Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen, took office as president thanks to her pledge to defend the island’s sovereignty. Her meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday, and Beijing’s reaction to her visit, highlights the complexities of its work.
The meeting between the two leaders, which was live-streamed online, seemed designed to maximize publicity and strengthen ties.
Pelosi called Taiwan “one of the freest societies in the world.” She said the congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan was “to make it clear that we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan, and we are proud of our enduring friendship.”
Tsai called Pelosi “Taiwan’s most devoted friend.” She said the speaker had shown “long-term support for Taiwan’s international participation”, a reference to joking between China and other countries to isolate Taiwan from international organizations. is.
At the event, Ms. Pelosi was presented with the Junyun Medal, an award given to Taiwanese and foreigners who have made outstanding contributions to Taiwan. Upon receiving her award, Ms. Pelosi laughed and said she would wear it around her office in Washington.
Taiwan, from which Chiang Kai-shek’s forces withdrew after the 1949 communist revolution, was not part of the People’s Republic of China. These days, it has a distinct identity that makes voluntary unification with China seem unlikely.
The first woman to rule Taiwan, Tsai came to power in 2016 after her predecessor pushed for closer ties with China for eight years. The election was largely focused on economic issues, including concerns about expanding economic ties with mainland China.
During Tsai’s first term in office, one of her main projects was to try to revive the island’s military at a time when China’s People’s Liberation Army was undergoing major upgrades. However, she struggled to impose a new strategic vision on the island’s military leaders.
By 2019, her party had lost a major local election, jeopardizing her chances of winning a second term. That year, Chinese leader Xi Jinping told her that Taiwan “must and will unite” with China, and that Taiwan’s efforts for independence could be countered by force. made a political gift.
In response, Tsai said Xi’s remarks were “unacceptable” and called for domestic and foreign support for Taiwan’s de facto independence.
She was re-elected in 2020 and reversed her fortunes by portraying herself as a champion of democracy and sovereignty on the island, capitalizing on local concerns about China’s rising authoritarianism.
Tsai’s profile rose even further after the 2020 elections, partly because of Taiwan’s early success in containing the coronavirus. We accept Mr. Xi’s view that the island is an inexorable part of the larger Chinese state under the Communist Party.
Ms. Tsai kept quiet until days before Ms. Pelosi arrived. But a political adviser close to her said she welcomed visits by US officials, and her meticulous planning for Mr Pelosi’s visit also won praise from members of the opposition National Party.
“They try not to antagonize the other side, make no statements to the outside world, and keep the situation in the Taiwan Strait from becoming too tense,” said Alexander Huang, head of international affairs at the Kuomintang. I did my best,” he said.
Amy Chang Chen When John Liu contributed to the report.