Despite strong threats of retaliation from China over recent months, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) finally landed in Taiwan, declaring America’s “unwavering commitment” to democracy.
Dressed in a pink pantsuit, white heels and her signature pearls, Pelosi got off the plane from Malaysia on Tuesday.
Her arrival to Taiwan makes her the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the island in 25 years, the last being former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.
The House speaker comes third in line for the presidency after the vice president, making her the No. 3 U.S. official in terms of stature.
Upon landing, the House speaker said in a brief statement: “Our Congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy.”
In her op-ed published in the Washington Post just minutes after her arrival, Pelosi writes, “We cannot stand by as the CCP proceeds to threaten Taiwan — and democracy itself.”
Taiwanese citizens gathered outside of her Grand Hyatt Hotel in Taipei holding up signs and banners of welcome.
Taiwan’s largest and most iconic building, Taipei 101, also displayed flashing signs of welcome near its top floors, including “Thank you,” “TW [heart] US,” “Speaker Pelosi” and “Welcome to TW.”
Taiwan’s tallest building and most iconic landmark, Taipei 101, lit up at 9pm tonight, welcoming @SpeakerPelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Words include “Speaker Pelosi”, “Welcome to TW”, “Thank you”, “TW ❤️ US” (1/2) pic.twitter.com/q0aFEjqGZl
— Tingting Liu 劉亭廷 (@tingtingliuTVBS) August 2, 2022
She is scheduled to meet with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and legislators on Wednesday to discuss what Pelosi has described to be a focus on “reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
She added that “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy,” referencing the Chinese Communist Party.
Taiwan was not originally a part of Pelosi’s Asia trip itinerary, which included Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.
The weeks leading up to the possible visit were full of aggressive rhetoric from China, which also increased its military presence surrounding the island.
Last week, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Senior Col. Tan Kefei had warned that the U.S. “must not arrange for Pelosi to visit the Taiwan region… Should the U.S. side insist on doing otherwise, the Chinese military will never sit idl[y] by and will certainly take strong and resolute measures to thwart any interference by external forces and secessionist attempts for ‘Taiwan independence’ and firmly defend China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
It was previously unclear whether the trip would actually take place, with President Biden seemingly warning against the visit.
Two weeks ago, the president was quoted saying, “Well, I think that the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now,” regarding Pelosi’s then-potential visit to Taiwan.
Biden’s administration noted that the president did not directly ask Pelosi to cancel her trip, citing the independence of Congress to act.
While the House speaker’s visit to Taiwan has not quite resulted in World War III, tensions will likely escalate between the U.S. and China.
In June, Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe threatened that China would “definitely not hesitate to start a war” over a Taiwan split.
Less than a week ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping again warned Biden in a historic phone call that lasted over two hours, saying, “Those who play with fire will only get burnt,” referring to the U.S.’ potential support of Taiwan’s independence.
“One China” Controversy
Washington insists that it upholds the “One China policy”; however, Pelosi’s visit clearly demonstrates the U.S.’ support of the self-governing island, and Biden has repeatedly insisted that the world’s most powerful military would defend Taiwan if needed.
The Chinese Civil War that dates back to 1949 led the defeated Chinese Nationalists to flee to Taiwan and set up their own government. The winning Communists, simultaneously, declared rule over the mainland.
Beijing firmly holds a “One China” principle, maintaining Taiwan as an “inalienable” part of China and that any “attempt to change the status quo” are doomed to start a war.
Taiwan, in contrast, has repeatedly declared itself distinct and independent from the mainland, with recent polls showing that nearly 80 percent of young Taiwanese people do not consider themselves Chinese.
Upon confirmation of Pelosi’s visit, China immediately suspended imports from 35 Taiwanese exporters of biscuits and pastries since the Monday ahead of her arrival.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported on Tuesday that 2,066 of the 3,200 Taiwanese companies registered with China’s customs under the category of food have been blacklisted under “import suspension.”
Taiwan’s biggest exports to China by value include electronics, machinery, plastics and chemicals. It is unclear whether these will soon be next in joining the list of suspended imports.
According to Taiwanese data, China’s imports from Taiwan hit a record $189 billion in 2021, emphasizing the strong trade partnership between the two.
China has also showcased its military presence, with warplanes and warships located near the median line of the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday morning.
Over two dozen Republican senators, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), applauded Pelosi for her visit to Taiwan, jointly issuing a statement of support.
A big list of senate republicans issue a statement backing pelosis trip to Taiwan. pic.twitter.com/te8iuvwqmc
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) August 2, 2022
They assured that the trip was “consistent” with the U.S.’ commitment to the “One China policy” and that they were “committed now, more than ever, to all elements of the Taiwan Relations Act.”
According to the official itinerary, Pelosi is scheduled to arrive in Seoul on Thursday to meet with South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo and then Japan sometime after.