On 3rd August, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a controversial trip to Taiwan. She stopped on the island for a short time during her four-country trip in the region. Her meeting with the Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen was brief but controversial.
China claims that the island is its rightful territory. It is alleging that by holding such meetings the US is offering its help in getting independence. Treating it as an independent country is against One China policy, to which the US has agreed to. Pelosi’s visit and remarks regarding Taiwan’s independence have made China furious. It responded promptly by holding a large-scale military exercise around the island’s waters. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China fired a dozen Dongfeng ballistic missiles the day after. Japan claimed that a few of those landed on its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This further heightened the tensions between Beijing and Washington.
After the conclusion of the brief visit, the diplomatic channels of China started to condemn the US and its allies for “interfering” in its internal affairs. At a meeting, Wang Yi, the foreign minister of China, termed Pelosi’s visit as “manic, irresponsible and irrational”. As a protest, Mr. Yi stormed out of the meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived at the venue. Earlier, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Zheng Zeguang, warned by quoting President Xi Jinping, “Those playing with fire will get burned.”
One China policy
China has emphasized that the One China policy is the foundation of Sino-US diplomacy. This policy refers to the Chinese-made doctrine that the territories that were once part of China are still its de facto territories, and it is manifest that China shall reunite them. Until then, China sees Taiwan as its self-governed province. The US does acknowledge the policy as it does not recognize Taiwan as an independent state. At the same time, it has also vowed to help Taiwan militarily if Beijing tries to annex it forcefully. It sells weapons to the island under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) which was signed in 1979.
Sanctions on Pelosi
At Taiwan, Pelosi said that the commitment of the United States to support Taiwan’s sovereignty is “iron-clad”. She also added, “Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy.” The statements undermine the Chinese claim on Taiwan and its own version of autocratic democracy. Holding her actions “vicious and provocative”, China has imposed sanctions on Pelosi, the third most powerful person in the United States. Many perceive this as a radical step taken by China.
What is interesting is the fact that both the Speaker and President belong to the same party. But President Biden had said that the visit was “not a good idea”.
It is expected that if another such visit happens in future, Beijing’s reaction will be much more intense. Its ambitions in the region are clearly visible. It is evident that the concerned parties have not ruled out the use of the military in a conflict related to Taiwan. In a time when the world is seeing an ongoing high-scale conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the gesture of the US and the subsequent Chinese reaction cannot be taken lightly.
Muhammad Abdul Basit