“Our visit reiterates that America stands with Taiwan,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday.
“This is How the U.S. Will Stand With Taiwan,” wrote Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) for the New York Times on August 3, 2022.
In his staunch defense of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent trip to Taiwan, Senator Menendez, who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, laid out a firm diplomatic strategy for preventing Taiwan from suffering the same fate as Ukraine.
Could a strategy of stronger diplomatic support- exemplified by House Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan- really work?
Alternately praised and panned in the press- by conservative and liberal critics alike- the Speaker’s delegation visit to Taiwan provoked an international outcry from journalists, policy experts, and government officials.
“Questions mount over whether Pelosi’s Taiwan trip is worth the consequences,” wrote Stephen Collinson for CNN on August 3.
“In China, as well as the US, domestic politics may be creating a dangerous moment over Taiwan- a trend the visit from the California Democrat may have only accelerated,” concluded Collinson. He was hardly alone.
Some were in support of the visit; others denigrated the trip as unnecessary, performative, and likely to further erode an already fraught political situation.
From those who defended Pelosi’s choice to defy the explicit command of the Chinese Communist Party and the implicit request of the Biden Administration not to make Taiwan a stop on her official procession, Ukraine was frequently mentioned as a cautionary tale.
It is a cautionary tale we must not repeat, according to these authorities.
“Xi Jinping, the hypernationalist president of the People’s Republic of China,” warned Sen. Menendez in his NTY op-ed, “is no doubt taking notes and learning lessons from Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine to apply to his plans for Taiwan.”
“The United States and our partners in the international community need to do the same to develop and put in place a new and more resilient strategy for Taiwan while there is still time,” Mr. Menendez cautioned sternly.
“A clear lesson from the war in Ukraine is that authoritarian leaders have been emboldened in recent years by dysfunctional democracies and hesitant international institutions,” Mendenez continued.
“China is carrying out influence campaigns against Taiwan using cyberattacks and disinformation, deploying propaganda to reinforce its ‘one China’ message, spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories to divide Taiwanese society and make it easier to gain control of the island,” Menendez warned. “This is a plan of attack eerily reminiscent of Mr. Putin’s in Ukraine.”
“We saw the warning signs for Ukraine in 2014 and failed to take action that might have deterred further Russian aggression,” Menendez lamented. “We cannot afford to repeat that mistake with Taiwan.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China responded to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit in a statement issued August 2, 2022, calling it a, “serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-U.S. joint communiqués.”
“It has severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” read the statement. “It gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for ‘Taiwan Independence’. China firmly opposes and sternly condemns this, and has made serious démarche and strong protest to the United States.”
For her part, House Speaker Pelosi- when asked to comment on Beijing’s angry response to her visit during a presser in Taiwan- claimed not to understand why Chinese Communist Party officials have, “made a big fuss.”
She suggested the People’s Liberation Army military drills which were launched on the heels of her trip were the product of, “certain insecurities on the part of the president of China as to his own political situation that he’s rattling the saber.”
“But it doesn’t really matter,” Speaker Pelosi went on about the controversy. “What matters to us is that we salute the successes of Taiwan, we work together for the security of Taiwan, and we just take great lessons from the democracy.”
“We don’t want anything to happen to Taiwan by force,” Pelosi told the assembled crowd.
Pelosi is hardly alone among U.S. lawmakers.
“The United States and our partners must remain cleareyed as we respond with measured steps during this critical window of opportunity- before China unalterably changes the cross-strait dynamic to its advantage and sets the stage for a possible invasion of Taiwan- to reinvigorate our diplomatic strategy,” wrote Sen. Menendez in the New York Times.
“Getting our strategy right is essential to deter and constrain Beijing’s problematic behavior and to encourage Mr. Xi to make different choices from Mr. Putin’s,” Mendendez added.
“Mr. Putin’s delusions in Ukraine could not make the catastrophic global consequences of inaction clearer,” he concluded grimly.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)