Published: 14:54, July 29, 2022 | Updated: 14:56, July 29, 2022
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Pelosi must abandon provocative plan
By Zhu Songling

That US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is planning a trip to Taiwan next month, according to a Financial Times report on July 19, has grabbed the media's attention again. "Again" because a few months ago some media reports in Japan and Taiwan had said Pelosi might visit the island in April.

However, it appeared that Pelosi (or the Joe Biden administration or the China hawks in Washington) was testing China's response to the news, because she cancelled her earlier plan after China took strong exception to her proposed visit, although she cited the excuse of testing positive for the novel coronavirus to avoid getting into trouble and continue playing her political games.

Beijing is strongly against Pelosi’s visit and is militari-ly prepared to deal with any eventualities. If Pelosi goes ahead with her plan, the US should be ready to bear the consequences of being excessively bold

True to US politicians' nature, Pelosi is still secretive about her plan. As a senior leader in US politics, Pelosi's move, irrespective of whether she visits Taiwan or not, will directly affect Sino-US ties and the situation across the Taiwan Straits.

Pelosi is playing the Taiwan card because the Democratic Party appears to be at a disadvantage in the midterm elections scheduled for November, and the Republican Party has repeatedly accused the Democratic administration of going soft on China. And playing the Taiwan card is the most effective way of showing the administration is acting tough with China.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties are adept at playing the Taiwan card. Congress members from the two parties often take advantage of cross-Straits tensions to garner votes. As leader of the House of Representatives, Pelosi is more likely to attract media attention, prompt a furious reaction from China, and show the Republicans that the Democrats can "take on" Beijing. Perhaps she always knew what China's response would be, but still released information about her proposed trip.

Besides, the US administration believes it can use the speculation over her proposed visit to the island as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Beijing. As inflation in the US has been soaring and its sanctions against Russia have proved almost ineffective, the Joe Biden administration needs China's help to address many issues both at home and abroad. But the administration's arrogance will not allow it to directly ask China for help, and Pelosi believes her proposed visit would push Beijing to the negotiating table and thus save Washington's face.

Whether Pelosi will visit Taiwan or not depends on three factors. To begin with, it depends on whether the leaders of the two countries talk on the phone as scheduled. Shortly after the news of Pelosi's visit was published, Biden said he would call President Xi Jinping over the phone in 10 days. During the expected phone conversation, Biden is likely to raise the Taiwan question and Pelosi's proposed visit to the island.

Second, Pelosi's visit also depends on whether the Democrats can turn the tide against the Republicans in the midterm elections. Pelosi's planned trip implies that the Democrats are currently the underdogs in the midterm elections, and even though the Taiwan question is of little importance to US elections, politicians' remarks on the issue can draw media attention and give Democrats a boost.

And third, the US is likely to continue its zero-sum games. But attempts to force China into a corner do neither country any good. Besides, one of the major tasks for the US government now is to contain inflation, which it can do to a certain extent by lifting the punitive tariffs on Chinese goods which incidentally can also ease Sino-US tensions.

Therefore, it is likely that the Biden administration will let Pelosi play her little games and lower some of the tariffs at the same time. And if Pelosi makes the trip, Biden can excuse himself by saying he has no right to stop the House speaker from visiting the island because of the separation of powers.

If Pelosi's proposed visit to Taiwan is just a trick, it will prompt a spat between Beijing and Washington. But if it is true, it will be the first such visit by a House speaker in 25 years and, more importantly, will be a gross violation of the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques, and pose a serious challenge to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Pelosi's trip to Taiwan, if it takes place, will deal a severe blow to Sino-US ties, further intensify cross-Straits tensions, and elicit a very strong response from Beijing. The Taiwan question is the most sensitive of China's core interests. Beijing is strongly against Pelosi's visit and is militarily prepared to deal with any eventualities. If Pelosi goes ahead with her plan, the US should be ready to bear the consequences of being excessively bold.

The author is a professor at the Institute of Taiwan Studies, Beijing Union University. 

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.