Did Beijing Stop Pelosi From Visiting Taiwan?

CommentaryMultiple news sources reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Gregory W. Meeks, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, were supposed to arrive in Taiwan (Republic of China) on April 10. Their anticipated visit was great news for the democratic island nation, the size of Maryland, with 24 million free people. Many in Taiwan might not appreciate that Pelosi is third in succession to become the president of the United States if the president and the vice president were removed from office—this visit was very important. But something went wrong—she reportedly caught COVID-19, and her trip was “delayed.” Is this the true reason for the delay? Before discussing the probable valid reason, a little background is helpful to understand the context. Pelosi’s trip was preceded by several other high-profile visits of former officials. On March 1, a U.S. delegation led by former U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen visited Taiwan to show additional support by the Biden administration, which had earlier approved a $750 million purchase of U.S. weapons by Taiwan in August 2021. Former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visited Taiwan for four days starting on March 2 and was feted by the political leadership, including President Tsai Ing-wen and Vice President William Lai. Tsai awarded Pompeo the Order of Brilliant Star with Special Grand Cordon for his solid and continued support of Taiwan. Pelosi is not a neophyte to issues related to Taiwan. She conducted a virtual meeting with Lai on Jan. 29 to discuss security, the economy, and other mutual issues. They also discussed China’s human rights abuses and Pelosi’s support for Taiwan’s observer status in several United Nations agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO). The last speaker of the House of Representatives to visit Taiwan was Republican Newt Gingrich in April 1997, a year after the Third Taiwan Straits Crisis (1995–1996) during the Clinton administration. This crisis provides important context to understand the U.S. relationships with Taiwan and China. Third Taiwan Strait Crisis In 1995, then-Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui was invited to deliver a speech on Taiwan’s democratization experience at Cornell University, his alma mater. Initially, the Department of State (DOS) refused to give Lee a visa to visit, and he was forced to spend a night on his plane at a stopover in Hawaii. The House of Representatives and the Senate then forced the DOS to allow Lee to visit Cornell and deliver his speech on June 9-10, 1995. Furious that the DOS had allowed Lee into the United States, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ordered the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to launch missiles and conduct live-fire drills in the summer and amphibious assault exercises in the fall of 1995. In response, then-President Bill Clinton ordered two carrier naval battle groups and other ships to Taiwan’s waters as a demonstration of force in December 1995. Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, on June 1, 2007. (Yuriko Nakao/Reuters) Later, the CCP attempted to prevent the reelection of Lee by having the PLA conduct a missile launch “exercise,” firing three nuclear-capable M-9 missiles from Hainan Island within 35 miles of the Taiwanese ports of Keelung and Kaohsiung. One missile flew over Taipei and landed 19 miles off the coast. Some Asia watchers might recall similar actions in 1998 by the CCP’s puppet state, North Korea, in which it launched nuclear-capable Taepodong-1 missiles over Japan. The DPRK tested its new ICBM on March 24 this year, the Hwasong-17, which can reach anywhere in the continental United States. The Propaganda and Media War During the propaganda war, the CCP argued that Ukraine is not Taiwan and no one should make such comparisons. Why? Because the CCP wants the world not to have sympathy for a free and democratic Taiwan. The CCP does not want Chinese citizens to think that Taiwan is like Ukraine—this could cause morale problems during a conflict (PLA soldiers might be less enthusiastic about killing a victim of CCP aggression, as the Russian soldiers have toward Ukrainians). The last thing the CCP wants is internal demonstrations against the regime during an invasion of Taiwan. CCP Media and Psychological Warfare As Pelosi planned to arrive, the CCP propaganda and military machine went into high gear. Beijing declared warnings with phrases like “immediate cancellation” and “China will need to respond with unprecedented stern measures.” From the U.S. public perspective, such warnings are reminiscent of the childhood proverb, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” With the world community energized about Ukraine, the United States could easily turn the media and psychological warfare against the CCP by using the world’s sympathy for Ukraine toward Taiwan. But the United States did not. Why? Chinese State

Did Beijing Stop Pelosi From Visiting Taiwan?

Commentary

Multiple news sources reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Gregory W. Meeks, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, were supposed to arrive in Taiwan (Republic of China) on April 10.

Their anticipated visit was great news for the democratic island nation, the size of Maryland, with 24 million free people. Many in Taiwan might not appreciate that Pelosi is third in succession to become the president of the United States if the president and the vice president were removed from office—this visit was very important.

But something went wrong—she reportedly caught COVID-19, and her trip was “delayed.” Is this the true reason for the delay?

Before discussing the probable valid reason, a little background is helpful to understand the context.

Pelosi’s trip was preceded by several other high-profile visits of former officials. On March 1, a U.S. delegation led by former U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen visited Taiwan to show additional support by the Biden administration, which had earlier approved a $750 million purchase of U.S. weapons by Taiwan in August 2021.

Former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visited Taiwan for four days starting on March 2 and was feted by the political leadership, including President Tsai Ing-wen and Vice President William Lai. Tsai awarded Pompeo the Order of Brilliant Star with Special Grand Cordon for his solid and continued support of Taiwan.

Pelosi is not a neophyte to issues related to Taiwan. She conducted a virtual meeting with Lai on Jan. 29 to discuss security, the economy, and other mutual issues. They also discussed China’s human rights abuses and Pelosi’s support for Taiwan’s observer status in several United Nations agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO).

The last speaker of the House of Representatives to visit Taiwan was Republican Newt Gingrich in April 1997, a year after the Third Taiwan Straits Crisis (1995–1996) during the Clinton administration. This crisis provides important context to understand the U.S. relationships with Taiwan and China.

Third Taiwan Strait Crisis

In 1995, then-Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui was invited to deliver a speech on Taiwan’s democratization experience at Cornell University, his alma mater. Initially, the Department of State (DOS) refused to give Lee a visa to visit, and he was forced to spend a night on his plane at a stopover in Hawaii.

The House of Representatives and the Senate then forced the DOS to allow Lee to visit Cornell and deliver his speech on June 9-10, 1995.

Furious that the DOS had allowed Lee into the United States, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ordered the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to launch missiles and conduct live-fire drills in the summer and amphibious assault exercises in the fall of 1995. In response, then-President Bill Clinton ordered two carrier naval battle groups and other ships to Taiwan’s waters as a demonstration of force in December 1995.

Lee Teng-Hui
Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, on June 1, 2007. (Yuriko Nakao/Reuters)

Later, the CCP attempted to prevent the reelection of Lee by having the PLA conduct a missile launch “exercise,” firing three nuclear-capable M-9 missiles from Hainan Island within 35 miles of the Taiwanese ports of Keelung and Kaohsiung. One missile flew over Taipei and landed 19 miles off the coast.

Some Asia watchers might recall similar actions in 1998 by the CCP’s puppet state, North Korea, in which it launched nuclear-capable Taepodong-1 missiles over Japan.

The DPRK tested its new ICBM on March 24 this year, the Hwasong-17, which can reach anywhere in the continental United States.

The Propaganda and Media War

During the propaganda war, the CCP argued that Ukraine is not Taiwan and no one should make such comparisons.

Why?

Because the CCP wants the world not to have sympathy for a free and democratic Taiwan.

The CCP does not want Chinese citizens to think that Taiwan is like Ukraine—this could cause morale problems during a conflict (PLA soldiers might be less enthusiastic about killing a victim of CCP aggression, as the Russian soldiers have toward Ukrainians).

The last thing the CCP wants is internal demonstrations against the regime during an invasion of Taiwan.

CCP Media and Psychological Warfare

As Pelosi planned to arrive, the CCP propaganda and military machine went into high gear. Beijing declared warnings with phrases like “immediate cancellation” and “China will need to respond with unprecedented stern measures.”

From the U.S. public perspective, such warnings are reminiscent of the childhood proverb, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

With the world community energized about Ukraine, the United States could easily turn the media and psychological warfare against the CCP by using the world’s sympathy for Ukraine toward Taiwan.

But the United States did not.

Why?

Chinese State Media Threatened an Air Blockade

Little noticed in the Western press was the Chinese language version of an April 7 article written by Hu Xijin, the former editor-in-chief of state-run tabloid Global Times.

He wrote that Pelosi’s planned trip “will be an extremely serious incident, and it will be the most serious provocation by Washington to China on the Taiwan issue since then-Taiwan ‘President’ Lee Teng-hui visited the United States [in 1995].”

Hu provided two stern options for the CCP to counter Pelosi’s visit.

First, establish an air blockade (a no-fly zone) over Taiwan on the day that Pelosi arrives.

Second, if Pelosi’s aircraft does land on Taiwan, he recommended to fly PLA military aircraft over the island’s airspace. “If the Taiwan military opens fire on our fighter jets, the PLA should shoot down the aircraft, or carry out destructive strikes on the Taiwan military base where the missiles were launched,” Hu wrote.

Hardly anyone noticed his recommended threat to expand ramifications if Pelosi’s visit occurs: “China could take other retaliatory measures, including arms sales to Russia and a massive increase in Russian oil and gas purchases. China must resolutely retaliate against the actions of the U.S. and let them know that China is not to be messed with.”

Perhaps someone in the Department of State got the message from Hu and quickly passed it up to the White House. (This author recently discussed a PLA air and sea blockade of Taiwan.)

Recommended Initial Pelosi Reaction

In response to the CCP military threat to her visit, Pelosi should promise her support for a large U.S. military aid package to Taiwan—at least the value of the aid the United States provided Ukraine thus far ($1.7 billion) or ideally the amount the United States provides Israel ($3.8 billion per year from 2019 to 2028) to maintain its qualitative military edge (QME).

In fact, the U.S. Senate has two bills pending that support the idea of providing military aid to improve Taiwan’s QME: the Taiwan Deterrence Act (TDA) and the Arm Taiwan Act of 2021 (ATA). TDA seeks approval for $2 billion a year from the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program for Taiwan from 2023 to 2032 or $20 billion over a 10-year period. ATA requests approval to spend $3 billion a year from 2023 to 2027 or $15 billion for five years. Congress and the president should quickly approve one of the two aid packages.

A total of 46 House and 38 Senate bills concerning Taiwan are pending. Recently, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) submitted a bill (S.4035) that, if passed, would “’fast-track weapons to Taiwan’ by expediting congressional approval and eliminating administrative roadblocks.” All bills should be fast-tracked for approval.

What Weapons to Provide Taiwan to Deter the CCP?

Patriot air defense
U.S. long-range air defense systems Patriot (R) and British radar Giraffe AMB are displayed during Toburq Legacy 2017 air defense exercise in the military airfield near Siauliai, Lithuania, on July 20, 2017. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine suggests that defensive weapon systems for Taiwan should include the following weapon systems along with training and maintenance support: anti-air (Stinger, PATRIOT), anti-armor (Javelin), anti-ship (Harpoon), and anti-missile (THAAD, AEGIS, more PATRIOT, and, perhaps, even one of the two U.S. purchased Iron Dome batteries).

In addition to U.S. weapon systems, other members of the anti-Russian coalition could provide Taiwan with their equivalent anti-air, anti-armor, anti-ship, and anti-missile systems.

Is the US Going ‘All In’ to Support Taiwan?

In summary, Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan could have been a great benefit to show support for this vibrant democratic nation.

As a result of Chinese state media threats to her visit and her cancellation, one hopes that Pelosi, Congress, the Biden administration, and the American people will exceed expectations by helping Taiwan deter the CCP from invading this example of a Chinese-speaking fully democratic country, and gift Taiwan at least $2.5 billion.

One also hopes Pelosi’s cancelled visit doesn’t repeat the world’s complacency when the CCP crushed democratic Hong Kong.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


Follow

Guermantes Lailari is a retired USAF Foreign Area Officer specializing in the Middle East and Europe as well as counterterrorism, irregular warfare, and missile defense. He has studied, worked, and served in the Middle East and North Africa for over 14 years and similarly in Europe for six years. He was a U.S. Air Force Attaché in the Middle East, served in Iraq and holds advanced degrees in International Relations and Strategic Intelligence. He researches authoritarian and totalitarian regimes that threaten democracies. He will be a Taiwan Fellow in Taipei during 2022.