There have been a lot — really a lot — of decisions made by the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that upset, irritated, confused and appalled a lot — really a lot — of people. But going to Taiwan in the face of Chinese communist opposition and opposition from President Joe Biden took courage and it has to be applauded.
So, here goes. Bravo, Nancy!
Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping’s opposition was loud, threatening and totally expected. He insists that the territory of Taiwan belongs to China – he’s less clear on whether the Taiwanese people do – and that foreign governments have to treat Taiwan the way he wants them to. Because he says so.
A lot of countries, actually, do as China demands. Although Taiwan meets all eight of the commonly agreed upon essential qualifications for statehood, it was ousted from the UN and all of its agencies in 1972, and as of 2022, only 13 countries and Vatican City/Holy See recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country. Most are small island countries.
Another 59, including the U.S. and the European Union, maintain “unofficial relations” with Taipei. Almost no countries in Africa have any relations with Taiwan, largely because China insists that they not as a condition for Chinese investments in their countries.
Now, consider Israel.
Another country that meets the eight essential qualifications – and became independent by the same decolonization mechanisms the League of Nations/United Nations used around the world in the 20th Century. But there are those who believe the State of Israel is founded on “Palestinian land” and the Palestinian national movement — under the rubric of “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions,” the BDS movement — is attempting to remove legitimacy and recognition by other countries from the State of Israel.
Recently, Miloon Kothari, head of a UN commission of inquiry looking into alleged Israeli crimes against Palestinians (itself, a farce given Russian behavior in Ukraine and Chinese behavior in Xinjiang), said social media was “controlled largely by the Jewish lobby.”
He added, “I would go as far as to raise the question as why are they even a member of the United Nations, because they don’t respect — the Israeli government does not respect — its own obligations as a UN member state.” In an earlier interview, Kothari said the term “apartheid” was a “useful paradigm/framework to understand the situation but not sufficient.” But useful.
Kothari is in the midst of the “walk back” shuffle.
Biden is familiar with that shuffle, as his position on Taiwan is a series of “walk backs” and obfuscations. On Nov. 16, 2021, he said “Taiwan’s independence is up to Taiwan,” suggesting that he would have no problem with it. On the 17th, he said, “I said, they have to decide – Taiwan not us. We are not encouraging independence.”
But a few months later the president said, not for the first time, that the U.S. military will defend Taiwan from Chinese attack. White House officials later “clarified,” saying Biden only meant the U.S. would provide military equipment to Taiwan, not send troops. That’s not what he said.
As Pelosi came closer to her trip, Biden distanced himself.
“Well, I think that the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now. But I don’t know what the status of it is.” According to other sources, however, Mr. Biden knew the status exactly and spent weeks trying to convince Beijing the trip had nothing to do with his administration.
As the Speaker was getting on the plane (figuratively, she had actually already left) action moved to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, who announced that she had the “right” to travel to Taiwan “and will make her own decision.”
When she arrived, he “warned” China against overreacting and reaffirmed the “One China” policy. “There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit, consistent with longstanding U.S. policy, into some sort of crisis or conflict,” Kirby said, noting that members of Congress had traveled to the island earlier this year.
No big deal, he implied. Yes, in fact it is.
Because what she said in Taiwan matters to the Taiwanese and other democratic friends of the United States. And this is the other reason to applaud Speaker Pelosi.
“Our discussions with Taiwan leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region. America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”
A lot of people in Taiwan, and a lot of people in Israel, are out there saying, “Bravo, Nancy.”