Make no mistake: the visit of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, to Taiwan on 2 and 3 August is not the primary reason behind China’s military intimidation of Taiwan. It is important to emphasise that congressional visits to Taiwan are common. United States’ serving officials have visited Taiwan in the recent past, too. In 2020, the then-United States State Secretary, Keith Krach, and the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Alex Azar, visited Taiwan. China did not respond strongly to such visits, but it is strongly reacting to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit.
In Taiwan, Pelosi did not mention ‘forbidden’ words, such as Taiwan’s ‘independence’; her statements were measured, primarily focused on Taiwan’s democratic resilience. The White House and even President Joe Biden, during his call with Xi Jinping, reiterated that the United States’ Taiwan policy has not changed. However, despite such reassurances, China reacted out of proportion.
Some even linked China’s response to Pelosi’s visit to the gender of the Speaker. Pelosi, during her press conference with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, remarked, “They [China] have a made a big fuss because I’m the speaker, I guess. I don’t know if that was a reason or an excuse. They did not say anything when the men came.” This was in reference to the past congressional visits that mainly consisted of male senators.