Do not be deceived. China has a plan – Pelosi’s trip was just part of it. What do you mean? How can you say that? She did what she wanted. She was brave and stuck it to them. We should applaud. She showed them. No, not really, not if you step back and look closely.
First, understand that US Speaker Nancy Pelosi was planning that Asian-Pacific Congressional Delegation Trip (CODEL) months ago, no real thought of creating a firestorm. She planned to go to Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan – as hundreds of members have.
The trip was expected to be no big deal. From 1995 to 2000, as a staff director and counsel on the House Oversight Committee, charged with oversight of international affairs, I ran multiple CODELs and oversight trips that touched down in dicey places from Colombia to Saudi Arabia.
One trip was an extended Congressional Staff Delegation (STAFFDEL) to Taiwan, during which time – rather remarkably – on an unrelated trip, a congressman flew to Taiwan, landed at the airport, challenged China to fire missiles at Taiwan, got back on his plane, and went home.
The main point is that words are cheap, CODELS and STAFFDELs to Taiwan are common, often intentionally edgy and seemingly provocative, reinforcing our affection for Taiwan, and blunt.
In all those years, no trip ever elicited a declaration by China that visiting members of Congress were “playing with fire,” faced “serious consequences,” or might be “shot down.” Nothing.
Communist China’s newly aggressive, threatening behavior toward this trip was out of line with history – way out of line with the last visit by a US House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, in 1997.
In that visit, Gingrich and 13 members not only visited Taiwan but Hong Kong, prior to that territory’s transfer to China. They lingered. Gingrich, unlike Pelosi, was characteristically blunt. He said, per the New York Times, “We want you to understand, we will defend Taiwan. Period.”
Pelosi did nothing of the sort. She blundered her way into a lovely, ready-made controversy, as if the table were set for her, all she needed do was continue her travel plan, play her role, step on the taped spot, shake the right hand, then totter away and talk about “digging a hole to China.”
Rather strange, I thought. Why did China go ballistic, figuratively speaking? Why the hubbub? The answer is clearer by the day. They did not care about Pelosi, not directly.
China has something in mind, actions it aims to take, and they are likely disproportionate to prior actions. Their plan relates to Taiwan and US weakness, illustrated by Afghanistan, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Biden’s meandering, foggy headed, almost incoherent leadership.
They see opportunity. Two-to-one, they are reverse-engineering events to justify a yet-undefined regional action, something that sounds better than escape of a bat virus into a wet market.
China can be expected to raise the ante, attacking Pelosi just being a start. They will dub other old practices “provocation,” until in a few months they take aggressive action, a phalanx of fighters on their artificial islands, taking the Spratly islands, blocking trade with Taiwan, maybe a “quarantine” of the JFK type, economic isolation, or direct military action against Taiwan.
The main point is Pelosi just fits China’s pre-set plan, as they elevate the ordinary to “provocation” status, justifying possible stark, even military acts ahead, as we sleep.
Expect China to do more of this, claim shock and indignance, “cop an attitude” over things hardly worth comment. What they lack in diplomatic sophistication they make up for in audacity.
Thinking on all this reminded me of a story Ronald Reagan used to tell. A young Navy recruit went off to train for his marksmanship ribbon. He labored days to get it.
Returning home on leave, he saw a boy standing with a pistol before a wall of targets – every shot a bullseye, perfect from a mere kid. He asked the young fellow, “How did you do that?”
The young fellow looked up at him and said, “Easy … you just raise your sidearm, hold it like this, line up front and back sights, and pull the trigger… then you go down, and with a piece of chalk make a perfect circle around your shot. Easy as that.”
The real question is not why Pelosi visited Taiwan, not whether she was brave or trendsetting or up to something – but what China is up to. It is not her. She is just part of their “provocation plan.” Were it not her, it would be someone else.
We must watch the near horizon, not our feet. China is setting up the circle, we need to see that – stay ahead, deter as we can, and not accept their narratives. Do not be deceived. China has a plan – and Pelosi’s trip was just part of it. Our job is to delegitimize China’s provocation claims, speak bluntly, and deter aggression toward Taiwan by this immoral Communist behemoth. As Gingrich said, “Period.”
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