Pelosi Taiwan visit has China enraged, and citizens like me wary
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Taiwan visit has China threatening retaliation. Taiwanese citizens like me are wary
KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan — My 10th grade social studies class in Palo Alto, California, would often break into groans when our teacher, Ms. Stewart, played the news she’d recorded the previous night. One spring day in 1996, however, video of a U.S. aircraft carrier group heading toward the Taiwan Strait drew hoots and cheers in the classroom. My American classmates knew I was from Taiwan, and there was a genuine feel-good quality to the “cavalry coming to the rescue” of a friend in need.
The carrier group had been ordered by President Bill Clinton because China’s government, angered by a high-profile visit of the then-Taiwanese president, Lee Teng-hui, to the U.S., had fired volley after volley of missiles into the waters off Taiwan — a sovereign state that Beijing claims is part of its territory and demands other countries recognize as such. Clinton’s deployment of the carriers effectively put an end to what became known as the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis.
Taiwan has been relegated to serving as the proving ground for Great Power insecurities.
Today, I am back home in Kaohsiung after a recent trip abroad to Germany, and my feelings were decidedly more mixed than they were almost three decades ago as I watched a TV screen showing another dramatic development in Taiwan: the image of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plane landing in Taipei juxtaposed against the thinly veiled warnings from China’s Communist Party of impending retaliation.
As a university professor in international affairs in Taiwan, I couldn’t have been more excited. The visit is sure to prompt new geopolitical developments for my students to debate. These discussions will examine the fierce response expected from China, as well as whether Pelosi’s visit represents a culmination of pro-Taiwan policies begun in the Trump administration that signal a shift from the current U.S. stance of “ambiguity” in how it would respond to a Chinese attack on Taiwan to one in which the U.S. makes a definitive commitment to defend us.