U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ended her visit to Taiwan on Aug. 3, delivering a message of “America’s determination to preserve democracy” in the self-ruled island. According to a China expert, Pelosi’s visit posed an unprecedented challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, as he is betting on his “Taiwan card” as he seeks a third term in the fall of this year.
Xi and the other six members of the Politburo Standing Committee did not make public appearances after July 31 and had not been seen by the time Pelosi left Taiwan on Aug. 3. The Politburo is the most powerful body in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with the Politburo Standing Committee at the top of the power pyramid.
In previous years, the CCP regularly held a secret summer meeting at the seaside in the Beidaihe district of Qinhuangdao City, Hebei Province, attended by not only the current Politburo Standing Committee but also a number of retired political elders.
This year’s Beidaihe meeting is even more critical, as it will determine the power structure of the CCP for the next five years and set the tone for the regime’s upcoming 20th National Congress, at which Xi is expected to seek re-election.
Hyping up Anti-Foreign Sentiment
China expert Ji Da told The Epoch Times that the timing of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which coincided with the Beidaihe meeting, deterred Xi from overreacting, as any inappropriate action would have become an opportunity for his political opponents to force him from power.
Since Xi came to power in 2012, he has often played the Taiwan card to enhance nationalist sentiments, Ji said. In January 2019, Xi delivered a strongly worded speech on the Taiwan issue, claiming that the “unification of Taiwan” is the focus of the CCP’s regime’s work in the future, and told the Taiwanese people to “cherish peace as much as cherish their own eyes” and that “independence is a dead end.” In other words, Xi was threatening that if the people of Taiwan reject the so-called “peaceful reunification” proposed by the CCP, what awaits them will be war, Ji said.
The CCP’s state-run media and propaganda authorities have been intensely hyping up nationalist and anti-foreign sentiment in recent years, turning a large group of citizens into hyper-nationalists, who echo the regime’s slogan of “unifying Taiwan by force” if Taiwan refuses to “return to its motherland.”
Following Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, the CCP’s “peaceful unification of Taiwan” is now history. The main card of Xi’s re-election is “unification of Taiwan,” so Pelosi’s visit has shaken the foundation of Xi’s continued rule, Ji said.
“As a totalitarian regime, the CCP’s power change has always lacked recognition from society, and there has been an unspoken rule within the CCP—having an outgoing leader designate a successor who is to take office after the immediate successor completes his term, which is extremely unstable,” Ji continued.
He believes that if Xi’s response to Pelosi’s visit is too aggressive—suiting the nationalist sentiment of some Chinese—it’s very dangerous as the CCP’s military strength is far less than that of the United States. However, if the response reveals the CCP’s weakness, Xi’s authority within the Party will be greatly damaged, which will give his political opponents the opportunity to challenge him and force him out.
After Pelosi’s departure from Taiwan, the furious CCP started its largest ever live-fire military drills in the waters around the island, which included firing ballistic missiles and deploying fighter jets. According to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, numerous warships and fighter aircraft had crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line.