US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent visit to Taiwan and her belligerent rhetoric is uncannily reminiscent of the late Senator John McCain's visits to Syria and Ukraine. The consequences of kicking the proverbial hornets' nest has, rather unsurprisingly, been unleashing a flurry of very angry hornets.
Perhaps even more concerning is the claim by Pelosi that she is standing with democracy in the face of autocracy. Anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of US foreign policy since 1945, not to mention the recent history of Taiwan, knows that this is about as hypocritical and laughable as it gets.
The United States has repeatedly overthrown democratic governments and propped up autocrats when it suited them (most notably in Latin America and the Middle East). Up until relatively recently, Taiwan was governed by authoritarian right-wing militarists heartily supported by Washington. Indeed, the US had no qualms in lending economic, political and military support to the regime. It even sought to coerce others into recognising the tiny fringe as the legitimate 'China' for decades, until more rational heads prevailed and the People's Republic of China was understood to represent the vast majority of Chinese.
While sending endless supplies of arms to Ukraine and imposing sanctions on Russia (most of which seem to have returned to haunt the West economically), the US has now unilaterally decided that picking a fight with the workshop of the world with an increasingly high-tech and formidable military is apparently a good idea.
Moreover, Pelosi's visit (and language) flies in the face of the United States' own explicitly declared One China policy. What on Earth does the US hope to achieve by falling out with China at a time when the world is facing so many problems which require global unity to solve?
Perhaps the USA's domestic failures (from increasing inequality, to debt, to guns and abortion rights) are forcing it to distract its own citizens by painting an external threat. The rhetoric around China, especially since Donald Trump's presidency and the Covid pandemic, has become increasingly belligerent (and quite frankly xenophobic and racist too). Across the United States, ignoring political divides, Americans view China as some monolithic bogeyman which means them all harm.
The US is treading on very thin ice. It may end up turning China into an enemy that it hasn't got the teeth to deal with. The US is in terminal decline, and it may yet prove to be the very paper tiger which Mao Zedong identified it as.