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A trip by Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan would put China’s hunger for confrontation to the test

PoliticsA trip by Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan would put China's hunger for confrontation to the test

Soon after Beijing’s most recent major confrontation with the United States over Taiwan, Xi Jinping joined a reserve artillery division. At the time, he was a rising official in a Chinese province that faces the disputed island. Later, he had himself photographed in military greens, cap turned backward as he peered through the sights of an antiaircraft gun.

Mr. Xi realised even before he became China’s top leader that showing toughness toward the island’s self-rule is necessary for political survival in the Communist Party, which is China’s main political party.

This lesson looms over him as he considers how to respond in the event that Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, visits Taiwan while she is touring Asian countries, as the White House anticipates she would. Her trip started on Monday in Singapore. Since the former speaker, Newt Gingrich, came to the island in 1997, she would be the most senior official from the United States to visit the island since then.

Mr. Xi has portrayed himself as the standard-bearer of a holy cause, which is the unification of Taiwan and China. Beijing views trips to the island by American officials as an assault to that claim, and it is important to note that Mr. If Ms. Pelosi travels to Taiwan, as is widely anticipated, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs will threaten her with “severe repercussions,” and China’s military has given ambiguous threats of its willingness to protect the country’s national sovereignty.

However, Mr. Xi is also facing a precarious economic and political time, and careening into a crisis over Taiwan may undermine him even as he gains support from nationalists.

His attention is now centred on a congress of the Communist Party that will take place later this year. At that meeting, he is extremely expected to win support for a third term as the general secretary of the party, breaking the norm of two terms established by his immediate predecessor. He hopes that by orchestrating widespread praise from authorities, he would be able to get a new five-year term and assure that he will continue to control choices about the leadership lineup.

The fact that China’s economy has slowed down due to Covid outbreaks and shutdowns, as well as the fact that Russia’s protracted conflict in Ukraine has sparked suspicions about Mr. Xi’s connection to President Vladimir V. Putin, have led to muttered reservations about his record. Now, the possibility of Ms. Pelosi meeting with officials from Taiwan might provide a further challenge to Mr. Xi.

Experts say that President Xi Jinping is likely to use displays of military might to convey Beijing’s anger while seeking to avoid a volatile standoff that would spook markets and drag down China’s economy if Ms. Pelosi follows through with her threat to visit Taiwan. Ms. Pelosi has not confirmed whether or not she will visit Taiwan.

Chen Dingding, a professor of international affairs at Jinan University in southern China, predicted that there would be a very strong response, but that it would not spiral out of control. “There will be no doubt about that,” he said.

Last week, Mr. Xi seemed to express his worries when he cautioned President Biden in a call not to “play with fire” and risk self-immolation over Taiwan. He advised President Biden not to risk self-immolation over Taiwan. The language was foreboding, but it was the same language that Mr. Xi used in a conversation with the president of the United States back in November. In their respective public descriptions of their talk, neither Mr. Xi nor Mr. Biden referenced Ms. Pelosi at any point.

According to David Gitter, president of the Center for Advanced China Research, a nonprofit research institute, “This is really midlevel warning rhetoric, not high-level warning rhetoric signalling an appetite for war-level risks.” Gitter was speaking about the rhetoric being used by the Chinese government. “It doesn’t imply that they’re ready to do something incredibly wild, such as directly jeopardise the safety of the speaker,” the author says.

On Monday, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council called for a halt to the escalation of tensions.

In spite of this, China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, spoke out against the possibility of a visit at a press conference on Monday. He said, “As we can see, such a visit is evidently quite perilous and extremely provocative.” China has said that they would take “firm and powerful actions” to protect their “national sovereignty and territorial integrity” if the United States continues to demand that they go forward with the visit.

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