Pelosi Puts Taiwan Back on the Map: Reality Returns

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Friday, August 8, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

What a difference a day has made, especially in Taiwan’s relations with the US. Asia and the world.

In less than 24 hours, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives and second in line to be president pulled off one of the most amazing whirlwind stops that Taiwan has ever witnessed. In that very brief time, Pelosi accomplished far more than past visits by other delegations and even years of ambivalent US strategies.

With the speed and precision, of a surgeon handling a scalpel, Pelosi cut through decades of past red tape and misdirection to set US-Taiwan relations back on a clear, realistic path. It further finally forced all to show their true colors—much to the dismay of Taiwan’s hegemonic neighbor on the other side of the Strait.

How did this play out?

First came the tempting prelude. Pelosi was already on a pre-arranged tour of US allies in Asia and this immediately drew media speculation: “Will she or won’t she, make a stop in Taiwan and why not?”

Multiple pundits quickly responded; listing the contrasting dangers, threats and advantages of such a stop; each sought to find an appropriate hook to describe or encapsulate the situation. Even the US military chimed in.

Acting as if it didn’t want the responsibility of protecting US delegates abroad, the military tried to side-step by saying that it “did not seem” to be a good idea at this time. It presumably hoped perhaps that said stopover would be called off so it could return to playing more speculative war games.

That did not happen. Despite the media’s many danger signals, Pelosi announced her plans. However, it turned out to be more than just a stop it would set the bar high for all future US actions.

To grasp this, it is important to understand all that Pelosi accomplished in less than 24 hours; it was multi-tasking in spades.

Pelosi’s plane landed to welcoming crowds late on Tuesday evening. And after a short night’s sleep, she and her delegation quickly began the next day. Included would be a high level meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, where Pelosi received the Order of the Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon; future relations including chip making cooperation were discussed.

Pelosi then spoke on democracy and shared values to Taiwan’s legislators; that in turn was followed by a visit to the White Terror Memorial Park with democracy advocates. Somehow lunch was squeezed in. By evening, Pelosi and her delegation were back in the air and on their way to South Korea.

Though this delegation had been here less than 24 hours, it was clear when they left that the US would stand firm in its friendship and support Taiwan. If opposing forces had hoped that the US would waver, they could  hope no more.

There was of course the expected background noise as Taiwan and the world had to listen to the insufferable claims from the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Somehow, China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity were being threatened. China has never had any legitimate claim to sovereignty over Taiwan, but the hope was that if you tell a lie often enough someone will believe it.

For Taiwanese of course, these ho-hum claims are part and parcel of dealing with China. For those ignorant of PRC history, they might seem legitimate.

All this also did temporarily take the US media’s mind off Ukraine and COVID-18 issues; but once the delegation left, such tension could no longer be milked. And so, it returned to Alex Jones’s Sandy Hook law suit, as well as the more realistic January 6 Committee reports.

From a different perspective, this visit even supported women’s roles in politics: What could be better than media photos of two powerful women, Tsai Ing-wen, President of Taiwan, and US Speaker Pelosi standing together discussing and impacting world affairs.

Benefit also came to those theorists who still do not understand the difference between the US “one China policy” and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “one China principle.” Pelosi’s trip clearly brought this distinction into the open. Throughout the US State Department had to repeat that it did not violate its “one China policy.” Any confusing ambiguity on how Taiwan is totally separate from China was removed.

The visit also emphasized how Taiwan and all democracies stand for the right to self-determination and self-governance, something foreign to the CCP. Can anyone spell independence?

The noteworthy important role of chip making in the semi-conductor industry simultaneously appeared in a bill before the US Senate which stated how Taiwan could be considered as a “non-NATO ally.” NATO, now there is a word that Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly dislikes; how strange to find it in Asia.

Of course, some internal opposition also showed its head; various pro-unification Taiwan groups tried to paint Pelosi as a war-monger, as if this would ingratiate them in an alleged new China world order. They ignored what is happening in Hong Kong’s one country-two systems, where the CCP are rulers and Hong Kongers are “serfs.”

Finally, China’s military had to show its bully colors. As Pelosi’s trip ended, it purposely carried out numerous live-fire drill exercises indicating how it could blockade Taiwan. This again brought out the inevitable “useful idiot” pundits who questioned whether Pelosi’s trip was worth it.

Somehow, a naive simplicity envelopes such interpretations. This is what UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain came to realize with German Chancellor Adolph Hitler in 1938. It is practicing Sun Tzu: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Taiwan was not buying. Its missiles can also reach deep into China only it lacks open background space to demonstrate that reality. Moreover, it knows the adage, “if you want peace, prepare for war.”

Pelosi in turn pointed out how past, male US delegations had visited Taiwan with no such issues. Now, her visit suddenly violated China’s imagined sovereignty.

The stakes remain high; China’s growing hegemony will not change. In 2027 the People’s Liberation Army will mark its 100th anniversary and only the naive will not see that hand writing on the wall.

This is the final and greatest value of Pelosi’s visit. In one day, it highlighted the true reality of Taiwan’s democracy and exposed the true colors of all involved.

The future cannot be avoided and that future is now.