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President Xi could use President Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan to ‘create a new normal’: expert

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Susan Shirk, research professor at UC San Diego and president of the 21st Century China Center, speaks with Yahoo Finance Live to discuss Speaker Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, the backlash from Chinese officials and the outlook companies with business ties to China.

Video transcript

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Blatant provocation is how China described House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan this week as she announced sanctions against Pelosi and her family. But China did not stop there. Chinese leaders also announced that they were suspending cooperation with the United States on issues such as military issues and climate change. Joining us now is Susan Shirk, founding chair of the 21st Century China Center at UC San Diego and author of the upcoming book Overreach– How China Derailed Its Peaceful Rise. Nice to see you.

Congressional trips to Taiwan are therefore not new. We had a senator there four months ago. Why this reaction? Why now ? Why so hard?

SUSAN SHIRK: Well, Nancy Pelosi is in the line of succession. She is a very senior US government official from China’s point of view. It has not happened that the President goes there for about twenty years. So, and Xi Jinping is in the middle of his campaign for an unprecedented third term. So from their point of view, especially from Xi Jinping’s point of view, it really stings him in the eye in a way that could potentially land him in trouble at the party congress to be held in the fall.

So Susan, should we expect China to get even more aggressive from here?

SUSAN SHIRK: Well, the big question right now is whether or not these war games, these exercises, which are really very robust and unprecedented and which surround the island of Taiwan to demonstrate that the People’s Liberation Army could block Taiwan, how long will they continue? They’re supposed to leave until Sunday, I believe. But then, you know, it’s entirely possible that Xi Jinping used Pelosi’s visit to rally support for himself and kind of create a new normal in which Chinese military planes and ships and other gray areas, even the coast guard, ships will pressure Taiwan, bypassing Taiwan, including the east coast of Taiwan, the eastern part of Taiwan. Admittedly, the missile tests that pass right over the island of Taiwan are very intimidating.

Do you think they will take Taiwan? And how do you think the United States would react?

SUSAN SHIRK: No, I… it’s not about taking Taiwan. This is something that, if it happened, would happen, in my opinion, quite a bit in the future. It’s about demonstrating the capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army to impose a blockade around Taiwan, to press Taiwan until it accepts… potentially, what they would like to see is up to until he agrees to reintegrate with the continent.

What about returning business? Today Snickers maker Mars apologizes after suggesting Taiwan is a country. Reports also related to Apple removing Made in Taiwan, potentially, from their products. What is business return, and what does that mean here for the United States, for American companies doing business there?

SUSAN SHIRK: Well, international companies have already been punished by the Chinese government and Chinese consumers for labeling Taiwan in a list or category as an independent country. And it’s very offensive to the Chinese position that Taiwan is a province of China and a province of the People’s Republic of China. Chinese consumers are much more nationalistic, so consumer-facing companies really have to make a choice here if they are – if the Chinese market is important to them, they have to be very sensitive to those political considerations and how they talk about Taiwan. .

Coming back, Susan, to what got us into this mess, if you will, what did you think of the timing of Nancy Pelosi’s visit? It was certainly a strong show of support for democracy. But why now, and did the United States gain anything from this visit?

SUSAN SHIRK: Well, Nancy Pelosi has long been concerned about China’s human rights abuses, promoting democracy in China, and supporting Taiwan. So it’s consistent with his personal views, which I certainly respect, but it was a very odd thing for a Democratic Speaker of the House to put a Democratic Speaker, President Biden, in an extraordinarily difficult position by deciding to go in Taiwan now.

The president didn’t really have full control over the president’s decisions, of course, and I think he was reluctant to appear to be trying to coerce her, because many other politicians would criticize the Biden administration for caving in to China . So it’s definitely not good for the Democratic outlook in the mid-term or in 2024.

Spot on. What a strange dichotomy with Senator Tom Cotton in support of something Nancy Pelosi is doing. It seemed like two opposing parties definitely didn’t align on this one. Great stuff. Susan Shirk, I really appreciate it. Have a good week-end.

SUSAN SHIRK: Sure.

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