Taiwan Question Becomes a Flashpoint

Houtao Zhong (钟厚涛)
(Researcher, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences )

August 10 , 2022
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently kidnapped China-U.S. relations 
for her own selfish ends, and even the executive branch of the United States 
government, led by President Joe Biden, expressed reservations. Biden revealed 
that ǒthe military thinks it's not a good idea right now.ō But Pelosi defied 
all parties and made the visit anyway. The reasons are complex.

One reason was to increase her media exposure to facilitate Democratic Party 
prospect in the coming midterm elections. Recently, Pelosi has been in trouble 
over her husband's drug-related DUI charge, as well as allegations that 
he engaged in insider trading, and she was eager to use Taiwan as a politically 
correct tool to take back the game and bathe herself in positive U.S. media 

Another reason was to gain practical benefits. In December 2016, Tsai Ing-wen 
sent $140,000 to a U.S. lobbying group to speak with President Donald Trump, 
who was newly elected. In March, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 
visited Taiwan, raking in $150,000 from the Taiwan authorities. In the same 
vein, Pelosi's visit to Taiwan is bound to yield more benefits from Taiwan.

A third reason was to create ǒpersonal historical positioning.ō The United 
States will hold its midterm elections in November, and it appears the Democratic 
Party will find it difficult to retain a majority of seats in the House 
of Representatives. If it loses, Pelosi's top leadership position will go 
to a Republican. The trip to Asia was likely to be Pelosi's last trip as 
speaker. Her visit to Taiwan was mainly an opportunity to create a historical 
endnote ù a final highlight of her political career.

Clearly, Pelosi visited Taiwan for her own selfish reasons, but the trip 
will, of course, bring huge changes to China-U.S. relations. Even former 
President Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform: ǒWhy is Crazy Nancy 
Pelosi in Taiwan? Always causing trouble.ō

Pandora's Box

Although Pelosi's visit to Taiwan has been widely questioned around the 
world, the follow-up effects it triggered should not be underestimated.

First, her trip created a broken window effect. Before the trip, U.S. Secretary 
of State Antony Blinken publicly stood up for Pelosi's decision to visit 
Taiwan, stating that ǒthis is very much precedent in the sense that previous 
speakers have visited Taiwan.ō The visit of Pelosi to Taiwan as the No. 
3 person in line for the U.S. presidency may prompt more politicians in 
the United States to make excuses to visit Taiwan and continue to seriously 
undermine the one-China principle.

Second, moves in support of Taiwan may be activated. In recent years, the 
U.S. Congress has concocted a number of legislative acts including the Taiwan 
Travel Act and the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, but most of these have 
been shelved and not implemented. Pelosi's visit to Taiwan is an implementation 
of the Taiwan Relations Act. If not effectively controlled in the future, 
some of the previously shelved acts in support of Taiwan may be reactivated.

Third, the United States may accelerate play of the Taiwan card, using the 
good cop/bad cop technique. The Pelosi visit to Taiwan shows that President 
Biden and the executive branch were fully capable of stopping it in time 
to prevent it from escalating. In the end, however, the U.S. executive branch 
gave Pelosi the green light under the guise of ǒseparation of powersō and 
an ǒindependentō Congress. In the future, the U.S. is likely to repeat the 
same tactic, continuously enhancing substantive relations with Taiwan.

Mixed mindset

The DPP authorities have long colluded with pro-Taiwan forces such as the 
U.S. Congress ù including the Congressional Taiwan Caucus ùand have invited 
Pelosi to visit Taiwan several times. They engineered this visit for political 

One reason was to create a new breakthrough in Taiwan-U.S. relations. After 
returning to power in 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party has been highlighting 
ideology for a long time but has been incompetent in governance, with problems 
emerging such as inflation, shortages of epidemic prevention supplies, power 
outages across Taiwan and a high unemployment rate and misery index. The 
DPP sees the relationship with the United States as a lifeline and tries 
to divert public focus ù for example, by inviting Pelosi to Taiwan to cover 
up the governing dilemmas on the island.

Another reason was to facilitate the year-end elections in Taiwan. The DPP 
is not doing well as local elections approach later in the year to elect 
county magistrates, county councilors, township mayors, township councilors 
and chiefs of villages in six municipalities and 16 counties. It is of particular 
note that Chen Shih-chung, head of the region's epidemic command center 
known for his failure to keep COVID-19 at bay, was named as the DPP's candidate 
for mayor in Taipei. Lin Chih-chien, who has been accused of plagiarism, 
accepted the DPP's nomination to run for Taoyuan mayor. All this has disappointed 
the general public. The DPP authorities seek to highlight Taiwan-U.S. relations 
by way of Pelosi's visit to prove that the DPP is capable of staying in power 
and attract light green and swing voters to continue supporting the DPP.

The third reason was to stiffen reliance on the United States to resist 
China. Against the backdrop of Taiwan's limited power and the superiority 
of the Chinese mainland's military power, the DPP, even while building a 
party platform for Taiwan independence, knows that relying on itself for 
independence is tantamount to seeking its own death. Therefore, the DPP 
is trying to bring in supporting foreign elements. The invitation to Pelosi 
to visit Taiwan was just another ploy by the DPP authorities to make use 
of external forces.

At the same time, the DPP authorities also know that inviting Pelosi to 
Taiwan would touch Beijing's bottom line and take the already high tensions 
in the Taiwan Strait to even more dangerous levels. At one point they were 
ready to withdraw the invitation, but later, under Pelosi's pressure, they 
found themselves riding a tiger, from which they could only agree to send 
the invitation.

All in all, Pelosi's visit to Taiwan has seriously violated China's sovereignty 
and territorial integrity, undermined the peace and stability of the Taiwan 
Strait region, trampled on international law and basic norms of international 
relations and brought great uncertainty to the Sino-U.S. relations. The 
United States should stop supporting and condoning Taiwan secessionist forces 
in any form, abide by the three China-U.S. joint communiques and push China-U.
S. relations back on the right track.

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