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Nancy Pelosi takes a noble stand, but she extinguishes the fiery breath of the Chinese dragon

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Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, is a woman of principle.

Her visit to Taiwan is fully consistent with the admirable attitude she has shown towards the Chinese government since it massacred thousands of its own protesting civilians in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Pelosi has been a Cassandra figure on Capitol Hill for decades, warning of the threat from Beijing but being ignored by the Washington establishment — just as Winston Churchill’s warning about the danger of Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s only became too late in the 1930s. followed.

Pelosi questioned the consensus that as its economy grew, China would fold into Western institutions and behave like us. It does not have. It will not. And she was right.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, is a woman of principle, writes Mark Almond. Pictured: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is greeted by Taiwanese Secretary of State Joseph Wu

Chilling images shared on the Chinese social network Weibo appear to show amphibious tanks on the coast of Fujian along the Taiwan Strait

Chilling images shared on the Chinese social network Weibo appear to show amphibious tanks on the coast of Fujian along the Taiwan Strait

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi posed for photos after arriving in Taipei, Taiwan.  She became the most senior U.S. official visited in 25 years

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi posed for photos after arriving in Taipei, Taiwan. She became the most senior U.S. official visited in 25 years

But by visiting Taiwan – officially part of the People’s Republic of China but in reality an independent democracy for more than 30 years – Pelosi inundates the fiery breath of the Chinese dragon with gasoline.

I wonder how grateful the residents of the Taiwanese capital Taipei would be for its principles if their city resembles the center of Kharkov?

Her visit is dangerously provocative to the Chinese for whom having a Chinese-speaking democracy just 100 miles from the mainland is unacceptable.

And with so much military hardware in the South China Sea region, the potential that one spark could ignite the tinderbox of war is alarming to say the least.

There are times in history when one event defines an era. The shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 unleashed World War I, while the torpedo of the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin, a few hundred miles south of Taiwan, in 1964 lifted the curtain on the horrors of the Vietnam War.

Taiwanese Secretary of State Joseph Wu greets Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi

Taiwanese Secretary of State Joseph Wu greets Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi, right, is greeted by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu upon arrival in Taipei, Taiwan

Nancy Pelosi, right, is greeted by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu upon arrival in Taipei, Taiwan

Could history judge in the same vein a totally unnecessary visit to Taiwan by an American House Speaker, now in his 80s? History is important here.

There are those who see Pelosi’s pit stop to the disputed island (part of her tour of East Asian countries) as a show of strength, a saber to rattle across the Taiwan Strait as the increasing number of naval vessels crash into the island to the south. from China ports.

Exactly the same show of solidarity was lacking in the run-up to the war in Ukraine. So, the thinking goes, if the West had only stood up to Moscow more and put its arm more protectively around Kiev early on, Russia would never have felt encouraged enough to invade. However, I agree with the late historian AJP Taylor when he warned that we like to avoid mistakes of the past by making new ones.

Beijing certainly took the bait. The Chinese government warned of repercussions if Pelosi continued her journey, saying her military would “never sit still.”

The distinction that she acts independently of President Joe Biden – who has to watch events through his fingers – will be lost to most communist apparatchiks. During a visit to Japan in May, Biden made it clear that the US would be willing to defend Taiwan if it were attacked.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks with Taiwanese Secretary of State Joseph Wu on arrival in Taipei, Taiwan

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks with Taiwanese Secretary of State Joseph Wu on arrival in Taipei, Taiwan

In recent days, Chinese warplanes buzzed around the median line separating the two countries in the Taiwan Strait.

Several of his warships have also sailed provocatively close to the unofficial line. A video was released yesterday that reportedly shows amphibious tanks lined up on the beaches on the coast of Fujian opposite the island.

But it’s hard to gauge how serious Beijing’s rhetoric is. President Xi Jinping is beset by domestic headwinds, not least by the state of the economy, hampered as it has been by his zero-covid policy.

From April to July, the epicenter of world trade in the country, Shanghai, a port city of 24 million inhabitants, has been closed.

Workers have been unable to get into factories, which, in an economy built around manufacturing, has paralyzed exports. So anything that diverts attention from his failing Covid restraints will be warmly embraced by Xi. Yes, he may be playing in front of the public gallery, but make no mistake, the bleachers are fervently nationalistic and will pick up any display of power against the West.

Police officers line up outside the Grand Hyatt hotel as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan

Police officers line up outside the Grand Hyatt hotel as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan

And Nancy Pelosi is a particularly incendiary figure in China. She was expelled from the country in 1991 for having rolled out a banner in Tiananmen Square in memory of those who had been shot there two years earlier.

Now she is third in line for the US presidency. If anything happened to Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris, she would be given the keys to the Oval Office as president. A figure of her seniority has not visited Taiwan since Republican Chairman Newt Gingrich in 1997.

At that time, China could only blow hot air. It wanted to join the World Trade Organization and then needed President Bill Clinton’s approval.

China has been a member since 2001 and is now in a much stronger position. Today, it also has a powerful ally in Moscow, which was embroiled in Boris Yeltsin’s economic chaos 25 years ago when Gringrich was in Taipei.

The war in Ukraine is also a clear difference. President Vladimir Putin is slowly degrading the military arsenal of the West. For example, the advanced American-made HIMARS missile systems have been pouring into the Donbas lately. The Pentagon hoped that each set of nuclear warheads would last the Ukrainians for a month, but they burn through it in two to three days.

Let's pray those sirens never really sound, because then the core fuse will burn well and good - and I'm afraid Nancy Pelosi has been holding the lighter, writes Mark Almond.  Pictured: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is greeted by Taiwanese Secretary of State Joseph Wu

Let’s pray those sirens never really sound, because then the core fuse will burn well and good – and I’m afraid Nancy Pelosi has been holding the lighter, writes Mark Almond. Pictured: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is greeted by Taiwanese Secretary of State Joseph Wu

Could the West Really Fight in the South China Sea? Britain would certainly deploy one of its aircraft carriers to support the US and Japanese navies as a deterrent. But would they open fire on a nuclear-armed country? We don’t have that yet. Would the West want the Taiwanese to do that with weapons donated by us? America’s condition for supplying missile systems to Ukraine was that, after all, they were not fired at Russia.

Xi could use Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for blocking Taiwan. And while much has been made about the global hunger impact of Ukrainian grain holed up in the ports of the Black Sea, a sudden decline in Taiwan-made electrical semiconductors, which are used in everything from telephones to computers, could West hurt much more.

Xi may feel bold enough to attack even the smaller islands of Taiwan close to China’s coast, most recently done under Mao. Or, barring a very tricky amphibious invasion, its missiles could bombard the main island, turning high-rises and shopping centers into rubble, just as Russia has done in Ukraine.

I wrote in these pages last week about the mournful wails of air raid sirens clearing the streets in northern Taiwanese cities as part of the Taipei government’s then mass defense exercise.

Let’s pray those sirens never really sound, because then the core fuse will burn well – and I’m afraid Nancy Pelosi has been holding the lighter.

Mark Almond is the Director of the Crisis Research Institute, Oxford

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