Delegation heads to Asia

July 31, 2022
A plane flies into the sunset.

Island Hopping?

Why a trip by the U.S. House speaker has both Washington and Beijing on edge.

The Details:

  • This Weekend: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) embarked on a trip to Asia "to reaffirm America’s unshakeable commitment to our allies & friends in the region."

  • Who's With Her: A congressional delegation that includes several Democratic lawmakers.

  • Where Will They Go: Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

  • Reports: Speaker Pelosi may *also* attempt a stop in Taiwan.

  • Reminder: The House speaker is 3rd in line for the presidency.

Why It Matters:

Context: Taiwan considers itself independent, but China considers it part of mainland China.

Symbolism: If Speaker Pelosi travels to Taiwan, she'll be the highest-ranking American lawmaker to visit in 25 years — a move seen as a nod by the U.S. towards affirming Taiwan's independence (and against China).

Timing: The trip by Speaker Pelosi comes shortly after a virtual meeting b/t Pres. Biden and China's Pres. Xi, who appeared to warn a visit would be provocative.

Backstory:

  • Communist China emerged after a civil war. As the communist party rose to power, nationalist challengers set up a government on the island of Taiwan.

  • Since the late 1970s, the U.S. has publicly supported a "One China Policy" and has official diplomatic relations with China — but not with Taiwan.

  • However, the U.S. *has* given aid and weapons to Taiwan.

  • Most countries (& the United Nations) do not recognize Taiwan as a separate nation.

Something to Consider:

  • Pelosi has long advocated against China's human rights abuses. As a new lawmaker in 1991, she joined a group of veteran lawmakers traveling to China to mark the anniversary of the "Tiananmen Square Massacre" (when the communist government killed student protestors advocating for democracy); she was briefly detained for unfurling a banner criticizing the Chinese govt.

  • The last high-ranking lawmaker to visit? Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The U.S. military has relocated a battleship to the South China Sea, which borders Taiwan's waters. Over the weekend, China announced military drills close to Taiwan.

Some have suggested Russia's invasion of Ukraine may motivate China's attempt to "invade" Taiwan and seize more power. Whether that (or Speaker Pelosi's visit) will happen remains TBD.

Speaker Pelosi's Statement: Pelosi to Lead Congressional Delegation to Indo-Pacific Region Speaker Pelosi's statement

Pelosi to Taiwan would be career capstone, despite warnings (Associated Press)

Nancy Pelosi's long history of opposing Beijing (BBC)

What is the 'One China' policy? (BBC)

Good explainer of One China Policy

by Jenna Lee,

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