Nancy Pelosi leaves Taiwan after highly controversial visit angers China

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

US House speaker Nancy Pelosi wrapped up her highly-controversial, historic visit to Taiwan on Wednesday amid massive criticism from China.

Ms Pelosi is the first highest-ranking American official in 25 years to visit Taiwan despite strong warnings from China. In fact, China had openly criticised her visit with Chinese state-owned media calling the trip an “opening salvo of war”.

But she had said that she and other members of Congress were visiting Taiwan to show they “will not abandon their commitment” to the self-governing island.

Taiwan is a self-governing democracy of approximately 23 million off the coast of China. It has its own democratic political system, constitution, and military, and many Taiwanese consider the island to be a separate nation to China. But China considers Taiwan a breakaway province that will eventually come under its control — by force if necessary.

Beijing views visits by any foreign government officials as a recognition of Taiwan’s sovereignty.

China has now vowed “consequences” for Ms Pelosi’s visit, and announced military drills in six locations surrounding Taiwan soon after she landed in Taipei on Tuesday night.

An editorial in the state-controlled Global Times said “the stage was set for war” and Ms Pelosi’s visit may have “lit the fuse” as China has “likely lost all faith” in the US’ sincerity on any issue.

“This was the strongest official signal to the PRC to date that the US officially supports Taiwan’s secession from the one-China principle,” the editorial said, adding that this was “the opening salvo of a war” that is of the US’s own making. “Do members of the American public understand the horrors their government is about to inflict on their sons and daughters when they are sent off to fight a wholly inappropriate intervention that the US will lose?”

On Tuesday, China’s PLA Eastern Theatre Command sent advanced warplanes to exercise combat take-off from different airports and conduct missions in different air spaces.

Chinese state TV channel CGTN reported SU-35 fighter jets had crossed into the contested sea between the two countries hours before the House Speaker touched down in Taiwan around 11pm local time on Tuesday.

Demonstrators take part in a protest in Taipei against Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit on 2 August (Getty)
Demonstrators take part in a protest in Taipei against Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit on 2 August (Getty)

Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen responded to Beijing’s intimidation and said Taipei will not back down despite “facing deliberately heightened military threats”.

“We will firmly uphold our nation’s sovereignty and continue to hold the line of defence for democracy.”

Taiwanese officials said the live fire drills violated United Nations rules, invaded Taiwan’s territorial space and were “a direct challenge to free air and sea navigation”.

China also “punished” Taiwan by imposing trade sanctions.

China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner and bilateral trade last year was worth $273bn — accounting for 33 per cent of the island’s total trade.

China blocked imports of citrus and fish from Taiwan but has avoided disrupting the flow of chips and other industrial components. Such a move would disrupt one of the world’s most important technology and manufacturing relationships.

On Wednesday, during a press briefing, a spokesperson for China’s ministry of foreign affairs said that “US and Taiwan separatist forces must take responsibility and pay the price for the mistakes they made”.

Chinese vice-foreign minister Xie Feng “urgently summoned” Nicholas Burns, the American envoy in Beijing to lodge a stern protest against Ms Pelosi’s visit and warned that Washington will “pay a price” for its “mistakes”.

Ms Pelosi met Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei. Ms Tsai thanked the US House speaker for her support of democratic values and said she was committed to working with the US over security in the Taiwan straits and the wider Indo-Pacific region.

“Speaker Pelosi is truly one of Taiwan’s most devoted friends,” Ms Tsai said during a ceremony to confer Ms Pelosi with a medal, the highest civilian award called the “Order of Propitious Clouds with special Grand Cordon”.

The president added: “We are truly grateful to you for making this visit to Taiwan to showcase the US Congress’s staunch support for Taiwan.”

Ms Pelosi, meanwhile, said: “Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy. America’s determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad.”

People walk past a billboard welcoming US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan on 3 August (AP)
People walk past a billboard welcoming US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan on 3 August (AP)

She wrote on her Twitter that the US Congressional delegation reiterated its “ironclad support for Taiwan’s democracy, including on matters of security and stability, economic growth and governance” during her visit.

She also said: “Make no mistake: America remains unwavering in our commitment to the people of Taiwan – now and for decades to come.”

Before Ms Pelosi touched down in Taipei, China had issued a stern statement and said that Beijing opposes any engagement by Taiwanese officials with foreign governments and announced multiple military exercises around the island, parts of which will enter Taiwanese waters.

However, Taiwan senior officials said that these “planned actions” violated the island’s sovereignty.

“Such an act equals to sealing off Taiwan by air and sea, such an act covers our country’s territory and territorial waters, and severely violates our country’s territorial sovereignty,” Captain Jian-chang Yu had said at a briefing by the National Defense Ministry.

Ms Pelosi and five other members of Congress who were in Taiwan are now headed to South Korea, the next stop on an Asia tour that also includes Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.

Additional reporting by agencies

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting