Cowardly silence in Taipei as Pelosi plans trip
- At a moment of real danger, by staying quiet and letting Washington decide whether the US House speaker should visit as if the island has no say in the matter, President Tsai Ing-wen is turning Taiwan into America’s 51st state
Cometh the hour, cometh the man or – let’s not be sexist here – the woman. When the moment comes, the right person would come through, so the cliché goes.
That’s the Hollywood version. The tragedy of history is usually not about great and worthy individuals, but rather lesser people being in charge at a moment of maximum danger. That rarely ends well. And so, in walks Tsai Ing-wen.
The two superpowers are claiming to fight for the benefit and welfare of Taiwan and its people. They, and their generals and pundits have been making so much noise about a visit to the self-ruled island – maybe it’s on or maybe it’s not – by the American speaker of the House of Representatives.
For Beijing, it’s sheer provocation. For Washington, it’s showing support to a friend. Of course, both countries have agendas quite at odds with the best interests of the Taiwanese.
And yet, through all this, Tsai has been conspicuously quiet. Her silence is deafening.
If there is one person in the world who could truly justify and legitimise Nancy Pelosi’s visit, it’s Tsai. Alternatively, the president may judge the visit to be too provocative to be in the best interest of the island at this time. One way or another, a real leader chooses; she takes a stand.
Not Tsai though. She has said nothing about the visit. Premier Su Tseng-chang is a bit more forthcoming but still ambiguous, saying the government is “very grateful to Speaker Pelosi for her strong support and kindness towards Taiwan over the years” and that the island welcomes any friendly guests from overseas.
It is perhaps politic for Tsai to stay mum. If events take a turn for the worst, she can blame Beijing and/or Washington. But by leaving the decision to the Americans, she makes the island look like the 51st state of the US. She has repeatedly claimed the island is already sovereign. But doesn’t a sovereign power decide whether it’s a good idea for a foreign dignitary to visit? She is acting like she has no such decision-making power at all.
It’s been claimed that Taiwanese people are too used to Beijing’s threats to care. That may have been so when both superpowers were on relatively stable terms. Now, they are at each other’s throats; Taiwan is being turned into a core conflict zone. But Tsai makes herself look like a bystander.