Pelosi and Taiwan: Will she go or not...

Will U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set foot on Taiwan after China warned of  repercussions?

China's threat is absurd: the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled or occupied Taiwan.  It is akin to Russia threatening retaliation against the U.K. if a House of Commons M.P. were to visit the Ukraine.

In a most basic analogy, when is it ever okay for neighbor A to threaten neighbor B's well-being if neighbor B were to step foot in neighbor C's house?

While the House speaker does not officially represent the Executive Branch of the government or directly dictate foreign policy, those outside the U.S. do not discern such distinctions: an American politician represents the United States of America.

True, Pelosi skipping Taiwan will not be the end of the world for Taiwan or the U.S.  However, if she does not visit Taiwan due to Chinese warnings, the U.S. will be seen as cowering to China and allowing the rising dragon to dictate a slice, albeit a small one, of U.S. foreign affairs matters.  Additionally, the perception will echo loudly of a U.S. that is using Taiwan as a pawn in its U.S.-China bilateral relationship, as it was readily apparent in the Obama-Clinton–Kurt Campbell days.  Worse, U.S. global reputation and allies' perception that the U.S. stands up to bullies will nosedive.

If the U.S. Air Force jet carrying Pelosi lands in Taipei, it will reinforce U.S. support of the thriving rules-based and democratic Taiwan.  And, in the face of the continuing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Pelosi's visit will signal to the world that the U.S. will not abandon and has not (yet) abandoned an ally. 

Could China's latest warning be a sign that the CCP is squeamish and uncomfortable with the now-burgeoning quasi-official (and military) relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan, started by Trump/Pompeo, that, to China, has unexpectedly continued under Biden/Blinken? 

No one will be surprised if Pelosi bypasses Taiwan.  It will be a temporary loss of face to the U.S. and another blow to Taiwan's continuing effort to be recognized on the global stage.  However, if the U.S. wants to draw a line in the sand that it will not back down to threats, this is the moment to stand by its principle: no nation will dictate to the U.S. where U.S. citizens — and politicians — can visit, nor will any nation publicly steer the U.S. on how it executes its foreign policy matters, big or small, through threats.

Perhaps pragmatism will rule the day.  If, after stops in Singapore and Malaysia, an emergency (i.e., health issue, food poisoning, etc.) forces Pelosi to return to the U.S. and cancel the rest of her trip, then all this verbal posturing about whether she visits Taiwan will be moot...and many a face will be saved.

The author is a first-generation Asian-American and a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and Columbia University.  He retired from the U.S. Army (as a colonel) and the U.S. Department of State (as a foreign service officer).

Image: Office of the President of Taiwan.

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