Nancy Pelosi is not the first Speaker of the House Representatives of the US Congress in Taiwan. But due to changes in the political context, Beijing views her visit differently than Newt Gingrich’s 1997 trip.
On Tuesday, Gingrich said on Fox News that during his trip to the island, he negotiated with Beijing, which allowed him to visit China. From mainland China, the then speaker of the lower house of Congress went to Japan and only from there to Taiwan. This allowed him not to make a direct trip from the mainland to the island, according to a Hong Kong newspaper. South China Morning Post.
The speaker of the House of Representatives is third in line to potentially replace the president. Pelosi has become the most powerful US politician to visit Taiwan since Gingrich. On Tuesday, China’s ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, told CNN that the 1997 visit was “completely misguided.”
“The Chinese side was against it from the very beginning. The United States needed to learn from this lesson, and not repeat old mistakes. One mistake cannot justify further similar mistakes.‘, said the Chinese ambassador.
But in 1997, Beijing’s reaction was calmer than it is now. The People’s Liberation Army announced a series of trainings off the coast of Taiwan using live ammunition. Beijing also introduced new restrictions on trade in the strait. Su Hao, a professor of international relations at the China University of Foreign Affairs, said Beijing views the intentions of the two House Speakers’ visits differently. In 1997, the search for better relations between the US and China was on the agenda of both Republicans and Democrats.
“At the same time, bilateral relations have been improving. There was a positive trend of cooperation between countries”, Su Hao said, recalling that in 1997 Gingrich met with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng, as well as former Shanghai Mayor Wang Daohan, who played a large role in relations between Beijing and Taipei.
“But now Pelosi has ignored the warning from China, and the visit was very provocative.”, said the Chinese expert.
Gingrich also visited Taiwan a month after Vice President Al Gore’s visit to China, and shortly after Hong Kong was handed over to China. It was a time when Beijing did not want to spoil the atmosphere with disputes with the United States. The parties also sought to improve relations, tense after Taiwanese President Lee Tenghui visited the United States in 1995. Then the People’s Liberation Army launched rockets into the Taiwan Strait. Gingrich led a campaign to lift Beijing’s sanctions over the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He also expressed support for the Chinese government’s position that Taiwan and China are one country. President Lee Tenghui’s office issued a statement after Gingrich’s visit that “there is no need to declare independence” because “the Republic of China is already an independent sovereign country.”
But now the tension between the US and China is very high. And Pelosi’s program in Taiwan has hit a lot of Beijing’s pain points. Unlike Gingrich, who was on the island for only three hours, she spent the night in Taipei and met with President Tsai Ing-wen, as well as politicians, dissidents and human rights activists, including Lam Wing-Kee, one of the former leaders who fled Hong Kong in 2019. students who took to Tiananmen Square, Wer Kaixi. The US President tried to convince Beijing that Congress is a separate branch of government, not connected with the White House. But despite this, Xi Jinping warned Joe Biden during a telephone conversation that Washington should not “play with fire” on the Taiwan issue.
“The nature of bilateral relations between China and the United States has changed. And Taiwan was used as an outpost, as a pawn in Washington’s efforts to contain China.,” said Wang Yong, a professor at Peking University.