Backed by the protective cover of the US military, Pelosi flew out of Taipei after a visit that shook global geopolitics, even as China threatened repercussions and took steps to punish Taiwan in what the Taiwan Defense Ministry compared to a “maritime and air blockade.” ‘.
“Our talks with the Taiwanese leadership reaffirm our support for our partner and advance our shared interests, including promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region. America’s solidarity with Taiwan’s 23 million people is more important today than ever as the world is faced with a choice between autocracy and democracy,” tweeted Pelosi, the first female speaker in US history, before leaving Taiwan in a poke at authoritarian China and his claims that Taiwan is not a separate country, but one of its provinces.
In a separate tweet, the Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, herself the country’s first female president and a nationalist, shared photos of her meeting with Pelosi, saying: “It was a pleasure to work with [Speaker Pelosi] & recognize its longstanding support for Taiwan.
“Your visit not only reflects the US Congress’ strong support for bilateral ties — it also sends a message to the world that democracies stand together against common challenges,” Tsai wrote.
Pelosi’s controversial visit put a big question mark on the strategic ambiguity that Washington has long put into practice: one that balances a one-China policy while promising to support the defense of Taiwan – codified in the Taiwan Defense Act – if Beijing tries to force it.
Pelosi, the 82-year-old grandmother of nine and mother of five, effectively ignored President Biden’s advice not to go through with her layover even as Beijing became confused, calling US Ambassador to China Nick Burns in the midst of the up at night to register his protest.
Washington tried to soften Pelosi’s sting by telling Beijing not to create a crisis because there was precedent for a Speaker of the House, not to mention many US lawmakers who have visited Taiwan over the years. But then Speaker Newt Gingrich’s journey took place in 1997, 25 years ago, when the world looked different: China was a puny Asian power and the US was high in a unipolar post-Cold War world.
Pelosi brought a different gender angle to China’s freakout during her visit, pointing out in a joint appearance with Tsai that “they (Beijing) said nothing when the men came” US Senators Lindsey Graham, Bob Menendez, Richard Burr, Ben Sasse , Rob Portman and Ronny Jackson visited Taiwan in April this year.
But Pelosi is different. Her visit is a culmination of her years of activism on the Chinese front that annoyed Beijing, including her close relationship with the Dalai Lama, whom she sought out during a visit to India in 2008 when she visited Dharamsala.
As a legislator and Speaker of the House, she has congratulated the Tibetan leader several times, including working with actor Richard Gere and Uma Thurman to raise awareness of the Tibet issue. Her San Francisco legislative district is 32 percent Asian (44 percent white), with many Chinese dissidents and Taiwanese/Tibetan nationalists.
Going back further, she infuriated Beijing very early in her legislative career in 1991 when she unveiled a pro-democracy flag during a congressional delegation visit to China at the place it tried to crush it: Tienanmen Square. The Chinese police pushed her out of there, but stance against communist China grew to such an extent that it even questioned Bill Clinton’s trade reach and accommodation, which some analysts now say caused America’s industrial decline.
Such is the realization and regret of that moment and all that followed, that despite the current bitter and divisive politics in Washington, Republican leader Mitch McConnell and 25 GOP senators released a joint statement on Tuesday praising Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.