Beijing warns of “serious consequences” and “firm and resolute action” if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were to follow through on her plan to visit Taiwan.
The Chinese Communist Party can’t help it. Like so many things China has done over the past 10 years or so, these statements only help to bring about what it is trying to prevent.
At this point, Pelosi has to visit. To back down in the face of these threatening warnings would signal to the region and beyond a changing of the guard: Beijing is saying “no! and the United States obeys.
Pelosi, D-California, for all her demerits – and I oppose her on 95% of everything – is an original panda slayer. His interest in visiting Taiwan before giving up the speaker’s gavel for the final time comes as no surprise.
What is surprising is that the President of the United States is trying to talk her out of it.
She would not be the first Speaker of the House to visit Taiwan. Congressional delegations travel to Taiwan all the time. Cabinet members go, but not as often as they should. Just two years ago, Alex Azar, then Secretary of Health and Human Services, visited Taiwan and met its president.
What President Joe Biden should do is make it clear that the United States will continue to make these pro-Taiwan protests and that he will do nothing to prevent Pelosi or any other member of Congress from surrendering.
The administration is making noise about it, leaving the decision to Pelosi, as if she had a choice. Her public statements, however, make it clear to Beijing that if she goes, the president and his team are not to blame.
It seems to be part of a larger trend. The Biden administration has gotten off to a good start in China politics. Taiwan’s representative in Washington was at the president’s inauguration for the first time since the United States ended diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in 1979.
The administration endorsed Trump’s decision to commit genocide in Xinjiang. In March, on the eve of his first high-level talks with Chinese officials, he imposed his first sanctions on China, for abuses in Hong Kong. This was followed by coordinated sanctions with the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada for abuses in Xinjiang.
Then, in June 2021, Biden expanded a blacklist of Chinese military and surveillance-related companies for the first time barred from U.S. investment by President Donald Trump.
Privately that summer, even former Trump officials spoke of the remarkable continuity between the two administrations.
Yet, in retrospect, this is when the administration’s resolve on China seems to have peaked. Some of the things that have happened since include the administration’s failed efforts to frustrate the passage of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Law and a series of anemic arms sales to Taiwan.
On the latter, the administration formalized a policy of selling only the most defensive weapons to Taiwan. He describes it as an effort to help Taipei prioritize its needs and become a tougher target. Of course, this also means supplying Taiwan with the least objectionable weapons for Beijing.
This shift from continuity with the previous administration’s China policy toward greater deference to China was evidenced in a Nikkei Review report in June that found the Treasury Department gave investors of the aforementioned companies on the blacklist the green light to keep their shares.
So maybe the Biden administration carrying the water from Beijing against Pelosi’s trip shouldn’t be so surprising after all.
Let’s hope he fails, because canceling the speaker’s trip to Taiwan would be a terrible sign of the decline of American leadership in Asia.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal