< /p> UPDATE DAY
Taiwanese media reports that Nancy Pelosi will arrive in Taiwan on Tuesday, becoming the highest ranking US official to visit the island in 25 years.
In an official statement, the Speaker of the House of Representatives says she is leading a congressional delegation to reaffirm the “unwavering commitment” of the United States to its allies and friends in the region, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea South and Japan. She doesn't mention Taiwan, although she's going there. This is a good sign.
After the communist victory in 1949, the remnants of the nationalist army, allied with the United States, took refuge on the island to proclaim an independent state there. China never accepted it.
Biden's recent off-the-cuff statements on Taiwan are stoking tensions. He repeated several times that the United States was committed to defending the island, as an “independent” state, raising the ire of Beijing. The White House maintains that its policy of “strategic ambiguity” regarding Taiwan has not changed.
Pelosi's trip to Taipei is seen as a serious provocation for the Chinese. Especially since she has the support of elected officials from both parties. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Democrat Menendez and Republican Senator Graham introduced a bipartisan resolution to keep Taiwan safe. It provides for sweeping economic sanctions that would impose high costs on China if it attacks the island.
Xi is ardently coveting Taiwan
Unification with Taiwan is one of Xi Jinping's goals for what he calls the “national rejuvenation” of China. He said he wanted to absorb Taiwan peacefully, but did not rule out the use of force. Xi Jinping will get an unprecedented third term at the helm of the country this fall. He cannot afford to appear weak on Taiwan.
But many analysts believe Xi will refrain from using excessive shows of force to vent Beijing's anger. Why? To avoid panicking the markets and causing negative consequences for the Chinese economy which is not doing well these days. Like the rest of the global economy.
Nancy disrupts the status quo
Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan could still turn this delicate situation into a crisis that escalates into a military conflict.
The Chinese armed forces have announced sea and air exercises in the 150 km strait that separates Taiwan from China. Chinese planes could get too close to Taiwan or even enter its airspace. An unfortunate incident could occur. An unintentional escalation is a real, but unlikely risk.
Both sides have an interest in defusing the situation. I think Nancy Pelosi's stay on the island will be brief and rather low-key. She could only stop there for a few hours to spend the night before continuing her journey in other Asian countries.
It would allow Beijing and Washington to save face.