A portrait of the speaker of the US House Speaker who does not take orders from anyone, since the election to Congress in 1991 and who has precedents with China.
Washington’s official line is that Nancy Pelosi has every right to visit Taiwan and the trip does not change the US policy of supporting the One China policy.
But the decision of the “pasionaria” speaker, who went to Tiananmen Square in 1991 to unroll a banner against Beijing’s repression, angered the White House and embarrassed Joe Biden. For days, administration officials tried to dissuade Pelosi. In vain. The Pentagon detailed its staff about the risks of the trip in several super-secret briefings, with no results.
The US president publicly discouraged the Democrat by revealing two weeks ago that the mission on the island at this time was not a good idea for the American generals. But the 82-year-old House Speaker, who is said to aspire to become US ambassador to Italy, does not get orders.
“Our delegation’s visit to Taiwan honours America’s unwavering commitment to supporting vibrant Taiwanese democracy,” Pelosi tweeted as she landed at Taipei airport. In an editorial published in the ‘Washington Post’, she attacked China for its suppression of dissents not only on the island but also in Hong Kong, inviting the world to choose between “democracy and autocracy”.
Already in 2019, the Speaker had sided with the anti-Beijing protests in the former British colony. Since the protest on Chinese soil in 1991, Pelosi has never been shy in attacking China’s policies in various areas dear to her such as gay marriage or cyber security.
Activist at heart, the California Democrat has beenone of the most determined criticisms of Donald Trump, whose speech on the State of the Union in 2020 has been ripped before the cameras and for which he has evoked the impeachment on more than one occasion.
A fervent Catholic, she has recently sided in favour of the right to abortion and against the Supreme Court, accusing the top judges of being subservient to the Republicans.
Among the reasons for her mission to Taiwan there is also a component of political ambition. Accompanied by a delegation of parliamentarians, Pelosi is aware that anti-Chinese sentiment is one of the few bipartisan issues and having set foot on the island increases her influence on Capitol Hill.
Of course, now she will have to contend with Biden’s disappointment, embarrassed by a controversial move that comes a few days after his telephone conversation with Chinese leader Xi Jinping who had relaunched relations between the two super powers.
Not to mention the White House’s concern over the risk of military escalation off the island in the next 48/72 hours.
The administration has assured that its job is to ensure the safety of Pelosi and her delegation, but no one in Washington wants a direct confrontation with the Chinese forces. Pentagon sources have confirmed that four US warships – the USS Ronald Reagan, the missile cruiser USS Antietam, the destroyer USS Higgins and one more – have moved into the area for what are officially referred to as “routine military operations” with the risk that the situation could precipitate rapidly.