The ‘eccentric, bigoted’ Pelosi does not care about others’ thoughts, but Biden is the key in the 82-year-old’s planned Taiwan trip
Published: Jul 29, 2022 11:10 PM
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Sept. 17, 2020. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua)

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo:Xinhua

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly kicked off her Asia trip on Friday with a "tentative" itinerary for Taiwan island, and Chinese observers said the key to whether Pelosi would actually visit the island lies with the Biden administration, warning US President Joe Biden to make the right choice from the perspective of national security and the fast-shrinking economy that has fallen into recession.

If Pelosi visits the island, it would be a slap in the face to the incapable Biden administration, which will have to face declining credibility and endure  unprecedented and unbearable diplomatic and military consequences, and these consequences are real, especially after the stern warning from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who spoke with Biden on the phone late on Thursday, observers said.

Several US media outlets cited sources who claimed that Pelosi is leading an official congressional delegation to Asia on Friday, with destinations including Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore, and the itinerary listed a Taiwan visit as "tentative."

Pelosi also invited several senior lawmakers to join her on the trip, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks and Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, NBC News reported on Friday. 

Pelosi's Asia trip details were revealed on the same day as the phone call between Xi and Biden, and Chinese observers said Xi has clearly and firmly expressed China's stance on the Taiwan question, and if the US went further, the consequences would be entirely up to the US to bear. 

The will of the people cannot be defied and those who play with fire will perish by it, Xi told Biden, adding that it is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this.

In response to questions about whether the sentence was a direct threat to the US, a senior administration official said he is not going to get into "parsing the various metaphors" that China regularly tends to use on these issues. 

However, Chinese observers said that the US official clearly understood the implication of the sentence but was just dodging the question to "save the face of a great power."

Lü Xiang, an expert on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday that it's the most serious warning from China and that the US had no other words to say in response. China clearly showed its stance in the sentence and the US could definitely get the message. 

But it's more than a simple "metaphor," as the implication was very serious, observers said, noting it indicated that it's the true will of the Chinese people, and there will be extremely severe consequences if the US does not take it seriously. 

Live-fire drills will be held in waters near Pingtan in Fuzhou, East China's Fujian Province on Saturday, Pingtan authorities announced on Friday. Pingtan is only 125 kilometers away from the island of Taiwan.

As to whether Xi and Biden talked about Pelosi's possible visit to Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at Friday's media briefing that "as you all know well, this phone call took place in the context of her planned visit."

On whether senior US officials or Biden himself would speak to Pelosi on the Taiwan question part of the call, a senior US administration official did not answer directly but said "I'm not going to get into the details beyond that on the question of the Speaker's potential travel." 

He added "As we've said previously, it's her decision," according to a White House statement. 

However, Chinese observers believed Biden would talk to Pelosi about the phone call, as they usually keep in close communication on major issues. 

But they doubted how much Pelosi would listen. Pelosi is eccentric and bigoted in doing things, and she does not care about other people's thoughts. Meanwhile, she has a very strong will in making a change in the White House's long-established China policy, especially on the Taiwan question, a Beijing-based expert on international affairs who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Friday. 

As the Democratic Party faces a rout in the midterm elections, the 82-year-old lawmaker is desperate to exploit the tentative Taiwan visit at her final moment of being the House Speaker to narrow the gap with Republicans in the elections and influence the US' Taiwan policy, the expert said. 

But it's not that important whether Pelosi has received the message from the Chinese top leader, as the key to whether Pelosi will visit Taiwan lies in the Biden administration, Lü said. 

"Pelosi's trip would not be possible without the help of the administrative authority," Lü said, noting that the White House's attempt of trying to separate the Biden administration from Pelosi was purely "nonsense."

Pelosi is in the presidential line of succession, thus the administration takes extra care of her security when she travels overseas, the White House said on Tuesday, according to CNN. 

If Biden fails to pressure Pelosi to remove the trip to the island from the itinerary, it will only show that the Biden administration is weak, and it is bullied by Congress on diplomacy and strategic security, the anonymous expert said. 

The international community has been urging Pelosi to not visit the island. Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating has accused Pelosi of inflaming tensions with Beijing and risking a military conflict. 

Zhao said both American and international onlookers with insight into the issue have seen the real danger of Pelosi's visit, and he hoped the US could listen to those rational voices. 

"The tentative itinerary of a Taiwan visit gives Pelosi an out, and I hope she could find an excuse not to visit the island, although ultimately it depends on Biden's resolution," Lü said. 

A more restrained US?

Lü said that if Pelosi did visit Taiwan, it meant that the US was assisting the island to change the status quo of the Taiwan Straits that it had promised, and Biden especially has said that the US "strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits" in his phone call with Xi on Thursday. 

A comparison of the White House statements on talks between Xi and Biden since late 2021 showed that Biden's language has been more restrained, and he has been more careful in not escalating bilateral tensions. 

After the virtual meeting between Xi and Biden in November 2021, the White House's readout showed that Biden smeared China's various policies including those on Xinjiang, Hong Kong and its economic practices, along with its position on Taiwan. 

Then in March's readout, it emphasized that the US continues to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo of the Taiwan Straits. Thursday's readout has slightly changed "continue to oppose" to "strongly oppose."

Lü believed in the coming months, the US is likely to be more restrained in its words  relating to China-US relations. 

The US' second-quarter GDP figure was released on the same day as the Xi-Biden call, and the negative growth confirmed speculation that the US economy had slid into recession, and Biden had to ease tensions with other countries for the benefit of an economic recovery, he said. 

But he warned that China should also be vigilant as sometimes the weaker the US becomes, the more aggressive it gets, to conceal its weakness and fragility.