After Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, stability in Asia has become more dangerous

Expressions of support and mutual admiration were broadcast live and went out non-stop.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reaffirmed her support for Taiwan, declaring Wednesday that the US determination to preserve democracy on the self-governing island remains “iron-coated.” Grateful Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen then presented San Francisco Democrat with the turquoise sash and the Meritorious Clouds Medal of Honor in honor of Pelosi’s contribution to US-Taiwan relations.

But while those ties may have strengthened during a visit lasting less than 24 hours, the biggest consequences of Pelosi’s trip are expected to unfold in the coming days, weeks, and even months, analysts say, as China reacts harshly to what it sees as an insult. its sovereignty over Taiwan. The result is likely to be increased instability in Asia – home to more than a third of the world’s population – and greater challenges for the United States.

Beijing began implementing punitive measures even before Pelosi left for South Korea on Wednesday, adding hundreds of products, including fruit and fish, to a list of Taiwan’s banned exports to China to intensify economic pressure on the island of 23 million people, which It represents the mainland as its largest trading partner. Taiwanese government websites were also hit by a series of cyber attacks while Pelosi was in Taipei.

On Thursday, China is scheduled to start an unprecedented four-day military exercises in the waters surrounding Taiwan. The live-fire exercises, which will involve naval assets and missile tests, are expected to paralyze one of the world’s most important commercial waterways and normally congested air traffic.

While experts say China has no intention of starting a war at the moment, the risk of miscalculation leading to a false confrontation with nearby US or Taiwanese military units is uncomfortably high. On Wednesday, the Taiwan Defense Ministry said China’s plans amounted to an embargo, and violated Taiwan’s sovereignty and international laws. In addition, US allies such as Japan and South Korea are increasingly concerned about China’s willingness to demonstrate its military might.

Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan public policy think tank, said Pelosi’s visit had done irreparable damage to already strained relations between Washington and Beijing.

“We all know how bad this relationship has been in the past year,” Glaser told reporters on Tuesday. “This visit by Nancy Pelosi will take it to a new level. I think it will be very difficult to recover from that.”

Pelosi’s visit – which was aimed at promoting democracy in Asia – threatened to tip the delicate balance that governs US and Chinese dealings with Taiwan. China claims the island as part of its territory, although Taiwan is ruled by a democratically elected government that considers itself politically and culturally separate from Beijing. The United States recognizes but does not support China’s position, and maintains informal relations with Taiwan.

With the United States and China arguing over everything from tariffs to technology, Taiwan is likely to be the most contentious point of contention between the two countries, which experts consider most likely to lead to a military conflict.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has staked some of his credibility on the idea of ​​union with Taiwan, by force if necessary, and has little incentive to soften his position. His hard-line style helped put him on the brink of securing a historic third five-year term as president.

“He has benefited a lot from behaving in this way. It only reinforces this behavior in the future,” Alfred Wu, professor of Chinese politics at the National University of Singapore, said. “There is no reason to reverse course.”

Likewise, Pelosi’s visit and China’s aggressive response to it may have bolstered support for Taiwanese leader Tsai’s administration and pushed more voters to her Democratic Progressive Party ahead of local elections in November. In a sign of how political support for China has dissipated, even China’s friendliest opposition KMT said it welcomed Pelosi’s visit on Tuesday.

“The Tsai administration and prosecutors would see Pelosi’s visit as a foreign policy success, and that she was able to strengthen her relationship with the United States,” said Brian Hugh, founding editor of Taiwanese media New Plum.

The greater electoral success of Tsai’s coalition, known as the Green Camp, will further fuel Beijing at a time when it is already convinced that Washington is leading Taiwan toward independence with visits from high-ranking officials like Pelosi.

The United States does not agree and says that it remains committed to the long-standing “one China” policy. US officials have repeatedly said they support the status quo.

One of the main concerns for China is that Pelosi’s stop in Taiwan will encourage high-ranking officials from other countries to visit as well, bolstering diplomatic support for an island that Beijing has been working hard to isolate.

The Guardian reported this week that Britain’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee is planning its own trip to Taiwan to show its support later this year. According to the British newspaper, the Chinese ambassador to the UK opposed this possibility, warning of “serious consequences” and not to “dance to the tunes of the United States.”

“House Speaker Pelosi is opening the door more broadly to Taiwan,” said Fang Yuqin, an assistant professor of political science at Suzhou University in Taiwan. “I think there will be more high-level visits to Taiwan in the coming years.”

Another consequence of Beijing’s strong reaction to Pelosi’s visit is a rethinking of security policy for China’s neighbors.

The United States has already strengthened defense ties with countries such as Japan, South Korea and Australia in response to China’s growing power, but this could extend to other countries if Taiwan’s situation becomes more volatile. On Wednesday, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles announced a strategic review of his country’s military, spurred by rising geopolitical risks and China’s military build-up.

said Colin Koh, a research fellow at the Singapore Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies.

Given its proximity to Taiwan, Japan has tried to deepen security ties with the island, sending a delegation there last month that included former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba.

On Wednesday, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno expressed concern about the planned Chinese military exercises, which could serve as a rehearsal for a blockade extending into Japanese and South Korean waters.

These concerns failed to dissipate the excitement of some Taiwanese about Pelosi’s brief presence among them. A bakery in Taiwan’s Changhua County has drawn attention for adding free egg yolk pastries to box orders for every hour Pelosi stayed on the island.

As Pelosi was preparing to leave, she shook hands and posed for photos with Taiwanese officials, US representatives and airport workers on the tarmac before her 6 p.m. flight to South Korea. With a few final waves, she and the rest of her delegation disappeared in the plane, leaving Taiwan in greater danger than when it arrived.

Pearson reports from Singapore and Yang from Taipei.

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