Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan for a controversial visit on Tuesday. While she was greeted by dignitaries and crowds of waiting onlookers in Taipei, her visit has prompted both praise and controversy in the US, China, and beyond.
Perhaps most unexpectedly, a group of 26 Senate Republicans have voiced their support for the House Speaker’s visit to Taiwan, despite China’s warnings that the trip would prompt “disastrous consequences.”
“For decades, members of the United States Congress, including previous Speakers of the House, have traveled to Taiwan,” the Senators said in a statement of support. “This travel is consistent with the United States’ One China policy to which we are committed. We are also committed now, more than ever, to all elements of the Taiwan Relations Act.”
And they’re not the only Republicans in Congress who have voiced their support. South Carolina GOP representative Nancy Mace said last week that “no one in Congress should take orders from Communist China”
“While I don’t often agree with Nancy Pelosi, I do believe in her right to travel to Taiwan without anyone’s permission,” she wrote on Twitter.
Locals also welcomed Pelosi’s trip to the contested island with excitement.
“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her during my visit to DC,” Cheng Wen-Tsan, mayor of the city of Taoyuan, said on Tuesday. “She is a strong supporter of Taiwan Relations Act and a long-standing friend of Taiwan. Her visit to Taiwan speaks volume of the strong friendship between Taiwan and the US.”
“It is with excitement and honor that we welcome Speaker Pelosi to Taiwan,” added Chen Shih-chung, a former health minister who is running for mayor of Taipei. “A true friend of our people working to strengthen the bonds between two free ,democratic societies. May this be a step towards continued cooperation on a range of shared interests.”
The White House, for its part, has been a bit more chilly in its reception to the trip, neither voicing full-throated support or criticism. Though, it has essentially argued that the trip is nothing new and won’t change much in the big picture.
“We have said that we do not support Taiwan independence and we have said that we expect cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters yesterday. “Put simply, there is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with long-standing US policy into some sort of crisis or conflict or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait”.
“I think we’ve laid out very clearly that if she goes — if she goes — it’s not without precedent. It’s not new. It doesn’t change anything,” he added. “We’ve not ramped up the rhetoric. We’ve not changed our behavior.”
Those not pleased with Ms Pelosi’s trip have argued that it will escalate tensions with China and may even be risking war.
“Saying that this is a whole lot of nothing or that the Chinese shouldn’t read into it. … Well, anybody who has spent half a minute looking at China knows that they attach some sort of intentionality to everything we do,” Andrew Mertha, director of the China Global Research Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told CNBC on Tuesday. “I think what you really see from China’s side, and it’s not unreasonable, is that we’re kind of pushing the envelope of the One China policy…They’re alarmed, and I don’t blame them.”
Fox News’s Tucker Carlson tore into the trip on Monday night, arguing it showed what happens when “dumb people” are given power and represented “one of the weirdest moments in the weirdest presidency in American history.”
“The Biden administration is provoking a hot war with China,” he said.
Other doubters had more pointed digs at the Taiwan trip and suggested it was tied to Ms Pelosi’s financial interests.
In July, Ms Pelosi’s husband sold millions of dollars of his shares of computer chipmaker Nvidia, just before the House of Representatives passed the Chips and Science Act, a $52bn bill to support US production of computer chips. Taiwan is the world leader in manufacturing advanced semiconductors.
“How many innocent people will die because Nancy Pelosi is flaunting her insider trading in Taiwan?” wrote comedian Tim Young on Twitter on Tuesday.
The House Speaker defended the trip in an op-ed in The Washington Post published on Tuesday, coinciding when she landed in Taiwan. She argued that it was important to keep strong ties with Taiwan because it is a “key partnership.”
“In the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom,” she wrote.