Jacques deLisle, Stephen A. Cozen Professor of Law, Professor of Political Science, and Director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China, recently published an opinion piece about U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent controversial visit to Taiwan at Taiwan Insight.
The following is an excerpt from “Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit: More Symptom than Cause of the Trouble in U.S.-China Relations”:
The August 2022 visit to Taiwan by United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been characterized as “reckless” and even risking war or, at least, a dangerous military incident between the US and China. On the other hand, Pelosi’s trip has been celebrated for standing up to Chinese bullying or even a political victory born of an unforced error by Xi Jinping’s overreaching. Such dire or triumphalist views risk overlooking the broader and deeper meanings of Pelosi’s brief sojourn in Taipei: It is more a symptom than a cause of a deeply troubled and increasingly troubling US-China relationship; its most significant consequences are likely more complex and indirect.
Pelosi’s trip need not have been such a big deal. Despite the raft of congressional legislation in recent years asserting and calling for stronger US support for Taiwan and the oft-cited centrality of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in US cross-Strait policy, the leader of one chamber of Congress does not—in the US’s de facto separation of powers—determine American foreign policy. Moreover, Pelosi’s substantive message did not stray far from Biden administration policy. She cited the importance of the TRA, Taiwan’s place on the friendly side of a sharpening global rivalry between autocracy and democracy, and the solidity of US support for Taiwan. The Speaker arguably came close to calling for superseding strategic ambiguity with strategic clarity concerning the circumstances under which the US would—and would not—come to Taiwan’s rescue. But President Biden himself has fed doubts about the continuing vitality of strategic ambiguity through only-partly-walked-back statements about US commitments and obligations to defend Taiwan. Also far from novel or shocking was Pelosi’s push for a bilateral US-Taiwan trade pact and her critique of China’s human rights record–underscored by her visit to Taiwan’s human rights museum and amplified by her decades-long record of seeking to sanction China for human rights abuses.
But much of that is largely beside the point in assessing the significance of Pelosi’s brief stop in Taiwan… .
DeLisle’s research and teaching focus on contemporary Chinese law and politics, including: legal reform and its relationship to economic reform and political change in China, the international status of Taiwan and cross-Strait relations, China’s engagement with the international order, legal and political issues in Hong Kong under Chinese rule, and U.S.-China relations.