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Assessing Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan

Foreign Policy Brief #143 | By: Ibrahim Sultan | August 8, 2022

Header photo taken from: Global Times

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Policy Summary


U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the first speaker in twenty-five years to visit Taiwan.

Photo taken from: Handout / Getty Images

On Tuesday August 2, 2022, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touched down in Taiwan, becoming the highest-ranking US official to visit the island since former Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997. Her trip was not officially approved by the Biden administration as a diplomatic mission. 

The Chinese government had warned against the visit to the island that it regards as a part of its territory. The US officially recognizes Taiwan as a part of China per the one China policy, yet the US also has a long-standing relationship with Taiwan independent of China, and is its major source of military equipment. The US position regarding Taiwan is known as “strategic ambiguity”, a strategy that’s purpose is to reassure and provide assistance to Taiwan while not enraging China. 

As a result of the visit, Beijing announced on August 5, 2022 that it was cancelling major communication channels and cooperation with the US in matters regarding climate change, narcotics, and military action. Beijing also moved to sanction Speaker Pelosi and immediately began military drills, sending warplanes, naval ships, and firing missiles near the island. The US, Japan, Australia, the EU, and ASEAN condemned the military actions and called for calm.

Policy Analysis

The Chinese Foreign Ministry called the Speaker’s actions an “egregious provocation”. The visit has fueled an already escalating crisis, raising fears of conflict in the region, and increased tensions between the US and China. 

At last week’s ASEAN meeting top Southeast Asian diplomats urged maximum restraint in the Taiwan Strait, as regional concern over a potential conflict has grown following Pelosi’s visit. Strategic ambiguity has been the U.S. policy toward Taiwan since the 1950s.

 While it does not explicitly commit the U.S. to defending Taiwan, after Pelosi’s stop on the island last week, President Biden, when asked again, stated that the US would back Taiwan in the event of a Chinese takeover. Biden’s statements more clearly defining the US position and away from ambiguity likely were made to signal the more dominant US presence in the Asia Pacific that he has sought to establish.


China resumes military drills off Taiwan after shelving US talks; Anti-submarine attack and sea raid exercises begin, as Beijing maintains pressure on Taiwan’s defenses.

Photo taken from: Li Bingyu / AP

(click or tap to enlargen)

 It also displayed a commitment to detering an invasion by a larger power onto a smaller one to capture territory like the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

 

The military drills and show off force by China ended on Sunday and with the new week a new normal between China and Taiwan, and a world with more great power rivalry and less opportunity for cooperation between the two leading global actors has started.

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