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Why does Pelosi’s potential trip to Taiwan worry China and… the US?

Hong Kong/Beijing/Taipei (CNN) — US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has resulted in dire warnings from Beijing and growing concern in Washington.

Although the California Democrat has so far declined to publicly confirm the trip, he has invited both Democrats and Republicans to join him.

China slammed the potential visit, vowing to take “resolute and strong measures” if the trip goes ahead. This week, China’s Defense Ministry reiterated the threat, warning: “If the US insists on following its own course, the Chinese military will never be idle.”

US officials worry that a possible visit could be met with a military response from China that could trigger the worst bilateral crisis in decades.

Tensions were in the background A long phone call During Thursday’s meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Xi warned the US not to “play with fire” on the Taiwan issue, although neither side confirmed whether the issues were discussed. Arrangements for pre-call reports of potential travel.

Here’s what you need to know about high-risk visits.

Why is Beijing worried by Pelosi’s possible visit?

China’s ruling Communist Party claims the self-governing democracy of Taiwan as its own territory, although it has never ruled it, and has not ruled out using force to “reunify” the island with mainland China.

For decades, Beijing has sought to isolate Taipei on the world stage, from undermining its diplomatic allies to preventing it from joining international organizations.

China strongly opposes any move that appears to give Taiwan international recognition. From Beijing’s point of view, overseas trips by Taiwanese officials or visits to Taiwan by foreign officials will do just that.

In 1995, then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui’s visit to the United States caused a major crisis across the Taiwan Strait. Angered by the trip, China fired missiles into the waters surrounding Taiwan, and the crisis ended only after the United States sent two carrier battle groups to the area to support Taipei.

In recent years, Taiwan has received visits from US delegations consisting of current and retired officials and legislators. This has prompted angry responses from China, including sending fighter jets into Taiwan’s self-declared air defense identification zone.

But Pelosi’s political stature makes her potential visit to Beijing even more provocative.

“Pelosi is the third-in-line public official after the president and vice president that I think the Chinese take very seriously,” said Susan L., director of the Center for 21st Century China at the University of California, San Francisco. Shirk said. Diego.

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“So he’s the most important person in American politics. He’s different from an ordinary congressman.”

Pelosi is a longtime critic of the Chinese Communist Party. He has denounced Beijing’s human rights record and met with pro-democracy protesters and the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who is a thorn in the Chinese government’s side.

In 1991, Pelosi unfurled a banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square commemorating the victims of the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protesters.More recently, she expressed support for the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Why would the potential trip fuel tensions between the US and China?

Beijing has warned that Pelosi’s visit, if it materializes, would have “a serious negative impact on the political foundations of Sino-US relations”.

The United States formally transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but has long walked a delicate middle ground. Washington recognizes the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China, but maintains close unofficial ties with Taiwan.

The U.S. supplies Taiwan with defensive weapons under the decades-old Taiwan Relations Act, but has remained deliberately vague about whether it would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, a practice known as “strategic ambiguity.”

China’s authoritarian turn under Xi and the souring of relations with Washington have brought Taiwan closer to the US orbit. This angered Beijing, accusing Washington of “playing the Taiwan card” to contain China’s rise.

The United States, for its part, has intensified its commitment to Taiwan, approving arms sales and sending delegations to the island.

Since then-US President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act in March 2018, US officials and lawmakers have made more than 20 trips to the island, according to CNN’s tally. The 2018 Act encourages visits between US and Taiwan officials at all levels.

The Chinese leader urged Washington to honor existing agreements with Beijing, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The statement added that China will “resolutely protect” its national sovereignty.

For his part, Biden reiterated that U.S. policy “has not changed,” according to the White House on the call.

“The United States firmly opposes any unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Biden said.

Has the Speaker of the US House of Representatives ever visited Taiwan?

Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich meets with Taiwanese Vice President and Prime Minister Lien Chan during a brief visit to Taiwan in April 1997.

Pelosi’s final trip is not the first time a US speaker has visited Taiwan.

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In 1997, Newt Gingrich visited Taipei after visiting Beijing and Shanghai. The Chinese Foreign Ministry criticized Gingrich after his visit to Taiwan, but the response was limited to rhetoric.

Beijing has hinted that things will be different this time around.

Twenty-five years later, China is stronger, more powerful and more confident, and its leader, Xi, has made it clear that Beijing will no longer tolerate neglect or challenge to its interests.

Drew Thompson, visiting senior fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public School, said, “China is in a very determined position to impose costs and consequences on countries that do not take China’s interests into account.” Policy of the National University of Singapore.

What about possible travel time?

Pelosi’s potential visit to China comes at a critical time.

The House Speaker had earlier planned to lead a US congressional delegation to Taiwan in April, but postponed the trip after he tested positive for Covid-19.

China’s military celebrates its founding anniversary on Aug. 1 as Xi, the country’s most powerful leader in decades, prepares to break convention and take office for a third term at the 20th Communist Party Congress this fall.

In August, Chinese leaders are expected to meet in the seaside resort of Beidaihe for their annual summer summit, where they will discuss personnel moves and policy ideas behind closed doors.

“This is a very tense moment in Chinese domestic politics,” Shirk said. “(Xi) and many elites in China will view Pelosi’s visit as an affront to Xi Jinping (and) his leadership. And he will be forced to react in a way that shows his strength.”

While the politically sensitive moment will prompt a strong response from Beijing, some experts believe the Communist Party wants to ensure stability and prevent things from getting out of hand.

“Honestly, just before the 20th Party Congress, this is not a good time for Xi Jinping to provoke a military conflict. It is in Xi Jinping’s interest to handle this rationally and not to provoke a crisis on top of other crises he has to deal with. China’s sluggish economy, deepening housing crisis, rising unemployment and its Thompson said, citing the ongoing struggle to contain sporadic outbreaks under the zero-covid policy.

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How will China react?

China has not specified what “strong measures” it plans to take, but some Chinese analysts say Beijing’s response could include a military component.

“China will respond with the strongest and unprecedented countermeasures since the Taiwan Strait crisis,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China.

Privately, Biden administration officials have raised concerns that China might try to declare a no-fly zone over Taiwan to change a possible trip, a US official told CNN.

National security officials have been quietly working to reassure Pelosi of the potential dangers of a trip to Taiwan, while the Pentagon is developing a security plan to keep her safe using ships and planes.

But a persistent concern among U.S. officials is that miscalculations or unforeseen incidents or accidents could occur if China and the U.S. significantly increase their air and sea operations in the region.

The U.S. does not expect direct hostilities from Beijing during a possible visit by Pelosi. At least five defense officials described it as a long shot and said the Pentagon wants to tone down the public rhetoric.

What did Taiwan say about Pelosi’s possible trip?

Taiwan has made little comment on the situation. When the Financial Times first reported on Pelosi’s possible visit last week, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it had “received no information” about the visit.

During a routine press briefing on Thursday, a ministry spokesman reiterated that he had received no concrete information on whether Pelosi would visit the island and had “no further comment” on the matter.

“Inviting members of the U.S. Congress to visit Taiwan has been a focus of the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States,” said spokesperson Joan Ow.

Neither President Tsai Ing-wen nor the Office of the President has released a statement regarding Pelosi’s possible trip.

On Wednesday, Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Cheng-chang said the island welcomes any friendly guests from abroad. “We are very grateful to Speaker Pelosi for her strong support and compassion for Taiwan over the years,” he said.

While the international media has been closely following the developments, rising tensions have not made headlines in Taiwan this week. Taiwanese media have focused mainly on the upcoming local elections and Taiwan’s military exercises.

Previously, Taiwanese officials had publicly welcomed visits by US delegations as a sign of Washington’s support.