Nancy Pelosi rebukes Biden over China policy

They could have ironed out their differences privately and behind closed doors. Instead, unnamed White House officials leaked Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan travel plans and tried to add to the itinerary.

Biden’s top aides see no benefit in the Speaker of the House’s visit to Taipei. In public, they have warned against embarrassing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the 95th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, let alone the upcoming party congress in late 2022. More anonymous sources warned that Beijing could take military action. President Joe Biden has publicly voiced these concerns, saying “the military doesn’t think it’s a good idea right now.”

The White House’s own communications with Beijing are unspoken subtext. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had just wrapped up five hours of talks at the Group of 20 meeting, during which Wang Yi previewed eight areas of bilateral cooperation. Shortly thereafter, Biden and General Secretary Xi Jinping scheduled their fifth phone call ahead of a face-to-face meeting. The upcoming COP27 summit has given White House climate envoy John Kerry another bite of the climate change cooperation apple. The president, meanwhile, is weighing whether to roll back tariffs on Chinese goods imposed by his predecessors — a longstanding demand from Beijing.

Riding on this semblance of cooperative momentum, the administration is publicly ramming the issue and hoping Speaker Pelosi backs down. she didn’t.

The moment the plane landed at Taipei’s Songshan Airport, Pelosi made it clear: “We’re going to stand by Taiwan.” As China punishes Taiwan by canceling food imports, hacking government websites and conducting invasive military exercises, she strengthen Her message insisted that the US “will not allow (China) to isolate Taiwan”.

The words were a rebuttal to Xi’s belligerence, but also a mild rebuke of Pelosi’s own party leader.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) meets with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen during her stay in Taiwan, as Speaker Pelosi speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 10, 2022.Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Since January 2021, President Biden’s China policy has been a tenuous combination of cooperation and competition. The president believes he can pursue both agendas without one adversely affecting the other. As he insisted in a speech at the United Nations last year, “In my view, all major world powers have a responsibility to manage their relationships carefully, lest they move from responsible competition to conflict.”

The administration’s obsession with “carefully managing” the US-China relationship creates and reinforces dangerous policy instincts. In February 2021, Biden officials were unwilling to acknowledge that the CCP’s genocide of Uyghurs and other groups in Xinjiang continued. That summer, John Kerry worked hard to limit the number of Chinese companies that received an effective ban on importing slave labor. In October, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman lobbied Congress against important human rights legislation. Then, after the bill became law, administration officials declined to sanction key Chinese entities. On Taiwan, U.S. officials cut off video of Taiwan’s digital minister during a summit of democracies because he shared a map that colored China and Taiwan differently.Just the next month, U.S. diplomats reportedly urged Lithuania not to escalate its actually Embassy of Taiwan.

These failures do not negate the correct decisions of Biden, especially his continued efforts to strengthen the four-way security dialogue with Japan, India and Australia. His Indo-Pacific economic framework also has great potential. But his administration’s poor judgment undercut and overshadowed those achievements. In its effort to responsibly compete with the CCP, the Biden administration has endangered the people directly linked to Beijing’s ambitions.

Which brings us back to Speaker Pelosi. Just a few days after her trip, Global TimesThe CCP’s propaganda agency announced eight countermeasures, the same number of items on Wang’s cooperation list with Blinken. Whether this symmetry is accidental or intentional, the message is clear: The collaborative agenda is on hold. Among these rejected initiatives are bilateral climate negotiations. Asked whether her “symbolic trip” had undermined those “important goals,” Pelosi replied:

You know what conversations they have on climate? They’ve been shutting down a lot of stuff. So again, this thing, “Oh, but they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it.” Let’s just say this shouldn’t divide us.

The speaker speaks the quiet part aloud. Her trip was preceded by no substantive talks; indeed, Beijing has abandoned and slowed down many of these initiatives. However, her final words were a sharper criticism of the Biden administration. She made it clear that China is exploiting the potential of U.S.-China cooperation to divide Americans. Instead of soberly focusing on Xi’s culpability, Washington has been too busy trying to blame domestically for the damage to the bilateral relationship. A divided America isolates our friends and empowers our adversaries. “Responsible competition” has proven to be deeply irresponsible.

Michael Sobolik is a fellow for Indo-Pacific studies at the U.S. Foreign Policy Council. Follow him on Twitter @michaelsobolik.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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