Travel in the Face of Threats

Late Tuesday evening, local time, US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan (also known as the Republic of China) despite multiple warnings from the government in mainland China against the visit. Before her trip, the Chinese said they would shoot down her plane if it entered their airspace. That’s a severe warning…a threat to the United States of America. Murdering the Speaker of the US House of Representatives would be considered an act of war.

A significant reason for the heated Chinese response is that Mrs. Pelosi is second in line for the US presidency. She has been the most senior US official to visit the nation since Newt Gingrich’s visit in 1997.


Pelosi on the ground in Taiwan. Image Credit:

After landing at Songshan Airport a little before 11:00 PM, the Speaker was greeted by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and staff members from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). AIT functions as the de facto US embassy in Taipei.

A Little History

Taiwan is a self-governing democracy, home to over 23 million people. The Chinese Communist Party claims the island as its territory, despite never having governed it. A visit from a high-ranking US official such as Pelosi infuriates the Chinese government, which views it as support for Taiwanese independence. For years the Communist Chinese have tried hard to isolate the island diplomatically.

China takes all such matters extremely seriously, with President Xi Jinping threatening to incorporate the island nation into the “motherland” by force if necessary. It doesn’t take a massive leap of the imagination or a degree in International Affairs to make see an analogy between these kinds of statements and what is happening on the ground in Ukraine right now.

Mainland China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls the visit “a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-U.S. joint communiqués” and that “China firmly opposes and sternly condemns this, and has made serious démarche and strong protest to the United States.” I’ll admit, after reading that, I had to look up the word “démarche.” It’s not the kind of language you hear every day. At least I don’t.

At any rate, it refers to a diplomatic line of action or countermove. I take this to mean they are formally telling us they are pissed off about the visit. After all, they did threaten to shoot down her plane. That’s not the kind of talk that can be brushed off lightly.