Tensions in the Taiwan Strait are escalating following Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week. China’s military conducted a series of military drills over the weekend – 66 planes and 14 warships were spotted around the island on Sunday, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry.
Susan Shirk, UC San Diego Researcher Professor and 21st Century China Center Chair, described the political and social implications of Speaker Pelosi’s visit.
“It’s quite possible that Xi Jinping has taken advantage of the Pelosi visit to mobilize support for himself and to kind of create a new normal in which Chinese military planes and ships and other gray zones, even Coast Guard vessels, will be pressing Taiwan,” Shirk told Yahoo Finance Live.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has expressed heavy opposition to the Speaker’s visit. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Pelosi’s actions a violation of the One-China principle and affirmed there was “no room” for Taiwan independence. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China also imposed sanctions on Pelosi and her immediate family members on Friday.
These measures come ahead of President Xi’s unprecedented third term and the 20th National Congress of the CCP this November. According to Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) research fellow David Sacks, Xi does not want to risk looking weak, which is why China is taking a harsh stance on Pelosi’s visit.
“This is about demonstrating the People’s Liberation Army’s capabilities to put a blockade around Taiwan, squeeze Taiwan, until it agrees to, you know, potentially what they would like to see is until it agrees to reintegrate with the mainland,” Shirk added.
Shirk warns that some multinational firms operating in Asia could experience economic blowback in the future.
“Chinese consumers are much more nationalistic, so consumer-facing businesses really do have to make a choice here. If the China market is important to them, they have to be sensitive to these political considerations and how they talk about Taiwan,” Shirk said.
Candybar maker Mars Wrigley issued an apology to China on Friday for implying Taiwan was a country. Moreover, Chinese companies have distanced themselves from the Pelosi controversy for fear of retaliation from the Chinese government.
Shirk also noted that Pelosi’s visit put Democrats in a tough position ahead of the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential election.
“It was [a] very odd thing for a Democratic Speaker of the House to put a Democratic President, President Biden, in an extraordinarily difficult position by deciding to go to Taiwan now. The president didn’t have complete control over the Speaker’s decisions, of course, and I think was reluctant to try to constrain her because there are many other politicians who would criticize the Biden administration for caving in to China. So it's certainly not good for the Democratic prospects in the mid-term or in 2024."
Biden and his party have an uphill battle to fight. Recent CBS News/YouGov polling data show Democrats losing control in the House, and potentially the Senate this fall. The president’s approval rating has also plummeted to 39.6%, and a new CNN poll indicated that 75% of Democrats support nominating someone other than Biden for the 2024 presidential bid.
Yaseen Shah is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @yaseennshah22