Opinion | Pelosi was right to visit Taiwan



Taiwan welcomed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) this week by lighting up the island democracy’s tallest building with the words: “Thank you.” It is a sentiment that should be echoed by every freedom-loving American.

I disagree with Pelosi on almost everything, but she has long been a leader for the cause of freedom in China. In the 1990s, when I worked on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Clinton administration wanted to give Communist China permanent “most favored nation” trade status, which would pave the way for China’s admission into the World Trade Organization. My boss at the time, committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) — one of the most conservative members of the Senate — teamed up with Pelosi to fight it.

Even though she was opposing the president of her own party, Pelosi did not mince words. “President [Clinton] is even saying that China is moving toward becoming a thriving democracy,” Pelosi thundered in 1998. “Yet, he ignores the continued pattern of repression … by the Chinese government.” She also accused President Clinton of seeking “special trade status for a nation that proliferates weapons of mass destruction, maintains trade barriers that bar U.S. products from its market, and continues to arrest, detain, exile or harass those who peacefully express their political or religious beliefs.”

Nancy Pelosi: Why I’m leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan

Clinton won that battle. But history has proven Pelosi right. Our policy of economic engagement with China has been a catastrophic failure. U.S. investment has not helped China become a “thriving democracy.” To the contrary, it has become even more despotic and repressive. U.S. investment has enriched China, giving Beijing the resources to build a massive military arsenal with which to challenge U.S. hegemony in the Pacific. Worse, many U.S. corporations doing business in China effectively act as foreign agents of the Chinese Communist regime, lobbying Congress on its behalf. Iconic American companies such as Apple, Coca-Cola and Nike lobbied against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act — legislation that Pelosi shepherded through Congress — which bans imported goods made with labor by enslaved people. If China invades Taiwan, and the United States tries to impose the same kinds of sanctions on Beijing that we have imposed on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, you can bet U.S. corporations will be fighting those sanctions on China’s behalf.

While Red China becomes more totalitarian, another Chinese society has become a thriving democracy — the Republic of China on Taiwan. And China’s belligerence against Taiwan is growing. In October, China flew a record number of fighters and bombers into Taiwan’s air defense zone — the largest Chinese air force incursion ever against Taiwan. In January, as Vladimir Putin massed forces along Ukraine’s border, China made another major incursion into Taiwanese territory. In May, Beijing did it again. Chinese dictator Xi Jinping has warned that he will not allow the issue of Taiwan reunification with mainland China “to be passed down from one generation to the next.”

The Post’s View: The damage from Pelosi’s unwise Taiwan visit must be contained

Josh Rogin

counterpointThe real crisis over Taiwan will start after Pelosi comes home

This is why Pelosi’s trip was so important. President Biden has projected weakness on Taiwan. After declaring that the United States would defend Taiwan if Communist China invades, Biden sheepishly backtracked, saying there had been no change in our policy of “strategic ambiguity.” Then, after news of Pelosi’s plans leaked, Biden publicly wrung his hands, musing about how the Pentagon opposed her trip. Sorry, in America the generals don’t get to tell our elected leaders where and when they can travel.

Biden’s public confirmation of Pelosi’s plans gave Beijing the opportunity to test our resolve. The Chinese foreign ministry warned that “[t]hose who play with fire will perish by it.” A commentator and former editor in chief of a Chinese state newspaper, Global Times, was even more explicit, threatening that China could “shoot down Pelosi’s plane.” If the speaker had backed down in the face of these threats, it would have signaled weakness.

Marc Thiessen: Biden’s flip-flop on defending Taiwan makes America look weak

Instead, by defying Biden, the Pentagon and China’s dictator, Pelosi sent a sorely needed message of strength on the world stage. The first visit to Taiwan by a U.S. House speaker in 25 years lays down an important marker: China cannot bully the speaker of the House, and it cannot bully the United States.

At the start of her congressional career, Pelosi went to Beijing and unfurled a democracy banner in Tiananmen Square, where the Chinese Communist Party had recently massacred thousands of civilians demanding their freedom. Now, in the twilight of her career, she has once again defied Beijing and stood with the free people of Taiwan — sending a clear message that the United States will not allow China to crush their freedom as well.



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