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Pelosi's anti-China efforts lead nowhere

By Grenville Cross | China Daily | Updated: 2022-08-17 07:32
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The Taipei 101 skyscraper commands the urban landscape in Taipei, Taiwan. [Photo/Xinhua]

When the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan on Aug 2, she claimed it was "an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan". Although US President Joe Biden had said, before her trip, that the Pentagon considered the visit to be "not a good idea", he nonetheless facilitated her trip, and Pelosi, who craves attention, insisted on going, to the delight of her host, Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen.

Pelosi, however, sought to pay lip service to diplomatic niceties, trotting out the mantra that the US supports "the status quo", pretending that her trip "in no way contradicts" the one-China principle.

Nobody, however, who is familiar with Pelosi's record will have been fooled by her weasel words, and Tsai milked the event for all it was worth. Clearly emboldened by Pelosi's presence, Tsai said that "we will firmly uphold our nation's sovereignty and continue to hold the line of defense for democracy". Tsai saw Pelosi's visit as a fillip for everybody who favors "Taiwan independence".

Although Pelosi knew she had stirred up a hornet's nest, she wound up the trip by accusing Beijing of "saber rattling".

The ramifications of Pelosi's visit have been far graver for everybody concerned than mere saber rattling. Beijing has sanctioned Pelosi, suspended various cooperation measures with the United States, and taken military exercises around the Chinese island. Tsai, of course, is not pleased. But she bears full responsibility for all this, as she red-carpeted Pelosi despite knowing full well there would be consequences. She would, moreover, have been familiar with Pelosi's long record of interference in China's internal affairs, including her endorsements of separatist activity.

On Sept 19, 2019, for example, Pelosi met with Joshua Wong Chi-fung at the US Capitol, despite knowing his political agenda. Wong was then the so-called secretary general of "Demosisto", a political grouping, since disbanded, which advocated "democratic self-determination" for Hong Kong, a euphemism for outright autonomy. As he was closely involved in the social disturbances which then engulfed Hong Kong, he and his supporters would have been buoyed by Pelosi's show of support.

This was, however, by no means Pelosi's only affront. On May 27, 2020, Pelosi spoke in the House of Representatives in support of the "Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act", saying that she had appointed an exiled Uygur, Nury Turkel, whom she called "a human rights champion", to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. This was revelatory, as Turkel, who is lionized in anti-China circles, has served as adviser to past and present presidents of the "World Uyghur Congress", established in 2004.

The WUC calls itself "the sole legitimate organization of the Uyghur people", and, as Pelosi must have known, it says it wants the Uygur people "to determine their political future", meaning its policy is akin to that once advocated by Joshua Wong for Hong Kong.

On June 22, 2022, Pelosi participated in the"8th World Parliamentarians' Convention on Tibet", in Washington, organized by the "Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile". Once again, Pelosi flaunted her anti-China proclivities imagining this could undermine China. Having announced that Congressman Jim McGovern, its chairman, would be discussing Tibet at the next day's meeting of the "Congressional-Executive Commission on China", Pelosi called for the "self-determination" of the Tibetan people.

Sure enough, at the CECC's meeting on June 23, McGovern, who has spent much of his career maligning China, threw down the gauntlet to Beijing. In words calculated to cause maximum offense, he said Tibet's "true representatives" were "the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile", which was not surprising.

McGovern's previous provocations include his call for the Beijing Olympic Games to be moved elsewhere, his efforts to frustrate the import of Chinese goods to the US, and his allegations of "genocide" in Xinjiang, which indicate why Pelosi is so keen to make common cause with the CECC.

Anti-China views permeating US politics

While Pelosi, whether directly or indirectly, was encouraging separatist movements in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions, her congressional colleagues have been mounting their own parallel campaigns, aimed at weakening China. The most notorious of them is probably Congressman Scott Perry, who chairs the House Freedom Caucus, said to be the most extreme bloc of the House Republican Conference.

On May 22, 2020, Perry introduced in the Congress the "Hong Kong Freedom Act", which authorized "the President of the United States to recognize Hong Kong as a separate, independent country". Thereafter, on May 27, he introduced an identical bill in relation to Tibet, urging the recognition of the "Tibet Autonomous Region as a separate, independent country". Although neither bill has progressed, they demonstrate the lengths to which the anti-China forces are prepared to go to frustrate the rise of modern China.

Indeed, before Pelosi left for Asia, Perry and his congressional colleague, Tom Tiffany, wrote a joint letter to her with an extraordinary request. They urged her, before departing, to convene a special meeting of the House of Representatives, so that a vote could be held on a resolution to end what they called the "outdated and nonsensical One-China Policy and normalize the US-Taiwan ties". In other words, they wanted the US to establish diplomatic relations with Taipei, regardless of the devastating impact that would have on Sino-US relations and regional stability.

Perry and Tiffany cannot be dismissed as a couple of cranks, and their views have now permeated the US' body politic. On March 4, 2022, for example, during his visit to Taiwan, former US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who is reportedly considering running for the White House in 2024, announced, via Facebook, that Taiwan should be offered "America's diplomatic recognition as a free and sovereign country".

His view was then endorsed, on March 27, 2022, by William Stanton, who served under former US president Barack Obama as director of the American Institute in Taiwan and asserted that "the US should certainly stand with Taiwan, express our view that it is a sovereign country, and help defend it if it comes to that".

In a fascinating aside, Stanton also revealed that, while he was the AIT director from 2009 to 2012, Taiwan officials routinely referred to him as "ambassador", which shows how the present Taiwan administration viewed his office and position. Stanton also said that the AIT "functions like an embassy in every way but titles and section names". Which means the AIT, far from simply representing US interests on the island, is being increasingly seen as a bridgehead by those wishing to hollow out the one-China principle.

Moreover, when previous US president Donald Trump's former defense secretary, Mark Esper, visited Taipei on July 18, he, too, chose to up the ante. After meeting Tsai Ingwen, he said the US should "move away" from its long-standing policy of strategic ambiguity over Taiwan, adding that "it is my personal view that the (US) One-China Policy has outlived its usefulness; that it is time to move away from strategic ambiguity".

Although Esper's remarks were not endorsed by the White House, there is more than enough reason for Beijing to critically view all visits by US (or European) politicians to Taiwan, given that many of them are openly sympathetic to "Taiwan independence" forces. For such visits are no longer simply irritants, and they must now be taken far more seriously than they were, for example, 25 years ago, when Pelosi's predecessor, Newt Gingrich, visited Taipei.

The sad reality is that the US can no longer be trusted to uphold the one-China policy, and visits by its senior officials to the island must now be seen as inimical to the country's territorial integrity, with commensurate responses being inevitable.

By any yardstick, Pelosi's visit was an abject failure, as was obvious to even the US' allies in the Western Pacific region. Apart from diminishing Tsai yet further, it aggravated tensions across the Taiwan Straits, poisoned Sino-US relations, and triggered counter-measures, clearly a disastrous litany.

Although Pelosi enjoyed the grandstanding as much as she relished Tsai's obsequiousness, she departed empty-handed (apart from the medal Tsai gave her), leaving mayhem in her wake. The world, moreover, now has Pelosi's measure, and everybody can see she is not, as she imagined, a principled statesman, but a selfish ideologue, bent on mischief-making.

The author is a senior counsel and law professor, and was previously the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Hong Kong SAR. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

If you have a specific expertise, or would like to share your thought about our stories, then send us your writings at opinion@chinadaily.com.cn, and comment@chinadaily.com.cn.

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