‘There is something hypocritical about going there without emphasizing a real relationship’

International02 Aug ’22 18:32Authorp: Remy Kock and Jasper Daams

Just before 17:00 Dutch time, the US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s plane landed in Taiwan, a controversial event that is seriously against China’s sore legs. And she didn’t necessarily do it right, says foreign affairs commentator Bernard Hammelburg.

Hammelburg thinks Pelosi’s visit is unwise. “It has brought harsh words not only from China, but also from its own president, the secretary of state and indeed the entire top echelon of diplomatic Washington. On the other hand, there are also many Republicans and Democrats who love it. But who knows why this visit takes place, can say.’

According to Hammelburg, Pelosi doesn’t need to do that to improve trade relations with Taiwan, which he says are excellent. What is it about? ‘The rhetoric is part of a framework, it is about the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ from 1971. It is recognized by the whole world, including the US, but also the Netherlands. Neither country has an embassy or consulate there.’ Hammelburg therefore questions the visit. “There is something hypocritical about going there to demonstrate for freedom and democracy without emphasizing a real relationship. They are all symbolic actions.’


Although Pelosi’s visit does not necessarily improve Taiwan-US trade relations, it actually worsens Taiwan-China trade relations. China expert and creator of BNR’s China podcast, John-Boy Vossen, agrees. “100 Taiwanese food companies will be banned, temporarily or otherwise,” he says. ‘China is really very important as an importer of Taiwanese goods: last year alone there were 125 billion in imports. The year before that? Over 100 billion So it’s only increasing. A ban is incredibly important to Taiwan from an economic point of view and has a big impact on that economy.’

Vossen continues: ‘For Nancy Pelosi, this will be a great moment to show her support for the Taiwanese people. But it is precisely for the Taiwanese that it is much more difficult, because economically they are so incredibly dependent on China. And they won’t keep bumping into them.’

Chinese measures

In addition to the economic measures, Vossen was particularly affected by China’s harsh rhetoric towards Taiwan. “The spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry called it a provocation, but they have been using that word for days. But they also said that China is determined to take steps to secure its sovereignty – and they see Taiwan as part of the country of China.”

For example, images are circulating on WeChat – the Chinese version of WhatsApp – of military vehicles moving towards China’s coastline. Something that can be seen as a demonstration of power according to Hammelburg. “Everyone knows that if China wants to attack, they can. They are superb compared to Taiwan. There are American soldiers there, by the way, and there are American weapons, but not of the best kind. If it came to a military confrontation, Taiwan would have no chance.’


However, Hammelburg does not believe it will come to that. “The Chinese don’t want it at all, and they don’t intend to. It only causes problems and they can’t use that in the world either, they have other concerns on their minds. Joe Biden and Xi Jinping rarely agree on anything, but in this case I think they both think it’s a provocation.”

Unexpected agreement, that’s how it can safely be described. President Joe Biden did not want Pelosi to visit Taiwan at all. ‘But Taiwan is jumping for joy now’, continues Hammelburg. “They think it’s wonderful that Pelosi is here. I personally think it’s just a matter of some profanity and the incident is forgotten. It’s not the first time the Speaker of the House has come here. Newt Gingrich did that too 25 years ago as a Republican speaker under Clinton, who also hated it happening.”


But so what? According to Hammelburg, it is a fairly simple agenda. “Of course she’s tired now, so she’s going to bed. Tomorrow she will give a speech to parliament and then she will leave again. Then we can breathe easy again’.

Hammelburg has doubts about the effects of the visit. “I don’t know if she has done more harm than good, because she is not alone. Many people in the Western world believe that Taiwan has a right to freedom and independence, and that such a democracy in the wider area is entitled to our solidarity. She expresses that, but my thought is that as long as you don’t do it with real resources such as diplomats who are stationed there, then it’s just a shot in the air’.

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