The visit of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan was not only a game between the US and China, but a wrestling match between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. It has affected Taiwan’s political parties as election season approaches.
The scale of the impact depends on how well Pelosi and the US government perform, and on the attitudes of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese government.
However, as the two forces confront each other, a conclusion can be drawn: As China keeps threatening Taiwan by pen and sword, the pro-China camp in Taiwan is likely to lose more of its market.
Battles for November’s local elections began last month, when parties selected their nominees. No matter how many accusations the blue, green and white camps have made against one another, they might have to readjust their stances following the sensational international event of Pelosi’s visit, reviewing their foreign policies with caution. The visit has become a factor that cannot be ignored as election campaigns progress.
The US has shown Taiwanese that despite the divergence of opinions between the executive and legislative branches, and between the Democratic and Republican parties, once Pelosi proceeded with the visit, unity prevailed — from the White House, the National Security Council and the Department of State to the US military. The US made a thorough demonstration of its strength in the region.
Before Pelosi’s visit, China warned that if Taipei let her plane land, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army would launch live-fire military exercises crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait in a repeat performance of previous cross-strait crises.
Actions speak louder than words, and China’s Liaoning and Shandong aircraft carriers have been conducting such exercises. The world knows to take the threat seriously.
Meanwhile, following its ban on Taiwanese pineapple and grouper imports, the Chinese General Administration of Customs suspended food imports from more than 100 Taiwanese brands a matter of hours after Pelosi landed in Taiwan.
By comparison, Washington is pointing its sword at China while Beijing only dares to bully Taiwan. With an image as bad as it has, how can China expect Taiwan’s pro-unification camp to gain strength?
Pelosi received a warm welcome from not only President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), but also Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫), along with leaders of other parties. When Pelosi gave a speech at the Legislative Yuan, lawmakers from the ruling and opposition camps were present.
This speaks to Taiwan’s political reality. No matter how great the internal contradictions might be, they are not greater than the external struggle between Taiwan and the Chinese Communist Party.
Pelosi’s method was tactful and sophisticated. During her visit, she spoke firmly about upholding freedom and human rights. She expressed care for Taiwanese, Chinese dissidents and Hong Kongers in an effort to respond to the “red line” of Chinese nationalism. Pelosi presented Taiwan as a model for international democracy.
After “Pelosi fever” abates, Taiwanese life is sure to resume as normal, and the local election campaigns would continue.
However, the visit should cause a qualitative change in the campaigns. If China fails to understand such effects and does not revise its Taiwan policy accordingly, the change is certain to expand, snowballing into the biggest factor in November’s elections.
Tzou Jiing-wen is editor-in-chief of the Liberty Times (the sister newspaper of the Taipei Times).
Translated by Eddy Chang
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