Touchdown, strap in
Under the cover of darkness, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi makes rumors reality in a move sure to rile China no end.
A defiant Nancy Pelosi: Art: Mark Corry.
United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touched down in Taipei – Sungshan Airport – at approximately 10.40pm (Taiwan time) this evening and was en-route to the Grand Hyatt Taipei as this ChinaDiction went to press.
Taipei 101 lit up briefly for the historic moment:
The Financial Times (paywall) reports she will be meeting Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen tomorrow.
Let’s throw this into the bigger Taiwan perspective; The KMT, which lost China and “fled” to Taiwan, forfeited global support by claiming to be one of two Chinas.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is in the process of winning the world back by being a model inclusive democracy.
Back to Nancy Pelosi’s visit, is it history in the making, or simply a flutter in the space-time fabric?
Does it signal a long-term shift in US policy on the “Taiwan question” – as in less strategic ambiguity – or will Nancy come and go and be forgotten?
Who knows. But Pelosi’s touchdown will likely be momentous in terms of ramifications that will take time to play out.
The immediate ramifications are not as hard hitting as some in the media have led us to believe they would be:
Meanwhile, the trip itself was definitive of ambiguity, with US President Biden outright suggesting the military thought the time was less than ideal – as if there would ever be good timing – and public silence on whether she would touch down until she did.
The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reports on Pelosi’s entourage:
The other members of the delegation include Gregory Meeks of New York, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mark Takano of California, who chairs the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Other members are Suzan DelBene of Washington, the vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, a member of the House Intelligence Committee; and Andy Kim of New Jersey, who is a member of the House Armed Services and House Foreign Affairs Committees.
Pelosi has been long been a thorn in the side of the CCP, meeting with pro-democracy dissidents and the Dalai Lama. In 1991, she unfurled a banner in Beijing's Tiananmen Square to commemorate victims of the 1989 massacre. It said, "To those who died for democracy." More recently, she supported the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
But, the fear in China is that a high-level visit of this kind sets a precedent for high-level diplomatic exchanges between Taiwan and a world formerly too timid to rile the “dragon of the East.”
The Global Times, China’s go-to state-run tabloid for scare quotes, of course, has been working itself up into a warmongering lather:
"Preparing for war!" This short social media post by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) 80th Group Army generated over 300,000 thumbs-up in 12 hours on Friday, amid high morale among Chinese soldiers ahead of the 95th anniversary of the founding of the PLA and escalating tensions across the Taiwan Straits.
The post on Sina Weibo had received more than 19,000 comments as of press time, with many netizens commenting excitedly "PLA soldiers, fighting! We support you guys!"
But the PLA is always up to all kinds of things this time of year, as Isaac Stone Fish points out:
The Financial Times reports on the tortured ire emanating from Beijing:
“Pelosi is one of the most important national leaders in the US,” said Lu Xiang, a US expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. “For people in her position, every move comes with consequences. If she visits Taiwan without the consent of China there would be serious consequences, including military consequences.”
In a demonstration of its capabilities, the PLA conducted live-fire exercises on Saturday in Pingtan, a coastal area in south-eastern Fujian province about 125km from Taiwan. State media also broadcast footage of a Chinese destroyer firing its weapons in the South China Sea, which the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier group is believed to be sailing through after visiting Singapore.
The New York Times weighs in:
The Chinese government perhaps gave a foretaste of how it would respond if she visits when the military announced live-fire exercises in waters 80 miles from neighboring Taiwan’s coast. On Monday, the 95th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, Chinese military media unleashed more statements about defending sovereignty, as well as video of China’s Dongfeng-17 ballistic missile. Chinese television also issued an unflattering video profile of Ms. Pelosi.
“We once again sternly warn the U.S. side that China stands at the ready and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never sit idly by,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, told reporters in Beijing on Monday about Ms. Pelosi’s possible visit. “China will take resolute and vigorous countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Xi Jinping, who is currently presiding over an unprecedented (since the Deng Xiaoping era at least) economic downturn and unpopular zero-covid lockdowns, will have to do something or he’ll be walking into the 20th Party Congress a lame-duck autocrat.
At least Xi has some support in Taiwan – at least 10 Taiwanese, by ChinaDiction’s count, are against a Pelosi visit:
The crowds outside the Grand Hyatt Taipei, where Pelosi is scheduled to spend the night, appear more receptive to the arrival of the US House Speaker:
Wu’er Kaixi, Tiananmen student leader exile and General Secretary of the Taiwan Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, told ChinaDiction, “I hope Speaker Pelosi’s trip is just the beginning of a process of righting wrong.
“The world, the United States, in particular, owes Taiwan so much.”
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In China, an imaginary romance
When Nancy (Pelosi) met (Hu) Xijin. Photo: Weibo
For those who imagine that everyday Chinese are watching Pelosi’s every move with the same white-knuckle, end-of-the-world anxiety that we are, What’s on Weibo reports that some Chinese “netizens” are bringing a dash of levity to the issue.
The report notes that the fantasy romance that has caught China social media by storm derives its humor, not only from its absurdity, but from the fact that the fiery, wolf-warrior former editor of the tabloid Global Times, Hu Xijin, is known as “Old Hu” (老胡), while Nancy Pelosi is known as “Old Witch” (老妖婆).
The creation of fictional romances is a “thing” on Chinese social media – known as CP, for “coupling” or “character pairing.”
What’s on Weibo reports Hu Xijin appears to approve, responding with three thumbs up to someone who sent him the picture.
Wanted: strategic Pacific island
Perfect spot for an aircraft carrier to rest up and resupply. Photo: WikiCommons.
China is trying to buy one of the Solomon Islands, according to the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC).
Documents obtained by Four Corners show a Chinese slush fund was activated twice last year and dispersed nearly $3 million directly to members of parliament loyal to the Prime Minister.
One letter signed by Mr Sogavare said the Chinese embassy in Honiara "consented" to provide "additional support" for his government in August last year.
That was in the lead-up to a vote of no confidence, which could have toppled the Prime Minister and undermined Beijing's ambitions in the tiny Pacific nation.
Mr Sogavare described the money as a "stimulus package" to revitalise the economy, although it was only given to MPs loyal to him. Opposition members received nothing.
Evergrande misses $300 billion debt restructuring deadline
Evergrande Guangzhou headquarters. Photo: WikiCommons.
Evergrande has failed to meet a self-imposed deadline for a proposal to restructure its US$300 billion in liabilities, adding to uncertainty over the fate of the world’s most indebted real estate developer, reports the Financial Times.
The struggling property business, which was the most prominent default last year in a sector-wide liquidity crisis in China that shook its entire real estate market, said in January that it would publish a “preliminary restructuring proposal” by the end of July. Last month, it told creditors it was on track to meet the deadline and urged patience amid threats of legal action.
Take it down a tier or three
The Wall Street Journal (paywall) has a long breakdown on strained finances in Chinese cities most of us haven’t heard of, but which carry much of the national economic stimulus burden.
Let’s just hand this over to the Journal because it’s been a busy day here:
China’s property market slowdown and strains from the country’s zero-Covid-19 campaign are putting new pressure on local governments’ finances, forcing some to rein in spending, adding another drag on China’s weakened economy.
Local governments, which shoulder much of the expense for education, healthcare and other services in China, were already struggling with high debt loads and unsustainable expenses as 2022 began.
Now the strains are getting worse. Cities must fund costly mass Covid testing programs imposed by Beijing to try to keep Covid-19 caseloads near zero. They are also being asked by Beijing to support stimulus meant to revive growth, including tens of billions of dollars’ worth of railways and other infrastructure projects.
The point being that local-government-level debts will have to be resolved at some point, and the issue is likely to become an unusual political clash between city-level governments and Beijing.
US considers memory chip crackdown
Reuters reports the US may limit '“shipments of American chipmaking equipment to memory chip makers in China including Yangtze Memory Technologies Co Ltd.”
The crackdown, if approved, would involve barring the shipment of U.S. chipmaking equipment to factories in China that manufacture advanced NAND chips.
It would mark the first U.S. bid through export controls to target Chinese production of memory chips without specialized military applications, representing a more expansive view of American national security, according to export control experts.
The move comes amid numerous reports of China’s leaps-and-bounds advances in semiconductor manufacturing and would aim to protect US businesses.
The Greater Sinosphere
Last remaining democrat party accused of being a cult
The last active pro-democracy group in HK, the League of Social Democrats is under attack, reports Bitter Winter, in a campaign conducted by pro-CCP media, which claims that “the League violates the National Security Law and should be banned.”
While some international media have noticed the campaign the CCP started on July 26, they have failed to mention one of its features. The articles on the League published in Hong Kong pro-CCP propaganda organs did not claim that the group violated the National Security Law only. They also claimed that the League operates as a xie jiao or (in English) as a “cult.”
The current campaign systematically compares the League to Falun Gong. It claims that the leaders of the League brainwash and manipulate their gullible followers just as Falun Gong and other “cults” are accused of doing. Pro-CCP daily Ta Kung Pao insisted that the League’s “mode of activity and slogan content are similar to Falun Gong.”
That’s some hard-hitting language, given the treatment doled out to Falun Gong practitioners over the years – permanent imprisonment and death mostly.
Indigenous People’s Day celebrated with gusto
The mood in an ever-defiant Taiwan for yesterday’s Indigenous People’s Day.
To paraphrase Paiwan Ljius Kulivu @ljius1, the National Assembly replaced the term “Mountain Compatriots” with “Indigenous” in 1994. It is a term “we believe best describes ourselves after these 400 yrs of being called names associated with ‘savages’ by a series of foreign occupations.”
On June 16, 1997, “indigenous activists launched a social movement to call for indigenous collective rights on land ownership, autonomy, and nation, which received support from indigenous representatives from National Assembly.”
The term "Indigenous" was replaced with "Indigenous Peoples” – and with collective rights.
Despite having 16 officially recognized indigenous groups & more than 42 languages, other groups are still fighting for recognition from the government.
I stand in solidarity with their efforts. And Taiwan is far more multicultural than it seems in addition to its overly-talked about issues with China and US.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activists offered pathway to citizenship
Focus Taiwan reports that Taiwan has adopted measures that will allow Hong Kong pro-democracy activists to apply for citizenship five years after seeking asylum in the country.
The new measures took effect recently, which means that Hong Kongers who entered Taiwan under the government-run "Hong Kong Humanitarian Aid Project" since June 2020 can obtain Taiwan citizenship after a five-year stay, CNA has learned from three different sources.
Taiwan had launched the aid project and created the Taiwan-Hong Kong Office for Exchanges and Services to help Hong Kong pro-democracy activists relocate, in the wake of China's imposition of a National Security Law in June 2020, which empowered Hong Kong authorities to prosecute dissidents there.
It’s a somewhat contentious issue in Taiwan among pro-PRC KMT hardliners (few in number these days) and so-called deep-Green elements in the DPP, who see all such moves as suggestive of acquiescence to China’s claims on independent Taiwan.
Here at ChinaDiction we’re big fans of Taiwan Birds @TaiwanBirding.
But there are limits.
Even if it’s an albino Taiwan Barbet.
How do we prepare for war when everyone’s out birding? And imagine how Nancy Pelosi feels …
Taiwan defense budget gets needed bump
Air defense bunker in Kangle, Hsinchu, northern Taiwan, looks like it could do with some extra budget. Photo: Yuriy Kosygin, Creative Commons.
The Executive Yuan plans to expand the defense budget by 4.09 percent for the next fiscal year, according to the Taipei Times.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is expected to approve the plan in the next few days, which would enable the Executive Yuan to present the budget to the legislature soon, they added.
If that bunker pictured above is anything to go by, the budget could do with a bump.
The slot is ideal for pizza deliveries, though.
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