Pelosi mustn’t let China dictate

By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Posted 8/2/22

I’m not in the habit of saying Nancy Pelosi is right. But if she wants to visit Taiwan this month as part of a congressional delegation to several countries in the Indo-Pacific, she really …

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Pelosi mustn’t let China dictate

Posted

I’m not in the habit of saying Nancy Pelosi is right. But if she wants to visit Taiwan this month as part of a congressional delegation to several countries in the Indo-Pacific, she really ought to go. Canceling the trip now would be a capitulation to tyranny.

Canceling now would mean Congress buckled in the face of Chinese threats and Biden administration wavering. It would establish the principle that Beijing has veto power over the travel plans of senior U.S. officials. And America would be weakened.

Pelosi would be the first House speaker to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich in 1997. The Chinese Communist Party was no happier 25 years ago than they are today. Back then, the People’s Republic said Gingrich’s support of Taiwan was “improper” and “contradictory.” China’s rhetoric has grown harsher as it has grown stronger. Earlier this year, when Pelosi first scheduled a visit in April, a Chinese government spokesman called it a “malicious provocation.” He pledged that China would respond “resolutely.” Then Pelosi got COVID. She had to cancel.

Last month the Financial Times reported that the trip was back on and rescheduled for August. Once more, the jackals in Beijing began to howl. The Chinese propaganda machine spoke forebodingly of consequences for the United States. A former editor of Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party’s version of Pravda, wrote of Pelosi, “If the U.S. can’t restrain her, let China restrain her & punish her.”

Punish her? Any hostile action taken against the speaker of the House of Representatives, no matter her party and no matter the circumstances, would be an act of war. Is China willing, much less prepared, to provoke armed conflict with the United States? If so — and I doubt it — then China is itching for a fight and will ramp up its demands no matter what Pelosi decides.

If the visit does happen, China will respond for sure. But the cost it might impose on U.S.-China relations still will be less than the price of cancellation. Neither China nor the United States is prepared for a major confrontation. Better to take the hit to the relationship now than let [Chinese General Secretary] Xi Jinping dictate Nancy Pelosi’s — or anyone else’s —itinerary.

As usual, President Biden is not helping. Asked about the controversy on July 20, he said, “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now” and “I don’t know what the status of it is.” Thanks for letting the world know what the joint chiefs are telling you, Joe. And what a way to go to bat for a fellow Democrat. Another command performance.

Biden’s mention of his upcoming call with Xi — it took place on July 28 — suggested that he doesn’t want Congress to get in the way of presidential diplomacy. That’s understandable. But once the visit became the object of China’s vitriol, the only sensible response was to close ranks and defend Pelosi’s right to travel where she pleases, when she pleases.

“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” Xi told Biden on Thursday, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. It’s a line Xi has used before. But who is playing with fire here? Pelosi, by following a precedent set by Newt Gingrich a quarter century ago? Or China, by trying to steamroll the speaker of the House?

U.S. foreign policy works best when America acts boldly to create facts on the ground favorable to freedom. Which is why I am about to commit to print words I never thought I’d write: Go, Nancy, go!

Matthew Continetti is a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute (aei.org.) in Washington. A longer version of this article appeared in the Washington Free Beacon.

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