The Biden Administration Displayed Weakness During Speaker Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan

Nancy Pelosi, current Speaker of the House, made good on her promise this week to visit Taiwan.  It was not without precedent – Speaker Newt Gingrich visited Taiwan in 1997, 25 years ago.  Despite this, her plans to visit were met with continued threats by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including threats made on her life.

I’ve never been one to praise Nancy Pelosi – in fact, this might be a first.  But she should be commended for following through on her commitment to go – it strengthened our relationship with our allies, gave much-needed support to the people of Taiwan, and showed China that America will not bend to its will.  But this wasn’t about Nancy Pelosi, or even the rights of Congress.  It is about whether we are serious about confronting the dangers the CCP poses to the U.S. and our interests around the world. That’s why it is so unfortunate that throughout the visit, the Biden Administration managed to display its characteristic weakness.  This will only embolden China further.

CCP leadership was furious at the Speaker’s decision to visit this sovereign nation.  The Global Times, the mouthpiece of the CCP’s propaganda efforts, called for the U.S. Air Force plane transporting our Congressional Delegation to be shot down.  A press release by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs following Pelosi’s arrival stated that, “It is the common aspiration and sacred responsibility of all Chinese sons and daughters to realize the complete reunification of the motherland.”  Already, the CCP has executed massive cyberattacks on critical Taiwanese software, and new military exercises were undertaken in the lead-up to the visit (these have increased since Pelosi departed). With the 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress coming up this year, CCP officials and Xi Jinping are being aggressive on Taiwan to distract from the complete failure of the CCP to provide the Chinese people with basic human rights and their utter mishandling of COVID.

Unfortunately, the Biden Administration’s response to Pelosi’s visit has been weak the whole way.  Last week, it was reported that national security officials within the Administration were attempting to dissuade her from making the visit. President Biden himself said it was “not a good idea” for her to go.  Remember, this was not in response to polite, or even backchannel protests from China.  These attempts to dissuade the Speaker were made following the most belligerent statements the CCP has ever made toward the United States and its high-ranking officials. Communist China threatened to murder the individual who is third in line for the Presidency – such a provocation, at the very least, warrants a firm and unambiguous message of support from the White House.  The Biden Administration should have closed ranks and firmly defended our rights as a sovereign nation.  Instead, Team Biden tried to distance itself from the decision, saying that as a separate branch of the U.S. government, Congressional leadership could go to Taiwan if it wished.  True though this may be, our Commander-in-Chief should never shirk accountability, and he should stand by America’s leaders when they are threatened.

There are many ways the Biden Administration could have responded to this provocation.  It could have announced that Chinese student visas would be reduced by 50,000 the next school year.  It could have announced that new economic sanctions were on the way, targeting a broad swath of CCP officials and their financial connections to U.S.-based corporations.  It could have simply stated that the U.S. will treat Chinese diplomats and investors the same way ours are treated in China – a novel idea.  There are any number of actions we could have taken, given our standing as the greatest, most powerful nation in the history of the world.  That Biden would show weakness despite America’s resources and the nature of the provocations emanating from Beijing should alarm all Americans.

The Biden Administration’s muddled response made America look weak, divided, and indecisive.  This should have been a diplomatic win for the United States, displaying not only to China but also to the rest of our allies that we are no one’s satellite state, that America can and will visit the freedom-loving people of Taiwan as it pleases, and that the Chinese Communist Party has no say in whether we decide to do this.  Instead, the Biden Administration attempted to appease Beijing by distancing itself from, and undermining the legitimacy of, the Congressional visit.  This was surely not as bad as forcing Pelosi to cancel the trip, but Biden’s lack of resolve still reinforces for Xi Jinping what he likely observed in Afghanistan and Ukraine – that American leadership under this Administration is weak and ineffectual.

This is indeed dangerous. The 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress is set to happen later this year, and it is not unlikely that Xi Jinping and his CCP cronies will undertake some show of force to gain national support.  The Speaker’s visit makes it all the more likely that this show of force will be directed at Taiwan, and the Biden Administration’s weakness only increases those chances.  Team Biden desperately must learn that only strength deters war, while weakness invites it.

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