The oddest thing about this story is that there will be those (looking at you, Mick Wallace and Sabina Higgins) who will read this and consider that Nancy Pelosi and the United States are the baddies in this situation:
Amid increasingly hostile threats from China, news outlets are reporting that Nancy Pelosi will go ahead with a visit to Taiwan despite efforts from the Biden administration to warn her off the stop.
Should Pelosi include Taiwan in her tour of Asia, it would be the first visit of a US House speaker in a quarter of a century. Beijing, which claims the self-governing island as its own province, has made clear it would see such a move as an unacceptable provocation.
China on Monday stepped up its warning, saying that its military would “not sit idly by” if the visit happened.
As regular readers might guess, “full credit to Nancy Pelosi here” is not a sentence that your correspondent is normally inclined to write, but, honestly, full credit to Nancy Pelosi here.
China is, after all, threatening a war on the basis that an American politician might deign to visit Taiwan. Were the shoe on the other foot – say, for example, that an Argentinian Politician was visiting the Falkland Islands, and Boris Johnson threatened war in response – then nobody in any corner of the globe would have any hesitation in describing the threat of military action as unhinged and borderline insane.
What’s more, the significance of the Chinese pressure is obvious: It is by itself a direct impingement on the freedom of Taiwan, by asserting that Beijing has the right to decide who shall, and shall not, visit the people of Taiwan. It’s an effort at diplomatically eroding the sovereignty of one of its neighbours.
The fact that the Biden administration has, apparently, been pressuring Pelosi to call off her visit is telling, though, and worrying. It suggests two things: First, that the White House takes the Chinese threats seriously and does not regard them as empty bluster. The reason why this is worrying is obvious: The prospect of conflict in the South China Sea between two superpowers should have anyone with a whit of sense looking into the possibility of building nuclear fallout shelters.
But it is also worrying in terms of what it says about the Biden Administration’s instincts: If they will not stand up to the Chinese on a matter as simple as a visit by a government official to Taiwan, what will they actually do in the face of a Chinese invasion? Put it this way: If you were China, and witnessed the Biden administration cowering in the face of threats, would you be inclined to behave in a more, or less, threatening manner?
As with all these things, by the way, it is interesting to observe that all politics, as ever, is local: Most Irish people probably don’t know that Pelosi is, as well as being Speaker of the House, a representative of California. More accurately, she is a representative of San Francisco. In her (very safe) seat, the largest single minority population is Asian-Americans – mostly former refugees from China who, like the Cuban population in Florida, are fanatically and understandably opposed to the Chinese Government. If you are wondering why Pelosi has such a spine on this issue, look no further than local politics in the United States.
Whatever the reasons may be, Pelosi’s instincts here are correct: Taiwan is an independent country which desires to remain independent, and deserves to remain a democracy, free of Chinese domination. It is not for Beijing to decide who gets to visit, and the only sensible response to unhinged threats is, as it has ever been, a well directed middle finger.