As U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi departs Friday for an Asian trip that may include a stop in Taiwan, anti-war voices are sounding the alarm over a visit they say would needlessly provoke China during a time of already heightened global tensions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Chinese officials have warned of serious consequences should Pelosi make the trip.”
CodePink’s Marcy Winograd told Common Dreams that “there is no need to be so provocative, to jeopardize U.S. relations with a country of 1.4 billion people, the world’s largest exporter, and holder of a trillion dollars in U.S. debt. Surely the speaker has a Zoom account.”
In a joint statement with Jim Carpenter, with whom she co-chairs the foreign policy team at Progressive Democrats of America, Winograd noted that “since 1979, the United States—to keep the peace—has recognized the government in Beijing as the only legitimate Chinese government.”
“A trip to Taiwan by the most powerful member of Congress undermines that long-standing U.S. policy and increases the risk of another war,” they added. “Chinese officials have warned of serious consequences should Pelosi make the trip and the Pentagon is preparing warships and fighter jets in anticipation of her trip.”
According to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping—who has made China-Taiwan reunification a top priority—sternly warned President Joe Biden during a lengthy phone call Thursday that “those who play with fire will eventually get burned” and that the United States would “bear the consequences” of a Pelosi (D-Calif.) visit to the island.
It is not yet clear whether Pelosi (D-Calif.) will visit Taiwan during an Asian tour that includes planned stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore. The 82-year-old congresswoman has deflected queries on the topic, telling reporters Wednesday that “I never talk about my travel. It’s a danger to me.”
If Pelosi does travel to Taiwan, she would be the highest-ranking U.S. official to do so since 1997, when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) raised Chinese leaders’ hackles by warning during a Taipei visit that the United States would intervene militarily to protect the island from any attack by mainland forces.
Pelosi brushed off Chinese concerns about U.S. meddling by claiming she wasn’t going to Taiwan to support the island’s independence, an issue she said is “up to Taiwan to decide.”
However, critics point to Pelosi’s long record of antagonizing China. They also note the United States’ intervention during the Chinese Civil War on behalf of the anti-communist forces that would later rule Taiwan through mass murder and repression, as well as the decades of subsequent U.S. efforts to destablize China’s communist government, as reasons to be wary of any visit to Taiwan.
Biden administration officials have reportedly been working behind the scenes to convince Pelosi of the potential dangers of visiting Taiwan, which the Chinese government and most of the international community including the United States considers part of China. Biden has admitted that U.S. military officials believe “it’s not a good idea” for Pelosi to visit Taiwan right now.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijiang also denounced news that Pelosi might visit Taiwan, warning such a move would “severely undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, gravely impact the foundation of China-U.S. relations, and send a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces.”
“If the U.S. were to insist on going down the wrong path, China will take resolute and strong measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao added.
Chinese commentators have been even more assertive, with Hu Xijin, a columnist for state-owned Global Times, tweeting Friday that “if U.S. fighter jets escort Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan, it is invasion” and the Chinese military “has the right to forcibly dispel Pelosi’s plane and the U.S. fighter jets, including firing warning shots and making tactical movement of obstruction.”
“If ineffective,” Hu added, “then shoot them down.”