Nancy Pelosi’s Magical Mystery Taiwan Tour – and its global aftermath

US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s quick stopover in Taipei has raised Chinese hackles, buoyed Taiwanese spirits, and put a spotlight on more questions than there are – yet – answers.
A quick but high-visibility visit by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi – a Democratic Party congresswoman from San Francisco, California – to Taipei, has become the latest disruptive factor in American-Chinese relations.
It has also given the Taiwanese some difficult but important things to think hard about, especially once the Chinese carried out a vast, island-straddling live-fire exercise that included missiles, naval vessels and fighter jets.
So far, at least, much of the breathless commentary and reporting on the visit and its aftermath has painted this sequence of events as likely to be the proximate cause for a new zone of hostilities – or, even, with some of the most breathless, the spark poised to ignite a new war in the Pacific Basin. Not so fast. Things are obviously dangerous, but much of this has been something of a mutual chest-beating of choice.
First, let’s deal with some basics. Taiwan is a smallish island – about half the size of Scotland and a little bigger than the US state of Maryland – off the southeastern coast of China that has, over the centuries, been home to indigenous Taiwanese, bands of Chinese pirates, Portuguese and Dutch colonists.
More recently, after the assertion of a territorial claim by the Manchu dynasty in China, the island became Japanese territory after that country’s defeat in the Sino-Chinese War of 1895.
With the defeat of Japan in World War 2, the island was awarded back to China, then rather shakily ruled by Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) Party.
However, as the KMT was driven from power by the Chinese Communist Party and its army, Chiang’s government fled the mainland and set up shop on Taiwan – crucially maintaining the notional concept they were still the legitimate Chinese government, including the hanging on to China’s seat on the UN Security Council as a permanent member.
Diplomatic recognition
With the loss of its seat on the Security Council in 1971, and then the establishment of full diplomatic recognition by the US of the Beijing government in 1979, Taiwan’s claim to represent all of China lost its main basis. Its diplomatic presence is now limited to a few scattered, small nations, largely in the South Pacific.
Many nations, including the US, the UK ...