Nancy Pelosi has created a lot of buzz with her on-again, off-again, on-again plans for a flying junket to Asia. Yesterday the buzz got deadly serious: a leading Chinese propaganda producer threatened her with a shoot-down. That has started a debate, not only on whether she should go, but whether she must go.
Significance of a Nancy Pelosi trip
When the Speaker of the House of Representatives takes an official trip, that is serious business. After all, the Speaker is third in line of Presidential Succession. (See Title 3, U.S. Code, Section 19, the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, as amended.) That also means that whoever attacks the Speaker of the House, commits an act of war against the United States. Such an act would be almost as serious as an attack upon the President himself. And anyone who threatens such an act, threatens war.
Reportage on the proposed Nancy Pelosi trip, and the alleged threat, comes from Reuters, Business Insider, Politico.com,The New York Post,and the South China Morning Post. In addition we see commentary from UnHerd and National Review, who take opposite positions on whether Nancy Pelosi should go. The Washington Post also rates a Nancy Pelosi trip a no-go, especially one including Taiwan.
Nature of the threat
Mr. Hu Xijin is a commentator with, and former editor-in-chief of, Global Times, the Chinese counterpart to Russia’s Pravda. He wrote on Twitter:
I’ve conveyed the message: if the U.S. military sends fighter jets to escort Pelosi to Taiwan, then the move would take the vile nature of such a visit to another level, and would constitute aggression.
If US fighter jets escort Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan, it is [an] invasion. The [People’s Liberation Army] has the right to forcibly dispel Pelosi’s plane and the US fighter jets, including firing warning shots and making tactical movement of obstruction. If ineffective, then shoot them down.
That proved too much for Twitter, who locked the account and ordered Mr. Hu to delete the tweet. One can still find it on China’s Twitter counterpart, Weibo.
Mr. Hu has a reputation for intemperate official remarks. London’s Guardian, in December of last year, called him “China’s troll king.” Chinese President Xi Jinping has a slightly more measured response – perhaps. “Those who play with fire will perish by it,” he allegedly said to Biden himself by telephone.
Earlier today, China announced military exercises in the Taiwan Strait that separates Taiwan from the Chinese mainland.
Should Nancy Pelosi go or not go?
Nancy Pelosi has not definitely said that Taiwan would be part of her itinerary. Nevertheless these latest provocative statements have started a debate on whether she should land in Taiwan – or not.
The last Speaker of the House to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997. China’s ruling Communist Party were no happier about it then than now. But now their rhetoric has gotten less temperate.
No one seems to expect the Chinese to attack Taiwan any time soon. Some observers seem to think the People’s Liberation Army (which actually is their unified military force) wants a few more years to be ready with the latest and greatest strategy, tactics, and weapons.
The two no-go outlets seem to be playing the usual anti-war card. “Don’t provoke them,” they say. Not a word about whether the Chinese have provoked the United States.
Which is National Review’s point. If China is prepared to go to war over a single visit, they’ll demand more concessions whether Nancy Pelosi goes or stays away.
But the cost it might impose on U.S.–China relations still will be less than the price of cancellation. Neither China nor the United States is prepared for a major confrontation. Better to take the hit to the relationship now than let Xi Jinping dictate Nancy Pelosi’s — or anyone else’s — itinerary.
The larger problem of and with China
This drama touches the larger question of whether China wants to be a self-sufficient civilizational state, or an empire builder. Communists have always been empire builders. We saw that with Nikita S. Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis. (We also saw that with the late Fidel Castro, but he almost doesn’t count. Castro never did anything more than play “Me Too” to the “Big Dog” called the USSR.)
More to the point, President Xi is in trouble. Absolute monarchies (hereditary or otherwise) do not exist and have never existed. They are oligarchies that have governing boards, quite like Boards of Directors of joint-stock corporations. China’s governing board is called the Political Bureau. And we have reason to think they are not pleased with Xi’s leadership – and haven’t been pleased for years.
The Belt and Road Initiative has suffered with China’s shrinking economy. Those who focus on the American debt problem, for get that China has a debt problem of its own. Mr. Xi’s “Zero COVID” policy has hurt the economy worse and has done the opposite of rallying the people. And different factions are already falling out over whether China did right to ally itself with Russia beginning with the “special military operation” in Ukraine. (In fact, Chinese leaders have always been suspicious of any friendship with Russia.)
A chief executive facing ouster is unpredictable, therefore dangerous. But the danger will only become greater if America capitulates in any way. So Nancy Pelosi needs to call Xi’s bluff.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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