Everything About Nancy Pelosi’s Unconfirmed Taiwan Visit That Might Spark WW3


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China has always viewed Taiwan the same way Vladimir Putin sees Ukraine: a breakaway province that should be reunified with the Motherland, except Taiwan is significantly smaller and holds less political influence on the international stage.

Yes, Taiwan is legally an independent state, but its ineligibility to join the United Nations—mostly due to China’s strong “One China’ policy, its veto powers in the United Nations, and the fear of offending China—has damaged its diplomatic standing, to the point where only 15 countries officially recognise its independence.

For a measure of Taiwan’s diplomatic standing or their lack of, despite the United States’ vocal support for Taiwan and having a “robust and unofficial relationship with the self-declared state, whilst being at odds with China, it is still China that the US has formal diplomatic ties with.  

Why is Nancy Pelonsi’s Taiwan Visit Contentious?

Similar to how the Kremlin government loathes to see any NATO-allied countries having a close relationship with Ukraine, China’s feelings towards American support for Taiwan is the same.

It’s a threat to their ultimate goal of reunifying the island to the mainland.

After all, the United States have always supported Taiwan’s declaration of independence since 1949, if only because Taiwan’s democratic government is the supposed antithesis to the People’s Republic of China’s communism.

In the current US political climate, Nancy Pelosi, as the Speaker of the House, is the second person in the running for President after vice-president Kamala Harris. That makes her the third most powerful politician in the United States.

 

In the 35 years of her congressional career, Speaker Pelosi has been a loud critic of China.

She has denounced its human rights records, met with pro-democracy dissidents, and visited Tiananmen Square to remember the victims of the 1989 massacre.

In essence, Speaker Pelosi is everything China hates in a US politician, and the best/worst part is that she has the political influence to back up her beliefs.

But at the very core, what China is protesting about Speaker Pelosi’s intended visit to Taiwan, is the possibility of Taiwan and the US forging stronger ties, and the latter providing the former with military weapons.


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Therein also lies the possibility where it sparks another armed conflict because China has never ruled out the usage of force to achieve their goal of reunification.

In fact, China has openly stated they will use force if it proves necessary.

Taiwan risks becoming the hotspot for an ideological conflict, rooted in domestic strife of two different identities, either being a Taiwanese or Chinese.

The last time a high-ranking US official led a delegation to Taiwan was in 1997, which occurred 25 years ago. The politician spearheading the delegation then was former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

How Will China React?

Once the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) caught wind of Speaker Pelosi’s potential visit in Taiwan, they warned that there will be “consequences” if Speaker Pelosi carries it out.

President Xi Jinping even told President Joe Biden not to “play with fire”.

In a statement published on the Chinese foreign ministry’s website after the two leaders spoke on Thursday, President Xi stated that his administration would “resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Undoubtedly, the tensions between the two countries are mounting.

Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University analysed that China-US relations are “pretty bad” in all respects.

He concludes that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will probably take the “necessary countermeasures” if Speaker Pelosi proceeds with her trip, but they will try to “avoid full and direct military confrontation” with the US.


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What this means is that there could be a “demonstration of provocative action” such as missile tests or test flights, which could easily escalate into an accident or air collision.

There’s a factual basis for this claim too.

When the former US Health Secretary Alex Azar flew to Taiwan, Chinese air force jets went over the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, which is the narrow waterway between the island and the Chinese mainland, thus coming within range of Taipei’s missiles.

In recent years, the PLA air force has also ramped up the number of warplanes that have crossed into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ), in an attempt to test Taiwan’s responsiveness and reduce its resources.

Just this Monday (25 Jul), even before Speaker Pelosi confirmed that she’s making a trip down to Taiwan, Japan’s defence ministry reported that a Chinese armed reconnaissance drone had flown near Taiwan on a solo mission for the first time.

The TB-001 drone was tracked through Miyako Strait, from the East China Sea into the Pacific near Taiwan.


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The biggest issue with China’s countermeasures is that the US can’t send a high-ranking politician into a dangerous hotspot without any protection.

However, if the US responds by sending warplanes and aircraft carriers to safeguard Speaker Pelosi, it might send the wrong signal to China as well.

Neither side wants to worsen the conflict, but in trying to deter the opposing country by adding more firepower, it will only create a very dangerous and provocative dynamic.

It’s like stacking up more and more gunpowder and expecting it to not cause a huge explosion once it meets a spark.

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Taiwan’s Political Climate

The next important question to ask is, what does the Taiwanese government think about Speaker Pelosi’s potential visit?


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Well, Taipei is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

There are currently two dominant political parties in Taiwan: the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Kuomintang (KMT).

The two parties have differing opinions about China: DPP still favours the eventual formal independence for Taiwan, while the KMT prefers an eventual reunification.

A March 2021 opinion poll commissioned by the Taiwanese government showed that the majority of the Taiwanese support the DPP government’s stance in “safeguarding nation sovereignty”, as more and more people feel Taiwanese rather than Chinese.

This opinion was reflected in the 2020 election too; President Tsai Ing-wen was elected as President for the second term, with a record-breaking 8.2 million votes behind her.

The 2020 election is particularly significant for Taiwan as well, as it comes after months of watching the swelling unrest and violent protests in Hong Kong, after China implemented a wide-ranging new national security law which criminalised secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign or external forces.

Needless to say, the Taiwanese are not happy campers under China and most of them don’t agree with the “One China” policy.

The Possible Repercussions

Although there are three countries involved in this rising political/ideological conflict, the truth is that Taiwan has the most to lose regardless.


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While the Biden administration has said that the military thought it was “not a good idea” for Speaker Pelosi to visit, the administration won’t stop her if she decides to go ahead.

As a matter of fact, US military officials are already making plans to safeguard Speaker Pelosi, such as increasing the movement of forces and assets in the Indo-Pacific.

Furthermore, Taiwan has bipartisan support from America, because ganging up and spitting on the common enemy that is China is something that both Republicans and Democrats can get behind.

For the US, choosing not to send a delegation to Taiwan will be seen as a sign of weakness which may embolden President Xi.

“If we allow the Chinese to dictate who can visit Taiwan and who cannot, then we have already ceded Taiwan to the Chinese,” said Senate foreign relations chair Bob Menendez, a Democrat who has made his own trip to Taiwan in April.

Menendez adds that if China is capable of stopping everyone in the world from visiting Taiwan, then Taiwan would be truly isolated.

It would also make Taiwan doubt America’s security commitment, which was pledged by Donald Trump in 2016.

Sure, going to Taiwan would further inflame US-China tensions and possibly spark the Third World War, but remember, neither US nor China want to fight each other.

Therefore, it’s more than likely that Taiwan will bear the brunt of the consequence.

The consequences will come in the form of more airspace violations from the PLA, or military exercises and missile tests conducted near the Taiwan Strait, tactics akin to warning shots.

For President Xi Jinping, Speaker Pelonsi’s reported potential visit comes at a very sensitive time, as there is an upcoming political conclave at Beidaihe, where CCP elders will evaluate President Xi’s leadership.

The date also cuts close to the anniversary of the PLA and a crucial CCP congress, where President Xi will need to seek support for a third term.

If President Xi allows Speaker Pelosi’s visit to go through, or proceed without any consequence, he will be criticised by the people who don’t want him to hold the leadership position.

Hence, Taiwan is in a dangerous position where it may be used as means to “increase China’s nationalistic sentiment”. 

Regardless of the consequences, it’s clear that Taiwan and the US don’t want to be dictated to by Beijing. 

An armed conflict isn’t impossible, but it’s improbable in the current sociopolitical climate, to say nothing of how the global economy is still recovering from the pandemic, while having to deal with the effects of the Ukrainian crisis.

Shots may be fired though.

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