Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan captivates audiences in China and Taiwan
BEIJING (AP) — A few Chinese elders read the pages of a newspaper hung behind glass on an outdoor bulletin board in a relic of the pre-smartphone era on Wednesday, as that’s how people in China heard the news.
Wang Junzhong, 70, read an op-ed from the Global Times, an outspoken and fiercely nationalist voice of the ruling Communist Party. The headline read, « To safeguard national sovereignty and security, the Chinese military dares to show the spirit of the sword. »
After weeks of threatening rhetoric, China has shown its wits but refrained from direct military confrontation with the United States over the visit to Taiwan by a senior US politician, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Instead, he opted for military drills as a show of force, sending fighter jets through the air and scrambling crews on Navy ships in simulated emergencies after Pelosi defied warnings Chinese and flew to Taiwan on a US government plane on Tuesday evening.
The failure to prevent Pelosi from traveling to Taiwan – a self-governing island that China claims as its territory – disappointed some Chinese who had been annoyed by the government’s harsh words ahead of his trip. But Wang, in long sleeves and long pants despite the heavy weather, expressed her understanding.
« If China didn’t care about its people, it might just go ahead and use force, » Wang said. « If China cares about its people, it’s fine to tolerate for now. There’s not much we can do. I think the leaders are in a dilemma.
Bringing Taiwan, an island of 23 million people just 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the east coast of China, under Chinese control is a long-standing goal of the Communist Party. Its leaders say Taiwan is part of China and the United States and other countries have no right to meddle in what they see as a domestic matter.
The United States, under a one-China policy, does not recognize Taiwan as a nation, but maintains informal relations and defense ties with its government, much to China’s annoyance. But China is loath to go to war with the United States, even if it adds aircraft carriers and high-tech weapons to its forces.
« It is certain because China and the United States need each other in trade and other aspects, » said Song Ao, a 21-year-old college student. « I think we have to push in response to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, but not fight. »
The Chinese military exercises involved both officials and some residents of Taipei, the Taiwanese capital. China said it launched live-fire drills on Tuesday night and announced exercises from Thursday in six offshore areas that a Taiwanese military official described as « Taiwan’s isolation by air and sea ».
The drills may be routine, but they’re too close to Taiwan, said David Hong, a retired Taiwanese American financial consultant who was outside the legislature on Wednesday trying to catch a glimpse of Pelosi.
« It shows their ambitions, » he said. “We have to stop them. No more invasion.
Crowds waited for Pelosi’s arrival outside his hotel on Tuesday night, and some cheered as his motorcade, escorted by police cars with flashing lights, sped past and into an underground parking lot.
Pan Kuan, a 30-year-old English teacher, said the US House speaker showed courage in continuing on her journey.
« Although there was great pressure from China, it still chose the side of democracy and freedom, and bravely came to Taiwan, » he said. « She is like a heroine. She bravely fought the pressure from China. I think it takes courage to do that.
An almost equal crowd of pro-Beijing protesters also gathered outside the Grand Hyatt hotel, cursing Pelosi and telling her to leave.
After seeing Pelosi’s plane land, broadcast live by some Chinese digital news outlets, many rushed to the social media account of Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian – who had made threats during days – to express their disappointment that no drastic action has been taken to stop it. Others expressed support for the government’s approach.
« They shouldn’t have spoken big at first, » Wang said. “If they had downplayed it, people wouldn’t feel pushed away. Because they gave too much, it became difficult to conclude. After all, we didn’t want to use force when she came to visit us.
Associated Press video producer Olivia Zhang in Beijing and video journalist Taijing Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.
Ken Moritsugu, Associated Press