She had announced “come in peace”. Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan on Wednesday August 3, after a controversial visit to the island claimed by China for less than 24 hours, as part of her tour of several Asian countries. His remarkable visit took place as tensions have intensified in recent days between China and the United States. The 82-year-old “speaker” is the highest elected American official to visit the archipelago in twenty-five years.
Beijing, which considers Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunited, by force if necessary, has already announced reprisals. Franceinfo explains the issues around this recent resurgence of tensions between China and the United States.
Why does this visit anger Beijing?
While the trip to Taiwan was not included in Nancy Pelosi’s agenda, several American and Taiwanese press titles mentioned her visit and a meeting with the president of the island. The senior US official finally arrived on the island on Tuesday evening in a US military plane, greeted by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu. Her welcome was filmed and broadcast live on television.
China immediately opposed this visit because it considers Taiwan as part of its territory and refuses any initiative giving the Taiwanese authorities international legitimacy. US officials visit the island regularly. But China judges that a visit by Nancy Pelosi, the third person in the American state, is a major provocation. Last week, in a telephone conversation with his American counterpart Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping had already called on the United States not to “not play with fire”.
Since 1979, and the restoration of diplomatic relations between China and the United States initiated by President Jimmy Carter, Washington has recognized only one Chinese government, that of Beijing, while continuing to provide support to the Taiwanese authorities, in particular through major arms sales. The United States also practices “strategic ambiguity”a diplomatic position in which the country refrains from saying whether or not it would defend Taiwan militarily in the event of an invasion.
Why did Nancy Pelosi decide to go to Taiwan despite these threats?
The 82-year-old “speaker” said in a statement that her visit to Taiwan demonstrated the “unconditional support” the United States “to the dynamic democracy” of the island. The elected Democrat added that this visit did not contravene“no way” long-standing US policy toward China.
Our delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy.
Our discussions with Taiwan leadership reaffirm our support for our partner & promote our shared interests, including advancing a free & open Indo-Pacific region.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 2, 2022
In a column published in parallel in the washington post (in English), Nancy Pelosi also assures that her visit to Taiwan aims to“to be at the side of Taiwan (…) where democracy is threatened”.
Questioned by franceinfo, François Bougon, journalist at Médiapart and specialist in China, recalls that this visit was not made at the initiative of the American administration. “This is where we see the importance of Congress in American policy vis-à-vis Taiwan.he analyzes.
LIVE – Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan ➡️ “Nancy Pelosi’s visit was not really wanted by the White House. This is where we see the importance of Congress in American policy vis-à-vis Taiwan,” analyzes François Bougon, journalist at Médiapart. pic.twitter.com/nWs4mYZvxw
— franceinfo (@franceinfo) August 3, 2022
The White House, however, said Monday that Nancy Pelosi had “the right to visit Taiwan” : “There is no reason for Beijing to make this visit, which does not depart from long-standing American doctrine, a form of crisis”said his spokesman, John Kirby.
What is the status of Taiwan in the cœur of these tensions?
The status of the island dates back to the history of its relations with China. And more precisely in 1949, when the communist forces led by Mao Zedong seize power in Beijing, overthrowing the government of the nationalist Kuomintang party, at the head of the country since 1912. The People’s Republic of China is proclaimed. The deposed executive went into exile on the island of Taiwan and set up the Republic of China (ROC, in English) there. Both regimes continue to claim control of Chinese territory.
Today, more than seventy years later and while the archipelago no longer claims control of all Chinese territory, Beijing still considers that Taiwan should be reintegrated into the communist regime. And the country of Xi Jinping does not hesitate to show the muscles in the face of any attempt at independence. As proof, the Chinese authorities have continued to increase the pressure on Taiwan since the coming to power in 2016 of the current President Tsai Ing-wen, from a pro-independence party.
Internationally, Taiwan’s status remains unclear. The ROC has not had a seat at the UN since 1971, recalls Le Figaro. And its existence is only recognized by 15 small countries, according to The world. But “Taiwan has in fact all the characteristics of a state”underlined to franceinfo Françoise Mengin, research director at CERI (International Research Center) Sciences Po, in November 2021. The island, which enjoys a democratic system, has been ruled by a power of its own since the victory of the communists in 1949.
What reprisals has China already announced?
In the wake of Nancy Pelosi’s visit, China denounced the attitude “extremely dangerous” of the United States, promising “targeted military actions”. The country notably announced the incursion of more than 200 military planes into its air defense zone located not far from the border with the archipelago.
Even before the arrival of Nancy Pelosi, dare “Chinese Su-35 fighter jets” already had “crossed the Taiwan Strait”which separates mainland China from the island claimed by Beijing, announced Chinese state television CGTN.
The army operation aims to “resolutely uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity and firmly thwart outside interference and separatist attempts at ‘Taiwan independence'”, said a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Defense. Military exercises are already planned around the island.
Beijing’s commerce ministry also announced economic sanctions, such as a suspension of the export to Taiwan of natural sand – a key component in the manufacture of semiconductors, one of the island’s top exports. China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner, with trade rising 26% to $328 billion in 2021, AFP recalls.
Are there risks of military escalation in the region?
The announcement of reprisals from China worries in the region of the archipelago. Japan said on Wednesday “concerned” It front of “targeted military actions” promised by Beijing, some of which will take place inside the Japanese exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
For Sylvie Bermann, former French ambassador to China, there is currently no real risk of escalation. Asked about France Inter on Wednesday, the diplomat believes that China will go no further than a show of force and economic sanctions.
.@SylvieBermann “In this case, I don’t think there is any real danger. China wants to show its displeasure, it’s a show of force with planes in the air defense zone. China will not go further today.” #le69inter pic.twitter.com/q67lBk0jlQ
– France Inter (@franceinter) August 3, 2022