Taiwan visit caps Nancy Pelosi’s long history with Beijing

More than 30 years ago, US Representative Nancy Pelosi angered the Chinese government by showing up in Tiananmen Square and unfurling a banner honoring dissidents killed in the 1989 protests.

On Tuesday, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pelosi ignored fiery warnings from China and landed in Taiwan to support its government and meet with human rights activists. Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan capped off his decades as America’s foremost critic of the Beijing government, particularly on rights issues, and underscores the long history of the US Congress taking a harder line than the White House in its dealings with Beijing.

Second in line for the presidency after Vice President Kamala Harris, Pelosi became the highest ranking American politician to visit Taiwan since President Newt Gingrich in 1997. She led a delegation of six other House members. In 1991, two years after China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests, Pelosi and two other US lawmakers unfurled a banner in Tiananmen reading, “To those who died for democracy in China.”

The police approached, forcing them to leave the place. In 2015, she took a group of House Democrats to Tibet, the first such visit since the widespread unrest of 2008. Pelosi has spoken out regularly on human rights issues in Tibet and met with the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing describes as a violent separatist.

China sees visits by US officials to Taiwan as an encouraging signal for the island’s pro-independence camp. Washington has no official diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is legally bound to provide it with the means to defend itself. Kharis Templeman, a Taiwan expert at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said the 82-year-old Pelosi would seek to cement her legacy, while signaling her support for Taiwan against pressure from Beijing.

“And who better to send that signal than the Speaker of the House herself? So she is in a very powerful symbolic position to take a stand against the CCP,” Templeman said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party. Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide its future.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said a trip would lead to “very serious developments and consequences”. Analysts said Beijing’s response was likely symbolic. “I think China was trying to signal that their reaction would make the United States and Taiwan uncomfortable, but not cause war,” said Scott Kennedy, a China analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Washington.

HARD LINE IN CONGRESSION Congress has long taken a harder line on Taiwan than the White House, whether Democrats, like President Joe Biden and Pelosi, or Republicans are in charge.

Republicans supported Pelosi’s trip. “Any member who wants to go should do so. It shows political deterrence for President Xi,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told NBC News. McCaul said he was asked to join Pelosi’s trip to Asia, but was unable to. The executive branch bears ultimate responsibility for foreign policy, but relations with Taiwan is an area where Congress wants to influence. The Taiwan Relations Act, which has guided relations since 1979, passed Congress overwhelmingly after lawmakers rejected a proposal by then-President Jimmy Carter as too weak.

Democrats and Republicans in the US Senate are working on a bill that would overhaul that policy, including increasing military support for Taiwan and expanding Taipei’s role in international organizations. Pelosi’s trip and Beijing’s reaction have prompted the White House to express once again – including in a call between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping last week – that it has no desire to change the status quo. what.

Biden publicly questioned the wisdom of the trip last month during a rare split with close ally Pelosi. “I think the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now, but I don’t know what its status is,” Biden told reporters.

Pelosi’s office declined before the visit to rule out or confirm a possible shutdown of the speaker, citing security concerns typical of senior US officials. Pelosi announced Sunday that she was leading a congressional delegation to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan “to reaffirm America’s strong and unwavering commitment to our allies and friends in the region.”

US defense officials downplayed the risk of the Chinese military interfering with Pelosi’s visit, but feared a mishap could escalate into a larger conflict.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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