Tensions rise between US and China after Pelosi visit to Taiwan

The trip could upset Washington’s already complicated relationship with Beijing as the two grapple with differences over trade, Ukraine, human rights and more.

WASHINGTON — US-China relations have tumbled after House Speaker Nancy Pelosis’ visit to Taiwan.

Pelosi received an enthusiastic welcome in Taipei and was greeted with strong bipartisan support in Washington, despite concerns from the Biden administration. But her trip has infuriated Beijing and Chinese nationalists and will continue to complicate already strained relations even after she leaves.

RELATED: Pelosi Says US Won’t Abandon Taiwan Amid China Protests

China is already preparing fresh showdowns across the Taiwan Strait to show its claims on the island, which it sees as a breakaway province, are non-negotiable. And as the US moves forward with pro-Taiwan demonstrations, arms sales and diplomatic lobbying, escalating tensions have increased the risk of a military confrontation, whether intentional or not.

And the trip could further upset Washington’s already complicated relationship with Beijing as the two sides grapple with differences over trade, the war in Ukraine, human rights and more.

Faced with China’s response, the Biden administration discouraged Pelosi but did not prevent him from visiting Taiwan. It has taken pains to reassure Beijing that the speaker of the House of Representatives is not a member of the executive branch and her visit does not constitute a change in US “one China” policy.

That was little consolation for Beijing. Pelosi, second only to the US presidency, was no ordinary visitor and was greeted almost like a head of state. Taiwan’s skyline lit up with a welcome message, and she met the island’s biggest names, including the president, senior lawmakers and prominent rights activists.

Chinese officials were furious.

RELATED: China blocks some imports from Taiwan but avoids tech disruptions

“What Pelosi has done is definitely not defending and upholding democracy, but provoking and violating China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said after her departure.

“Pelosi’s dangerous provocation is strictly for personal political capital, which is an absolutely ugly political farce,” Hua said. “China-US relations and regional peace and stability are suffering.”

The timing of the visit may have added to the tension. It came ahead of this year’s Chinese Communist Party Congress, where President Xi Jinping will seek to further consolidate his power by taking a hard line on Taiwan to blunt domestic criticism of COVID-19, the economy and other issues .

US Ambassador Nicholas Burns, called to the State Department to hear China’s complaints, insisted the visit was nothing but routine. “The United States will not escalate and stands ready to work with China to prevent escalation altogether,” Burns said, according to the State Department.

The White House also said Pelosi’s visit did “not change” US stance on China and Taiwan. Spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said the US expected China’s harsh response, although she called it unwarranted.

“We will monitor and we will control what Beijing votes,” she added.

Alarmed by the possibility of a new geostrategic conflict, while the West sides with Ukraine in its resistance to the Russian invasion, the US has drawn allies to its side.

The foreign ministers of the Group of 7 industrialized democracies on Wednesday released a statement essentially urging China – using the initials of its official name the People’s Republic of China – to calm down.

“It is normal and routine for lawmakers from our countries to travel internationally,” the G-7 ministers said. “The PRC’s escalating response risks increasing tensions and destabilizing the region. We call on the PRC not to use force unilaterally to change the status quo in the region and to resolve cross-strait differences through peaceful means.”

Yet this status quo – long dubbed “strategic ambiguity” for the US and silent but determined Chinese opposition to any pipe dream of Taiwan independence – seems no longer tenable on either side.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult for both Beijing and Washington to agree on Taiwan,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, professor emeritus at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Steps are underway in Taipei and in the US Congress to resolve the ambiguity that has defined US relations with Taiwan since the 1970s. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will soon consider legislation that would strengthen ties, require the executive branch to do more to integrate Taiwan into the international system, and take more decisive steps to help the island recover To defend.

The committee’s chairman, Robert Menendez, DN.J., wrote an article in The New York Times criticizing China’s response to Pelosi’s visit.

“The result of Beijing’s rampage should be to strengthen resolve in Taipei, in Washington and across the region,” he said. “There are many strategies to continue to resist Chinese aggression. There is clear bipartisan consensus in Congress on the importance of acting now to provide the kind of support the people of Taiwan desperately need.”

But China appears to be moving forward with moves that could prove escalating, including live-fire military drills planned for this week and a steady increase in fighter jet flights in and near Taiwan’s self-declared air defense zone.

“They will test the Taiwanese and the Americans,” said Cabestan, the Hong Kong professor. He said US military actions in the region, including a naval force led by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, will be critical.

China aggravated a possible confrontation weeks ago by declaring that the Taiwan Strait separating the island from the mainland is not international waters. The US refused and responded by sending more ships through. Cabestan said this showed that “something had to be done on the US side to draw red lines to prevent the Chinese from going too far”.

Meanwhile, Taiwan is on edge, bomb shelters are being prepared and the government is stepping up training for recruits completing their four-month required military service — widely considered insufficient — along with annual two-week refresher courses for reservists.

“The Chinese believe that if the United States does not act, it will continue to cut the salami to take gradual action to support Taiwan’s independence,” said Bonnie Glaser, China expert in the German Marshall Fund’s Asia program.

She said US support for Taiwan actually gives China an added incentive to take a strong stance: “China feels pressured to do more to signal that this is an issue on which China will not compromise.” can.”

Despite the immediate concerns of escalation and possible miscalculation, there are others who do not believe the damage to US-China relations will be more enduring than the damage caused by other non-Taiwan-related issues.

China will “make a huge fuss and there will be military exercises and there will be embargoes on importing goods from Taiwan. And after the shouting is over, you will see a gradual easing,” said June Teufel Dreyer, an expert on Chinese politics at the University of Miami.

“The situation will never go back to normal, whatever is normal, but it will definitely subside,” she said.

AP writers Zeke Miller in Washington, Joe McDonald in Beijing, and David Rising in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, contributed to this report. Tensions rise between US and China after Pelosi visit to Taiwan

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