US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become the top-ranking US official in the last 25 years to make a state-level visit to Taiwan. Newt Gingrich, then the US House Speaker, visited Taiwan in 1997. Pelosi met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. The visit sparked tensions between the US and China. They were live-fire military drills that were more of an ultimatum than an exercise. They were conducted in the six self-declared zones that surround Taiwan.
Interestingly, the military exercises are being conducted merely twenty kilometers from Taiwan’s coast. The tussle between US-China will not bode well for their geopolitical status and regional economy. It is a clear sign that China is watching Taiwan’s moves and any drastic step taken by Beijing against Taipei will not come with a warning. China has been referring to Taiwan as a part of its territory. Beijing believes that every time a foreign dignitary visits Taiwan they are acknowledging Taiwan’s independence status.
The friction between China and the US – which has accentuated to new levels during the last couple of decades – is perhaps the most significant one in the world. China evolved as an economic superpower that began to dilute the might of the US. Pelosi visiting Taiwan means that the Taiwan-US ties will renew and rejuvenate in the coming years.
According to Zhao Lijiang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, the visit would “severely undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, gravely impact the foundation of China-US relations and send a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces.”
Kharis Templeman, a political scientist at Stanford University said that “It will take some hard diplomacy to reestablish a stable equilibrium. I don’t know how this confrontation will ultimately play out, but I think we are in for a rocky few weeks.” Beijing wants to bring Taiwan under its control and views that the US is endeavoring to bring democracy to Taiwan.
Military officials in the US opine that China may pursue a military-backed solution in the years to come to settle this dispute. The Taiwanese government is not accepting China’s claim that Beijing controls Taiwan.
Ever since China began its live-military exercises, Taiwan has put its military on alert. Taiwan’s 165,000 soldiers in the armed force are negligible in front of China’s force of two million. Taiwan has adapted and implanted the early-warning system and high-tech weaponry into its arsenal to counter China’s military advancement.
The US-China battlefront in the South China Sea is also active and may be a factor of disagreement between Washington and Beijing. The US has placed its military assets, including the USS Ronald Regan, near Taiwan. Over the years Washington has categorically overruled China’s claim that the Taiwan Strait is Beijing’s region.
Although Taiwan has been maintaining its independent status since 1949, China has been asserting its control over Taiwan. China even called for unifying the island with the mainland through force. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has said that Taiwan does not need to announce its sovereignty as it is an independent nation. It is yet to be seen if the US and China will engage in a war over Taiwan.
“There’s a struggle between democracy and autocracy in the world. We cannot back away from that,” Pelosi said in response to a question regarding how to avoid Taiwanese invasion. She added, “As China uses its soft power in order to gain support, we’ve to talk about Taiwan in terms of its technological advancement and show people Taiwan’s courage to become more democratic.”