chinese government authorities:

I don't think an apology by the blog host is necessary, in the sense that this violent "solution" was encouraged by China's internet regulators--who chose not to censor violent statements towards America by regular Chinese citizens. said...

I do not know what is the bottom line on Hu's statement, which can be interpreted as not a threat, but also interpreted as threat. I also do know the bottom line on polls in Taiwan, where the reaction has been mixed.

I will say that I think Desai, who is sittiing in Manitoba, is off. I am on the road and not seeing the latest of media I usually see, notably WaPo, so maybe there is a new development. But I am reasonably convinced this is not some coordinated thing between Pelosi and Biden. I think he really did not want her to go, and it is her thing based on longstanding views she has had based on people in her district. She has wanted to do it for a long time, and Biden could not stop her, but clearly it has created a lot of unnecessary and unfortunate tension and conflict the Biden admin did not want or need. But Pelosi is powerful and Biden faced limits in dealing with her.

Anonymous said...

What Hu said was 100% a threat. The issue lies in saying he is "a government official". He is a member of the media, not a "government official". But China could have censored the comment and similar such comments, so it's splitting hairs for the most part. In the end none of this is world changing. And her timing had nothing to do with it. They would have thrown a fit no matter when she visited Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

There was an actual threat from the Chinese government that her plane might be shot down....

[ This was written, and this is incorrect and should of course be corrected.

The essay was appreciated, however, even with the incorrect assertion. ]

Anonymous said...

There was an actual threat from the Chinese government that her plane might be shot down....

[ When a writer, let alone a scholar, makes a mistake in an essay, the mistake is simply corrected. The sentence is incorrect, and should be corrected. ] said...

Um, OK, Anonymous, I really have not dug through this thoroughly, but I am willing to accept your correction that the "threat" did not come from a government official, although they allowed it to get publicized. Certainly it was taken seriously.

I shall note that an important aspect of this, which the people in the Biden admin were fully aware of and trying to mitigate all around, is that of face. Senators had gone to Taiwan quite recently without there being any fuss. But when it got out that Pelosi wanted to go, it became a matter of face in PRC to try to block her from doing so, which then made it a matter of face for her to go, and so it went, although I gather the various military exercises the PRC engaged in are now over more or less, whew.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, because precisely understanding the diplomacy involved is important. President Xi explained to President Biden, there would be significant consequences for crossing a Chinese "red line." There should have been no surprise, but China has been repeatedly pushed by Congress and the President since the Obama years and the Wolf Amendment in April 2014. The Chinese response now was long in coming and critically important, and supported in effect by "many" countries. said...

Well, it is not at all clear why Pelosi visiting Taiwan should be a "red line." Completely arbitrary.

As it is, apparently the Chinese have extended their military "drill" declaring it to reflect "real war conditions" and apparently blocking international sea and air traffic, an apparent simulation of an invasion. This has really gone too far. There is no justification for what PRC government is pulling now, none.

Anonymous said...

Well, it is not at all clear why Pelosi visiting Taiwan should be a "red line."

[ For precisely the reason that the Speaker of the House going to Jerusalem with the intent of supporting secession of Jerusalem from Israel would be intolerable to Israel.

Proper respect for China is necessary for understanding.

I do appreciate your efforts at understanding. Thank you. ]

Anonymous said...

August 10, 2022

China releases white paper on Taiwan question, reunification in new era

BEIJING -- The Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and the State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China published a white paper titled "The Taiwan Question and China's Reunification in the New Era" on Wednesday.... said...


I do not believe that Pelosi supports or supported on her visit "secession" if that is defined as declaring independence. If the PRC government is justifying its highly aggressive actions in reaction to her visit there on the basis of such a claim, then they have no basis and are making things up.

Clearly there is a new attitude in Beijing, but there is nothing either admirable or defensible about it.

Anonymous said...

Clearly there is a new attitude in Beijing...

[ Clearly this is incorrect.

Try actually reading the repeatedly expressed position of China extending over decades. Evidently, for you, there can be no Chinese position, only an arbitrarily changing American position on China. President Xi made the long-time Chinese-American position clear to President Biden, but Biden chose not to accept the long-time Chinese-American position.

You are, in effect, choosing to dictate a new policy position for China and that is unfortunately lacking in proper and necessary consideration.

Thank you so much for the essay and response, however. ]

Anonymous said...

August 10, 2022

China releases white paper on Taiwan question, reunification in new era

[ Reading this Chinese statement of position, would be helpful. ]

Anonymous said...

August 10, 2022

The Taiwan Question and China's Reunification in the New Era

The People's Republic of China



I. Taiwan Is Part of China - This Is an Indisputable Fact
II. Resolute Efforts of the CPC to Realize China's Complete Reunification
III. China's Complete Reunification Is a Process That Cannot Be Halted
IV. National Reunification in the New Era
V. Bright Prospects for Peaceful Reunification