A Taiwanese perspective on what’s at stake after Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent an important message by visiting Taiwan. His message was simple: “The visit should be taken as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom,” even as Taiwan faces to China. intimidating threats. White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby also told reporters, “The United States will not be intimidated by threats.”
Pelosi’s message is important, especially when US President Joe Biden’s administration is leading efforts to get like-minded democracies and status quo countries across the strait to speak out for Taiwan. The United States encourages its Indo-Pacific allies, the EU, the G-7, and the broader international community to express its support for the maintenance of peace and stability through bilateral, mini-lateral and multilateral. These efforts to encourage countries to issue public statements in favor of preserving the status quo could help deter Beijing by increasing the costs and potential penalties for China if it decides to attack Taiwan.
Unfortunately, Biden and some thought leaders muddled the message with comments they made before Pelosi’s trip. Biden told the media that “the military thinks it’s not a good idea.” A New York Times opinion piece repeatedly quoted senior US officials as suggesting the visit was “against President Biden’s wishes”.
Beijing has further drowned out calls for maintaining peace and stability by using Pelosi’s visit to intentionally manufacture a crisis, then seek to establish a more aggressive stance in the Taiwan Strait afterwards. Keeping a clear international focus on the imperative to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait should therefore be a crucial part of dealing with the aftermath of Pelosi’s visit.
All agree that it is important to communicate with China to manage relations between the two great powers. Some experts argue that it doesn’t make sense for the US to seek to establish “safeguards” since China rejects the idea. I am inclined to think that the administration’s approach of putting in place “guardrails” is working. For example, Washington and Beijing have discussed Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan at various senior officials’ meetings, and the two leaders have also directly exchanged views on his visit. The bar for reducing misunderstandings through communication seems to have been reached. Even so, we must bear in mind that communication does not guarantee a desirable outcome.
China seeks to exploit uncertainty and caution. While it is important that any US administration act responsibly, it is also imperative that the United States avoid ambivalence in its approach to Taiwan. Instead, Washington should relentlessly reiterate its positions and avoid sending mixed, sometimes contradictory messages. Such messages are interpreted not only by China, but also by America’s allies and partners.
The Biden administration mishandled its communication with its allies and the wider international community during Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Some efforts to deter the speaker’s trip not only played into China’s game of bullying Taiwan into isolating it, but also bolstered Beijing’s efforts to present the visit as a provocation with more credibility than the China could not accumulate it by itself. Such actions undermine efforts to reject China’s attempts to arbitrarily argue that visits to Taiwan support its independence. They also help justify Beijing’s disproportionate reaction. More broadly, they undermine efforts to form a strong international front against the settlement of disputes by force.
We are in a time when China has been bragging about created inventions to its claims on Taiwan and backing them up with massive investment and muscle flexing. Beijing has touted its efforts to create a common destiny for all mankind, even going so far as to enshrine those efforts in the CCP Charter in 2017 and the PRC Constitution in 2018. They manipulated bureaucratic memos and references to Taiwan in the United Nations system. form favorable impressions of their stories about Taiwan. They further sought to sell this narrative with the release of a white paper on August 10, just after China completed a series of live-fire and air and sea exercises around Taiwan.
In the growing competition with China to control the narrative, symbolic actions are fundamentally important. US communication with allies and partners must be articulate and consistent. He must resist efforts to offer compromises in hopes of placating China, because such efforts can sometimes create mixed messages with allies and partners about America’s positions.
The ideal arrangement would have been for Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan to deliver a single, clear message that the international community should not allow China to isolate Taiwan to be forced to a negotiating table against its will.
Moreover, as Pelosi put it in his Washington Post op-ed just before landing in Taipei, “The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) sets out America’s commitment to a democratic Taiwan, providing the framework of an economic and diplomatic relationship that would quickly turn into a key partnership. The TRA has enabled relations between Taiwan and the United States without diplomatic ties. This is important because China has long been trying to strengthen exchanges, officials or not, between Taiwan and the international community, including the United States. China’s assertiveness. As China has developed economically and militarily, it has become more aggressive in demanding that the international community heeds its arbitrary interests China’s varying reactions to then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s visit to Taiwan in 1997 and Pelosi’s visit in 2022 provide proof of this change.
In the current episode of the Taiwan Strait, the Biden administration has rightly denounced China’s efforts to use Pelosi’s visit as a pretext to step up its bullying in the Taiwan Strait and attempt to change the status quo. Washington has criticized Beijing’s attempts to obliterate the midline of the Taiwan Strait by flying military planes and warships into Taiwan’s contiguous sea areas.
In response to China’s belligerent behavior, the United States announced that it would launch negotiations for a trade cooperation roadmap. He announced new arms sales to Taiwan and sent two warships to transit through the Taiwan Strait.
In Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration has also worked closely with diplomatic allies and like-minded partners to deny China’s attempts to isolate Taiwan. Since Pelosi’s visit, Taiwan has received delegations from various diplomatic allies such as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Guatemala, Palau and Tuvalu, as well as delegations from Japan, Lithuania and France. According to a report, parliamentary delegations from Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark and Australia are also planning to visit Taiwan.
With Beijing’s attempts to isolate Taiwan all but neutralized, the most concerning and thorny challenge is China’s efforts to establish a so-called “new normal”, in which the planes and warships of the APL are operating closer and closer to Taiwan. These maneuvers take away crucial minutes of warning time from the Taiwanese defense forces and increase the risk of China masking an attack as a drill. Beijing’s efforts to establish a more confrontational posture are difficult to undo without a drastic escalation of tensions. But as Bonny Lin and Joel Wuthnow have argued, pushing back is necessary. Possible ways to impose costs on China’s disproportionate response could be non-kinetic and indirect countermeasures, such as the creation of a joint military planning committee between Taiwan and the United States to better organize responses. to various scenarios. Another option would be to build on existing cooperation between the US and Taiwanese coast guards to conduct joint training in coastal waters off Taiwan’s east coast. These countermeasures would bolster Taiwan’s self-defense and forestall any future efforts by China to use maritime police and maritime militia to carry out jurisdictional control and gray area activities in Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone and contiguous waters. .
In summary, a better response from the Biden administration to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan would be consistent communication and follow through on its longstanding one China policy. Such firmness would prevent the United States from being thrown off balance by China’s aggressive salami-cutting behavior against Taiwan. It would also help the international community stay focused on the need for joint efforts to deter Chinese encroachment and support a peaceful solution to tensions across the strait.