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Pelosi Meets With Taiwan’s President: Live Updates

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After weeks of silence ahead of a high-stakes visit to Taiwan, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was anything but understated on Wednesday during a day of high-profile meetings, in which she offered support for Taiwan and irked China.

In a pair of morning meetings that were partly broadcast online, Ms. Pelosi met with Taiwanese lawmakers and then with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, to whom she offered assurances of United States support despite threats from China.

“Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,” Ms. Pelosi said. “America’s determination to preserve democracy here in Taiwan and around the world remains ironclad.”

The meetings, though light on substance, were widely welcomed in Taiwan as a symbolic victory. Ms. Pelosi’s trip made her the highest-ranking active member of the United States government to visit the island in 25 years and offered a rare moment of international support for the self-ruled democratic island, which China has worked relentlessly to isolate.

They also presented an affront to China. Ms. Pelosi, who headed to South Korea late Wednesday afternoon, also met with human rights leaders in Taiwan and toured a human rights museum. It was in keeping with her long history of poking China in the eye. She also brought economic assurances, calling a trade deal between Taiwan and the United States hopefully imminent and holding a cordial meeting with the chairman of the Taiwan chip giant T.S.M.C.

The trip took place against the backdrop of increasingly heated warnings from China, which claims Taiwan as its territory. Beijing condemned the speaker’s visit in strong terms, responding with plans for military exercises near Taiwan. It may also damage a push by the White House to shore up support against China from key allies in the region who analysts say have felt sidelined by the trip.

On Wednesday, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, told a regular news conference in Beijing that more punishments for the United States and Taiwan would follow from Ms. Pelosi’s visit.

“As for the specific countermeasures, what I can tell you is that they’ll include everything that should be included,” Ms. Hua said, according to People’s Daily. “The measures in question will be firm, vigorous and effective, and the U.S. side and Taiwan independence forces will continue feeling them.”

Yet as Ms. Pelosi toured Taipei, the capital, at times an almost carnival atmosphere followed. Hundreds turned out to watch her plane land, Taipei’s tallest building was illuminated with welcome messages, and protesters and supporters greeted her at her hotel, and then on Wednesday followed her to the legislature and at a human rights museum. Many cheered and held up supportive banners, while others denounced her for stirring up tensions with China.

When Ms. Pelosi arrived at Taiwan’s legislature with a police escort, a group offering support on one side of the building held up banners welcoming her. A gathering of pro-China demonstrators on the other held up signs calling her an “arsonist” and accusing her of interfering in China’s internal affairs.

A mood that was often celebratory in Taiwan was far more menacing across the strait separating China from Taiwan with the real potential for a military showdown.

China’s military has planned a series of live-fire drills, starting on Thursday, that would mark a direct challenge to what Taiwan defines as its coastline. Coordinates for the drills indicated that they could take place as close as 10 miles from Taiwan’s coast, well within the area that Taiwan says is a part of its territorial waters and closer than previous tests during a standoff 26 years ago.

On Taiwanese social media, jubilance sat alongside anxiety over what could be the riskiest military standoff with China in a generation. Some posted pictures of China’s military exercises and expressed concern. Eric Liu, a sales manager at a food company in central Taiwan, said he felt both exhilaration and worry.

“It’s unprecedented for Taiwan and my generation of Taiwanese,” Mr. Liu, 26, said in an interview during Ms. Pelosi’s visit. “I felt quite excited, and also sensed the danger.”

“I believe a war in the Taiwan Strait is inevitable, but I don’t want to see it happen anytime soon,” he added.

Although much attention has been on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the real potential for a military showdown comes now that she has left.

China’s military has said it will conduct a series of live-fire drills beginning on Thursday. A post on Chinese state media offered coordinates for six swaths of sea surrounding Taiwan, three of which overlap with areas that Taiwan says are a part of its territorial waters.

CHINA

Fuzhou

2022 exercise areas

Taipei

Xiamen

Taketomi

TAIWAN

Kaohsiung

Taiwan territorial waters

Taiwan marine border

Exercises will be held in areas less than 10 miles from the Taiwanese coast.

Batanes

50 miles

CHINA

Fuzhou

2022 exercise areas

Taipei

Xiamen

TAIWAN

Kaohsiung

Taiwan territorial waters

Taiwan marine border

Exercises will be held in areas less than 10 miles from the Taiwanese coast.

Batanes

50 miles

CHINA

2022 exercise areas

Fuzhou

Taipei

Xiamen

TAIWAN

Kaohsiung

Taiwan territorial

waters

Exercises will be held in areas less than 10 miles from the Taiwanese coast.

Batanes

75 miles

The drills, assuming that they go forward, would mark a direct challenge to what Taiwan defines as its coastline. They would also strike at the heart of a decades-long disagreement in which China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, a self-ruled island with its own democratically elected government and military.

A New York Times map of the planned drills shows how in some places they will occur within 10 miles of Taiwan’s coast, well past areas that previous live-fire drills have targeted and within areas Taiwan designates as its territorial waters. Two of the regions where China’s military will shoot weapons, likely missiles and artillery, are inside what Taiwan calls its marine border. In total, the five zones surround the island and mark a clear escalation from previous Chinese exercises.

In its warning, China’s military called for all boats and airplanes to avoid the areas it identified for 72 hours. For Taiwan, and the United States military, a key question will be whether they obey the orders or test China’s resolve to carry out the tests by sending boats and planes into those zones.

The standoff is reminiscent of an incident in 1995 and 1996 called the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. Back then, China fired live ammunition and missiles into the waters around Taiwan to signal its anger over a trip by Taiwan’s then-president, Li Teng-hui, to the United States, and to raise pressure before a presidential election. The United States then sent two aircraft carrier groups to the area and sailed one through the Taiwan Strait.

The new live-fire drills will occur in areas closer to the island than those in 1995 and 1996, presenting a conundrum to Taiwan and the United States. If China takes action, they must decide whether to offer a show of force similar to the earlier crisis.

Much has changed since then. China’s military is more powerful and more emboldened under Xi Jinping. This summer, Chinese officials also strongly asserted that no part of the Taiwan Strait could be considered international waters, meaning they might move to intercept and block U.S. warships sailing through the area, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

China has wasted little time in signaling that it is serious. On Wednesday its state broadcaster released images from preparatory drills in the area indicating Chinese forces were in the north, southwest and southeast of Taiwan to practice sea assaults and land strikes, aerial combat and “joint containment.”

Also on Wednesday, Taiwan’s military sought to hold the line, while signaling that it did not wish to escalate the situation. Calling the drills a blockade, it said the exercises had intruded into Taiwan’s territorial waters and endangered international waterways and regional security.

“We resolutely defend national sovereignty and will counter any aggression against national sovereignty,” said Maj. Gen. Sun Li-fang, a spokesman for Taiwan’s defense ministry, in response to the drills.

“We will strengthen our vigilance with a rational attitude which won’t escalate conflicts,” he added.

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Credit…Ritchie B Tongo/EPA, via Shutterstock

TAIPEI, Taiwan — As Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved around Taiwan’s capital with her entourage on Wednesday, taking one meeting after another, the people of Taiwan shadowed her nearly every step of the way.

Many came to support her or to denounce her. Others were just curious. Some cheered with excitement over the American backing for Taiwan that Ms. Pelosi’s visit represented. Others shouted that she was causing unnecessary military tensions with China.

Susan Hung, a retired financial consultant, was part of a crowd of hundreds outside Taiwan’s Legislature, where Ms. Pelosi met with lawmakers in the morning. Ms. Hung had spent hours at the airport on Tuesday night, hoping to “see Pelosi with my own eyes,” and was now trying to catch a glimpse of her again — so far, in vain.

“After all, she is so old and still made the effort to come to Taiwan, so I want to take the time to come and see her,” said Ms. Hung, 58, who added that she was a supporter of the speaker.

Another retiree in the crowd, Li Kai-ti, a former academic, held a homemade banner that called Ms. Pelosi a phony. He accused her of “treating Taiwan as another Ukraine” and “treating the people of Taiwan as cannon fodder.”

“If you are serious about freedom and democracy, why don’t you resume diplomatic relations with Taiwan?” said Mr. Li, 71.

On the other side of the Legislature building, pro-China demonstrators said over loudspeakers that Ms. Pelosi was causing a “Taiwan Strait crisis.” One of their large banners read, “The United States should not interfere in China’s internal affairs,” a line commonly used by Chinese government officials.

Outside President Tsai Ing-wen’s offices, where Ms. Pelosi went next, the scene was calmer, with a heavier security presence. People took photos as the cars bearing Ms. Pelosi’s delegation swept down the empty, wide avenue in front of the historic structure, built more than 100 years ago when Taiwan was a Japanese colony.

Later in the day, Ms. Pelosi went to the National Human Rights Museum, where she was expected to meet with people who had been detained by the Chinese government. Chiu Ta, 91, a retired art history professor who was waiting outside the museum for Ms. Pelosi’s arrival, noted that the venue had been a detention center for political dissidents during Taiwan’s long years of martial law.

“This human rights museum is a representation and a record of the past dictatorship that oppresses human rights,” he said, adding that many political prisoners had gone on to become government officials after Taiwan became a democracy.

“Those persecuted by the Communist Party are Taiwan’s friends,” he said.

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Credit…Sam Yeh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

America’s allies in Asia reacted to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan with a mixture of caution and criticism.

In Australia, the foreign minister, Penny Wong, urged “all parties” to de-escalate tensions and appeared to signal that China and the United States should try to calm things down. Implicit in her statement was that the real show — a demonstration of China’s military muscle — could start after the speaker’s departure. China has pledged to launch military exercises closer than ever to Taiwan, a worrying prospect for the United States and Asia broadly.

“We should continue with others in the region to urge the maintenance of peace and stability in the region and, in particular, across the Taiwan Strait,” Ms. Wong said.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, said Wednesday that his nation had concerns about China’s military exercises encroaching on its exclusive economic zone and called for “a peaceful resolution of the cross-straits problem.”

Singapore, which grants port access to the American Navy, had welcomed Ms. Pelosi on Monday on the first leg of her Asian tour. In the city-state’s Straits Times newspaper, which generally reflects the government’s views, an article on Wednesday described Ms. Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan as “showmanship.”

Other nations proffered a more pointed critique of the visit — and reinforced their support for China.

North Korea called the trip “imprudent interference” and said it was “arousing serious concern of the international community,” according to Yonhap, the South Korean news agency. Myanmar’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply concerned” about Ms. Pelosi’s visit, saying that the trip was “causing escalation of tensions on the Taiwan Strait.” And Thailand’s foreign ministry said it was “closely following developments regarding the situation in the Taiwan Strait with much concern.”

Ben Dooley and Sui-Lee Wee contributed reporting.

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Credit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

With few exceptions, Beijing’s irate response to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan found support among Chinese people online on Wednesday. The question for many seemed to be whether Beijing’s military exercises around Taiwan starting on Thursday would send a strong enough a warning.

After a summer overshadowed by economic woes and the grinding toll of beating back Covid-19 outbreaks, Chinese social media was dominated by talk of Ms. Pelosi and the Chinese government’s claims that her visit violated the United States’ commitments to limit high-level contacts with Taiwan. Many also wondered whether it would embolden Taiwanese people seeking formal independence for their island. Biden administration officials have said Ms. Pelosi’s visit is not the first of its kind and does not mean a shift in policy over China and Taiwan.

“Pelosi has inaugurated a great era that naturally belongs to us,” said one widely shared comment on Weibo, a social media service that, like Twitter, allows users to share and comment on posts. “We will take this opportunity to carry out sea and air patrols around Taiwan without any hindrance so they steadily become normalized, and unification will draw closer and closer.”

Chinese social media has come under stricter censorship and government guidance, meaning that users’ comments are no unalloyed reflection of public opinion. Even so, the goal of absorbing Taiwan into China is widely shared by many Chinese people, and the online mood reflected support for Beijing’s combative position.

“The Liberation Army is clearly training in fully blockading the island Taiwan,” said one of the most popular hashtags on Weibo, referring to China’s People’s Liberation Army.

Despite the nationalist surge, some voices called for calm and a sober understanding of the risks of war. After the state broadcaster, China Central Television, shared a story on Weibo about the Korean War, when a company of Chinese soldiers fought back over 30 attacks in 14 days and nights, leaving 53 of 56 of them dead, many users cheered. A few took exception.

“All the war propaganda, all the clamor, lies and hatred, comes from those who never go to the battlefield,” said one comment left below the report on Weibo.

Others found some humor, despite the tensions. One jest shared by many said that the geopolitical strife seemed like a relief after China’s run of bad economic news, including protests over frozen bank accounts and mortgage payment strikes by buyers waiting for unfinished homes.

“In a flash, everyone has stopped caring about bank accounts, mortgage strikes, abandoned building sites and the leaks of private data,” it said. “Pelosi has cured everyone’s internal mental exhaustion.”

Claire Fu, Zixu Wang and Li You contributed research.

The New York Times

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Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan, Beijing added economic measures to its series of retaliatory moves, suspending exports of natural sand to the island and stopping imports from Taiwan of certain types of fruit and fish.

The bans are a vivid reminder for people in Taiwan that doing business with China, the island’s largest trading partner, can be risky during times of high geopolitical tension. Over the years, Beijing has occasionally put pressure on the island’s economy by restricting access to China’s vast consumer market. Previous bans have targeted Taiwanese pineapples, wax apples and grouper fish, among other products.

China’s commerce ministry said on Wednesday that it had suspended natural sand exports to Taiwan, starting immediately. It gave no specific reason, saying in a brief statement only that it had done so “in accordance with relevant laws and regulations.”

Around the same time, the General Administration of Customs immediately suspended the import of citrus fruit, along with frozen horse mackerel and chilled white striped hairtail. The agency said those products had been found to contain pests and pesticides on multiple occasions and that some seafood packaging had been contaminated with the coronavirus.

Over the years, Taiwan has tried to diversify its commercial relationships with China, Syaru Shirley Lin, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in an analysis last year. Yet while Taiwanese investments in China gradually declined, the island’s trade with China continued to grow. Its economic dependence on China continued through the early part of the pandemic, in part because the Chinese economy was doing well.

“Although they may resist, young Taiwanese looking for work may find China to be one of their best options, and Taiwanese exporters will likely remain tied to China,” Ms. Lin wrote.

Taiwan has sometimes been able to blunt the impact of China’s economic bans. After the one on imported Taiwanese pineapples came into effect last year, restaurants raced to introduce menus featuring pineapple-centered culinary creations, and Taiwanese politicians posted photos of themselves eating “freedom pineapples” on social media.

But some bans have caused lingering economic pain. The one on Taiwanese grouper, in particular, dealt a huge blow to a lucrative industry that had been sending 91 percent of its exports to China.

Chiao Chun, an economic analyst and a former trade negotiator for the Taiwanese government, said the fruit and fish bans would probably not have a major effect on the economy. Taiwan’s citrus exports to China account for 1.1 percent of its exported agriculture products, according to Taiwan’s Agriculture Council.

“The political message is greater than the economic hit,” Mr. Chiao said.

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Credit…An Rong Xu for The New York Times

A hundred miles of typhoon-swept sea from China’s southeastern coast, a string of colossal factories in Taiwan churns out the most important electronic devices on Earth.

The tiny, intricate chips that give life to phones, computers, cars, satellites and almost everything else with a power source are at the center of the economic contest between the United States and China, a rivalry that is shaping the future of technology worldwide.

The issue loomed in the backdrop of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island democracy on Wednesday, as she spoke with the head of one of the biggest power players in chips, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

Today’s cutting-edge chips are mostly made in Taiwan, where the two powers are entangled in a geopolitical tug of war over the island’s future. In Washington, Beijing and Taipei, diplomatic and military calculations are interlinked with concerns about the supply chains without which the modern world might come to a halt.

The United States wants to safeguard its leadership in semiconductors, a technology that Americans pioneered in the last century and built into the industry that gave Silicon Valley its name. China desperately wants to catch up, both to help move its economy away from low-end manufacturing and to upgrade its military capabilities.

Tech companies on both sides of the Pacific rely heavily on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the island’s biggest silicon foundry, to craft the high-performance chips that render graphics in video games and give smartphones their smarts. They also guide missiles and analyze oceans of military data. That has turned T.S.M.C., whose name is obscure to most consumers, into a vital strategic asset for both Washington and Beijing.

Taiwanese leaders have maneuvered for decades in the narrow space between American and Chinese interests. Now, they face an even more precarious balancing act.

Many Taiwanese businesses — T.S.M.C. included — rely on China for their livelihoods, even if they support the island’s president in standing up to Beijing’s pugilistic behavior. As T.S.M.C. works on a new Arizona plant, the company is also expanding its facilities in Nanjing, China.

As a way to try to counter China, Congress recently passed a $280 billion bill designed to bolster America’s manufacturing and technological edge, particularly the semiconductor industry. Ms. Pelosi, after meeting with the Taiwanese president on Wednesday, also said that she was hopeful for a trade pact with Taiwan.

Dieter Ernst, a senior fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation who studies the semiconductor industry, said of Taiwan’s leaders, “Right now, they’re moving very much toward the U.S.” But from the perspective of the Taiwanese economy and most Taiwanese companies, he said, “they need to retain a link — and hopefully as close as possible a link — with China.”

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Credit…Mark R Cristino/EPA, via Shutterstock

As Beijing announced an intimidating array of military exercises around Taiwan, the Chinese government also unleashed a volley of statements making clear that its grievances with the United States go beyond Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.

In a coordinated chorus, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, its Ministry of National Defense, the Chinese Communist Party office for Taiwan affairs and the Chinese legislature issued statements calling Ms. Pelosi’s visit a violation of longstanding American commitments to a “one China” policy that downgraded official links with Taiwan. Biden administration officials have said her visit marked no change in its policies.

But the Chinese denunciations ranged well beyond the House speaker’s visit.

They portrayed Ms. Pelosi’s trip as part of a systematic effort by the United States to “use Taiwan to contain China” and sabotage Beijing’s efforts at unification with the island. They also cited U.S. arms sales and its support for the island’s ability to fight an “asymmetrical” war, congressional actions supporting Taiwan and efforts to give Taiwan a footing in some international forums.

“The United States has become the ‘biggest wrecker’ of peace in the Taiwan Strait and of regional stability,” China’s foreign minister said in a statement issued Wednesday about Ms. Pelosi’s visit. “The United States must have no illusions that it can stymie the great cause of China’s unification.”

To stabilize relations, his and other official comments seemed to suggest, the Biden administration would need to do more than just try to distance itself from the Pelosi visit.

“The United States government must shoulder responsibility,” a Chinese deputy foreign minister, Xie Feng, said when he called in the American ambassador in Beijing, Nicholas Burns, to protest the visit, according to Xinhua, China’s main news agency. “For some time, the United States has said one thing and done another, constantly twisting, distorting, voiding and hollowing out the one-China principle.”

The Chinese leadership reinforced that warning in front-page editorials published Wednesday in the People’s Daily — the Communist Party’s main newspaper — and the Liberation Army Daily, the military’s main newspaper. China’s military exercises around Taiwan, the Liberation Army Daily said, were “a stern deterrent aimed at the United States’ major escalation of negative actions on the Taiwan issue.”

The statements from Senior Col. Wu Qian, a spokesman for China’s defense ministry, and from the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Command, which covers Taiwan, suggested that Ms. Pelosi’s act was a crisis in the making.

“China has multiple times spelled out the grave consequences of visiting Taiwan,” Colonel Wu said. “But Pelosi knowingly violated this and maliciously provoked and created a crisis.”

The Chinese word used in the official statements for “visit” — cuanfang connotes a sneaky or illicit encounter, not an aboveboard meeting.

Claire Fu contributed research.

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Credit…Annabelle Chih/Getty Images

Taiwan, an island of 23 million people 80 miles off the coast of China, has long been a point of tension between Washington and Beijing. Now, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit, those tensions have risen at a new high.

Ms. Pelosi is the highest-level American official to go to Taiwan since 1997, when Newt Gingrich, then the House speaker, made a contentious visit. After she landed on Tuesday night, a chorus of official Chinese bodies portrayed her trip as part of an American effort to sabotage China’s efforts at unification with Taiwan.

China claims the self-ruled island as its territory and has vowed to take it back by force if necessary. On Wednesday, its state broadcaster released images indicating that Chinese forces were in position around Taiwan for planned exercises this week that would include sea assaults, land strikes and aerial combat.

Here is a look at the issues around Taiwan and Ms. Pelosi’s visit.

Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader in generations, has made it clearer than any of his predecessors that he sees unifying Taiwan with China to be a primary goal of his rule — and a key to what he calls China’s “national rejuvenation” as a modern, unified superpower.

Taiwan figured in Mr. Xi’s early political career. In 1996, a year that tensions flared Taiwan Strait, he became the top political officer of a People’s Liberation Army reserve antiaircraft division in Fujian Province, which faces the island from across the Taiwan Strait.

His growing interest in unification also reflects a domestic political calculus. Mr. Xi is expected to be confirmed to an unprecedented third term as leader at a Communist Party congress in the fall. Before that meeting, Mr. Xi will be keen to project an image of strength at home and abroad, particularly on the question of Taiwan.

China’s incursions into airspace and waters near Taiwan have become more aggressive in the past several years, heightening the risk of conflict.

In June, Beijing raised the stakes when the foreign ministry declared that China had jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait and that it could not be considered an international waterway. And in the past year, Chinese military planes have increasingly probed the airspace near Taiwan, prompting the Taiwanese military to scramble fighter jets.

Beijing ratcheted up the pressure during Ms. Pelosi’s visit. China’s military announced live-fire drills, beginning on Thursday, some of them in parts of sea that appear to infringe on areas that Taiwan says are in its territorial waters. Although the announcement appeared to be intended as a projection of strength, analysts warned that an accidental encounter could spiral out of control.

Taiwan has never been part of the People’s Republic of China. For decades, its population lived under martial law imposed by a U.S.-backed regime led by Chiang Kai-shek, who had fled China after being overthrown by Mao Zedong’s Communist revolution of 1949. China and the United States twice came close to going to war over Taiwan in the 1950s.

That Cold War tension mostly subsided in the 1980s and 1990s as Taiwan democratized and China opened up its economy. But it flared again in 1995 and 1996, when China objected to a visit by President Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan to Cornell University, his alma mater.

China fired missiles near Taiwan’s main island as a warning to Mr. Lee, and again as Taiwan prepared for its first open presidential election. The crisis ended only when President Bill Clinton ordered aircraft carriers to opposite ends of the Taiwan Strait.

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Credit…Pool photo by Mark Schiefelbein

After China announced military exercises in six sea zones close to Taiwan, the island’s defense ministry said it had no doubt what message Beijing wanted to send: “that they seek a cross-strait resolution by force instead of peaceful means.”

But could China take Taiwan by force if it wanted to?

Under China’s leader, Xi Jinping, the People’s Liberation Army has upgraded to the point where a campaign to seize Taiwan seems increasingly plausible. Yet even experts and officials who monitor China’s military for a living disagree over how ready those forces are to invade Taiwan and how inclined Mr. Xi would be to take the momentous gamble, especially after Russia’s troubled war in Ukraine.

“When people talk about whether or not China can or cannot do it, they’re actually talking about something different, the level of operational cost — the loss of ships, casualties — that China would have to pay to do it,” said Oriana Skylar Mastro, a fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies who has argued that American policymakers may underestimate China’s readiness to use force.

“They could do it,” she added. “It’s just that given Taiwan’s defenses and given if the United States is able to come to Taiwan’s aid, how much of a blood battle is this going to be?”

Legislation passed by Congress in 1979 paves the way for American forces to step in if China tries to invade Taiwan, but it does not oblige a president to take that step.

One key question is how close the People’s Liberation Army is to mastering the capabilities needed to dispatch tens of thousands of troops to Taiwan, by sea or air; establish a foothold on the island; and push outward to seize vital sites like ports, railways and communication hubs, as well as cities crowded with potential insurgents.

The Pentagon’s 2021 annual report on the People’s Republic of China — widely read as an authoritative assessment — noted that it had built up the world’s biggest navy as measured by the number of vessels, but said that “an attempt to invade Taiwan would likely strain PRC’s armed forces and invite international intervention.”

Even if Chinese forces made it to shore on Taiwan, the difficulties of urban warfare “make an amphibious invasion of Taiwan a significant political and military risk for Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party,” the Pentagon report said.

Several studies recently issued by the U.S. Naval War College also indicated that China probably still falls short of some equipment and skills needed to make a Taiwan invasion credible. China’s amphibious force “lacks the capacity to execute a large-scale assault on Taiwan,” Dennis J. Blasko, a retired lieutenant colonel, wrote in one of the studies.

Few doubt that China’s military has been improving its war-fighting skills. But Taiwan is also building up defenses.

On Monday, the 95th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, the official Liberation Army Daily stressed Mr. Xi’s goal of achieving key parts of military modernization by 2027. Last year, Adm. Phil Davidson, then poised to retire as commander of United States Indo-Pacific Command, sparked debate by telling a Senate committee that China could move to seize Taiwan before then.

“There are different assessments,” said Ms. Mastro, who is also a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, “but what matters is whether China thinks they can do it, not whether we think they can do it.”

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Credit…Pool photo by Eddie Shih

There is precedent for a House speaker visiting Taiwan and stirring up geopolitical tension: Newt Gingrich did just that in 1997.

That year, Mr. Gingrich, a Republican from Georgia who served as speaker from 1995 to 1999, made Taiwan the last stop of a trip that also included visits to China, Japan and South Korea.

His trip to Taipei, the Taiwanese capital, lasted just three hours. But it still drew criticism from Beijing.

During the visit, Mr. Gingrich met with President Lee Teng-hui and made a speech at the American Institute in Taiwan, an unofficial United States embassy. In the speech, he exceeded the State Department’s formulations at the time about American security commitments to the island.

“It is important to be explicit with both the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan that should Beijing seek to reunify Taiwan with the mainland by force or intimidation, the United States will use all means necessary to prevent it,” Mr. Gingrich.

Mr. Gingrich had also spoken with rare bluntness for an American official about Taiwan during his trip to China a few days earlier, saying at one point that he thought Chinese leaders were “more aware now that we would defend Taiwan if it were militarily attacked.”

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman at the time, Shen Guofang, declined to criticize Mr. Gingrich during his trip or immediately after he left. A Clinton administration official in Washington said Mr. Gingrich had been “speaking for himself.”

But after the speech in Taiwan, Mr. Shen publicly accused Mr. Gingrich of making “improper” statements and urged the United States to speak with one voice on foreign policy.

Mr. Gingrich told Fox News this week that the choreography of his 1997 trip to Taiwan was the result of a compromise between the Clinton administration and the Chinese government. Beijing had resisted his plan to visit the island directly after China, he said, so officials in Washington and Beijing “worked out a deal” in which he would first travel from China to Japan before heading to Taiwan.

“That was that,” he said. “They backed down.”

The anecdote could not be independently verified.

Mr. Gingrich also said in the interview, which took place before Ms. Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday night, that he hoped she would not abandon her plans to visit. “You have to stand up the Chinese communists or they will interpret it as a sign of weakness, and they’ll grow even more aggressive,” he said.

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Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, met with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, and was presented with an award for outstanding contributions to Taiwan.CreditCredit…Taiwan Presidential Office, via Reuters

Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen, owes her presidency to her pledge to preserve the island’s sovereignty. Her meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday, and Beijing’s response to the visit, are highlighting the complexity of that task.

The meeting between the two leaders, which was streamed live online, seemed designed to maximize publicity and reinforce the relationship.

Ms. Pelosi called Taiwan “among the freest societies in the world.” She said the congressional delegation had traveled to Taiwan “to make unequivocally clear we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan and we are proud of our enduring friendship.”

Ms. Tsai called Ms. Pelosi “Taiwan’s most devoted friend.” She said the speaker had demonstrated “long-term support for Taiwan’s international participation,” a reference to jockeying between China and other countries to isolate Taiwan from international institutions.

At the event, Ms. Pelosi was presented with an award, the Order of Propitious Clouds, given to Taiwanese and foreigners who have made outstanding contributions to Taiwan. Upon receiving the award, Ms. Pelosi said, to laughs, that she would wear it around her office in Washington.

Taiwan, to which Chiang Kai-shek’s forces retreated after the Communist revolution of 1949, has never been part of the People’s Republic of China. These days, it has a distinct identity that makes any voluntary unification with China seem unlikely, even if Beijing treats it as having illegitimately broken away from its rule.

Ms. Tsai, the first woman to govern Taiwan, came to power in 2016, after eight years in which her predecessor pushed for closer relations with China. The election pivoted largely on economic issues, including concerns about growing economic ties with the Chinese mainland.

In Ms. Tsai’s first term, one of her main projects was trying to revive the island’s military at a time when China’s People’s Liberation Army was undergoing a huge upgrade. But she struggled to impose a new strategic vision on the island’s military leadership.

By 2019, her party had lost key local elections, imperiling her chances of winning a second term. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, gave her a political gift that year by warning that Taiwan “must be and will be” united with China — and that independence efforts there could be met with armed force.

In response, Ms. Tsai departed from her usual cautious ambiguity, saying that Mr. Xi’s remarks were “impossible to accept” and calling for domestic and international support of Taiwan’s de facto independence.

She won re-election in 2020, reversing her fortunes by portraying herself as a defender of the island’s democracy and sovereignty — and tapping into local concerns over China’s rising authoritarianism.

Ms. Tsai’s profile rose further after the 2020 election, bolstered in part by Taiwan’s early success in containing the coronavirus. And she continued to refuse the condition China had set for improved relations: acceptance of Mr. Xi’s view that the island is an inexorable part of a greater Chinese nation under the Communist Party.

Ms. Tsai kept quiet in the days before Ms. Pelosi’s arrival. But political advisers close to her said they welcomed visits from U.S. officials, and her meticulous planning for Ms. Pelosi’s visit even earned some plaudits from members of the opposition Kuomintang.

“They did not make a statement to the outside world, trying not to antagonize the other side, and had done their best to make the situation in the Taiwan Strait not too tense,” said Alexander Huang, the Kuomintang’s head of international affairs.

Amy Chang Chien and John Liu contributed reporting.

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Credit…Xinhua, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As Beijing cranks up threats over Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, memories are returning of the last time the island seemed close to all-out conflict: the monthslong crisis of 1995-96, when China became locked in disputes with Taiwan and the United States that culminated in Beijing’s firing missiles as close as 30 miles off the island.

“Throughout the whole crisis, it always felt as if it could explode at any time,” Chang Jung-feng, who was an adviser to Taiwan’s president at that time, said in an interview.

That strife, like the tensions this week, centered on China’s accusations that the United States was betraying its “one China” policy, which acknowledges — but does not endorse — Beijing’s claim over Taiwan.

Chinese leaders had became increasingly suspicious that Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan’s president from 1988, was hostile to unification and seeking to edge Taiwan toward independence. Mr. Lee was Taiwan’s first president to be born on the island — his predecessors were born in mainland China — and deepening democratization under him had allowed political parties calling for independence to grow.

The tensions erupted when the Clinton administration, bowing to pressure from Congress, gave Mr. Lee a visa to visit the United States and attend a reunion at Cornell University, where he had studied agricultural economics.

Since Washington shifted diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, the United States had generally restricted visits by senior Taiwanese officials. Mr. Lee, looking to win Taiwan’s first direct democratic election for president, used his trip to the United States in June 1995 to speak proudly of the “Taiwan experience” and castigate China’s Communist rulers.

China’s leader, Jiang Zemin, responded by holding missile tests about 85 miles north of Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, and directing scornful commentaries at Mr. Lee. The menacing language and military displays continued into 1996, in large part driven by Beijing’s efforts to push Taiwanese voters away from Mr. Lee and his Nationalist Party. The threats seemed to have some success in late 1995, when an unexpectedly high number of votes in Taiwan’s legislative elections went to a party supporting unification with Beijing.

China’s military provocations ramped up again ahead of Taiwan’s presidential election in March 1996, and the United States pressed Mr. Jiang to cool tensions. But China announced more missile tests that month about 30 miles from Kaohsiung and Keelung, two of Taiwan’s port cities. The People’s Liberation Army also staged huge, seemingly made-for-television military exercises on the Chinese coast opposite Taiwan.

The Clinton administration responded by sending two aircraft carrier battle groups toward Taiwan. This time, China’s tactics backfired. Mr. Lee won with 54 percent of the vote, and the crisis began to wane.

Mr. Chang said he had been out of government too long to feel confident about predicting China’s reaction to Ms. Pelosi’s visit. He took one guess: “I don’t think it will dare use forces against the United States, but it will want to punish Taiwan.”

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Credit…Chris Assaf/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The decision by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan, prompting an international uproar, was her latest clash with China in a more than three-decade career of challenging the government on human rights and other issues. And it was another example of the most powerful woman in Washington not shying away from a fight if she considers it worthy.

Though her refusal to abandon the trip in the face of Chinese threats and Biden administration fretting struck some as reckless, her visit was in keeping with Ms. Pelosi’s long-expressed view that China must be held to account for its posture toward Tibet and Hong Kong, as well as its treatment of the Uyghurs and the imprisonment of political activists.

It was also characteristic of the California Democrat whose job puts her third in line to the presidency. She has rarely shrunk from public threats from her adversaries, and has sometimes gone out of her way to remind them of the stiffness of her spine.

Since the administrations of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Ms. Pelosi has insisted that the economic benefits of a U.S. relationship with China could not be allowed to overshadow its human rights record or deter strong criticism from national leaders.

“If we do not speak out for human rights in China because of economic concerns, then we lose the moral authority to talk about human rights in any other place in the world,” Ms. Pelosi said last year, marking the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

She has regularly pushed legislation on behalf of Hong Kong and Tibet, hosted the Dalai Lama and called for a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics in Beijing.

In an opinion piece published Tuesday in The Washington Post, Ms. Pelosi reminded readers of her trip to Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, when she provoked the Chinese and drew a police response when she and two other members of Congress unfurled a banner. “To those who died for democracy in China,” the banner read.

“Since then,” Ms. Pelosi wrote, “Beijing’s abysmal human rights record and disregard for the rule of law continue, as President Xi Jinping tightens his grip on power.”

Allies note that Ms. Pelosi’s position on China is undergirded not just by the Asian constituency in her San Francisco district but also by her long service on the House Intelligence Committee, including a stint as chairwoman.

Given her history on China, her decision to follow through on her trip despite reservations from the Biden White House and condemnation from China did not surprise her fellow lawmakers.

It also drew strong support from Republicans — normally her harshest critics — who said she had no choice but to proceed after the Chinese government threatened retaliation should she arrive in Taipei.

“I believe she has every right to go and it’s been unseemly and counterproductive for President Biden and his aides to have publicly sought to deter her from doing so,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, said on Tuesday. “I welcome the speaker’s display for democracy. ”

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Credit…Eric Risberg/Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Shopkeepers, landlords and restaurant workers in America’s oldest and largest Chinatown reacted with a mixture of anger and apprehension on Tuesday to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit.

The Covid pandemic brought the hillside neighborhood in San Francisco to its knees, and only in recent months has the area seen something of a rebound. Now, some say they fear that the trip by Ms. Pelosi, their representative in Congress, could inflame anti-Chinese sentiment and trigger attacks on Asian Americans.

“At this moment we don’t want to create any more negative feelings against the Chinese,” said Melvin Lee, a property developer and community leader. “That’s the main concern.”

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Credit…Thomas Fuller

A spate of stabbings, robberies and fatal attacks against Asian Americans in the city over the past two years created waves of fear that still grip the community. Grocery stores, restaurants and shops that were once open late into the night now close at 5 or 6 p.m. Social gatherings that once convened in the evenings now take place in the afternoons.

“People are scared to be out,” said Henry Chen, owner of AA Bakery, which has locations around the city. One of his shops on the edge of Chinatown stayed open until 11 p.m. before the pandemic. It now closes at 5.

“I don’t want my employees to be out too late,” Mr. Chen said. “They take the bus home and you never know what could happen.”

Stephen Chan, the owner of a jewelry store in Chinatown that specializes in jade, said he had been robbed 10 times over the past three years, usually by someone who came into the store and grabbed low-value items. He called Ms. Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan “pointless” and compared it to President Trump’s description of the coronavirus as the Chinese virus. In both cases, he said, “Americans were pouring oil over the fire.”

Across Chinatown on Tuesday, Chinese flags fluttered above the rooftops, often alongside the American flag. Only a few buildings flew Taiwan’s flag, and the headquarters of the main Taiwanese association in Chinatown, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, was closed.

Across the street at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, a politically powerful umbrella organization of Chinese organizations in the city, Wing Ho Lau, the executive secretary, said he was not ready to draw a link between Ms. Pelosi’s visit and the prospect of further violence against Asian Americans in San Francisco. But he said there was little doubt where local sympathies lay on the question of Ms. Pelosi’s trip.

“In the 1970s it was 2 percent support for China and 98 percent for Taiwan,” he said. “Now it’s the other way around.”

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