Jul 26, 2022
Taiwan holds air raid drills ahead of potential Pelosi visit Transcript
Taiwan’s capital held widespread air raid drills with China warning the U.S. against a potential trip to the island by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Taiwan’s capital held widespread air raid drills on Monday. It comes as China warns that the US should not have a potential trip to the island by House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi has not made a final decision about whether she will visit the self-governing island, but last week, China’s foreign ministry vowed to take quote resolute and forceful measures if the trip goes ahead.
Speaker 1: (00:23)
For more on this, I am joined by David Sacks. He’s a research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Welcome, David. So China has reportedly sent warnings to the Biden Administration. If speaker Pelosi visits, we have seen members of Congress visit in the past. Tell us more about these threats, what they’re talking about and how seriously we should take them.
David Sacks: (00:43)
Sure. So president Biden first alluded to these threats last week when he said that the military did not think this was a great idea. Speaker Pelosi addressed this last week and seemed to allude to potential indications that China would even shoot down her plane. Others believe that China may declare a no fly zone and not allow her plane to land. Be clear, China objects to all high level travel to Taiwan, so that is not new. But these threats that they’ve issued are more specific and more serious, I would say, than other threats that they’ve issued in the past.
Speaker 1: (01:18)
Is there a real concern that this could escalate into some kind of military confrontation?
David Sacks: (01:24)
I think that fear is very legitimate. This is a very sensitive time in China. Xi Jinping is angling for an unprecedented third term as leader going into a pivotal fall party congress. There are headwinds at home economically, push back to his signature zero COVID policy. So he has a lot of issues going on multiple fronts. And he may have decided that speaker Pelosi visiting Taiwan would simply be egg on the face and embarrassing to him as he gears up for these big political events and something that might make him look weak. So he has to take action right now to prevent that.
Speaker 1: (02:02)
So we’re hearing the rhetoric from Xi Jinping. What about President Biden? Critics are saying that President Biden looks weak by not backing the Speaker’s trip more forcefully. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?
David Sacks: (02:13)
Well, I think his comment was pretty confusing to most observers because the military does not decide whether Pelosi would go to Taiwan. That’s an entirely separate matter. So I think what he should have said is essentially that that is a matter for Pelosi and her staff to decide. And that’s not something that he or the Executive Branch really has a say in because these are co-equal branches of government. You know, China believes essentially right now that Pelosi is acting on Biden’s behalf and that they are coordinating this trip to basically stick it to China, and that really plays into this narrative. So I think that was actually counterproductive. Regardless of what he said, now that the news of the visit is out into the open, it’s going to be incredibly hard to cancel this visit because a cancellation will be seen as caving to Chinese pressure.
Speaker 1: (03:07)
Right. And though the visit still has yet to be confirmed. Now, perhaps they’re being backed into a corner. I’m wondering how other countries in the region are viewing this. Are they worried that the US isn’t doing enough to stand firm against China?
David Sacks: (03:22)
I think actually they’re worried about a crisis. So I think that the countries in the region are actually urging more caution here because they believe that this is a largely symbolic visit. Something that the speaker potentially wants as part of her legacy, but isn’t necessary right now. As we are all focused on the war in Ukraine, we don’t really want this crisis to materialize at this point in time, if ever. And so I think they’re actually trying to bring some caution to the table, but again, I think it’s going to be very difficult to cancel this visit. And I think that potentially the way to kind of thread the needle here would be to delay the visit until after events of the fall and let Speaker Pelosi go a few months down the line.
Speaker 1: (04:11)
One more context question for you, David. Earlier this year, president Biden said that the US would get involved militarily if China invaded Taiwan. That seemed to contradict the long-term policy known as strategic ambiguity. Are both signs really testing the waters right now?
David Sacks: (04:26)
Well, President Biden said that, and that was the third time he said that. Each time his administration has contradicted him and said, there’s no change in US policy. So again, I think those mixed signals out of the administration are not helpful. I personally believe that it is useful to move away from strategic ambiguity and to strategic clarity, to make clear to China that we would come to Taiwan’s defense. But there’s a way to do things. There’s a time to do things. And I don’t think that now as Xi Jinping is looking ahead to these pivotal events in the fall, I don’t think now is the time to really kind of rock the boat here. But to strengthen deterrence in the Taiwan Strait, I do think that’s something that we need to revisit down the road.
Speaker 1: (05:10)
All right, David Sacks. Thank you.