As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi began a controversial visit to Taiwan on Tuesday, she won rare public praise from some of her most committed critics: conservative politicians and media.
More than half of the 50 Republicans in the Senate ― including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConell (R-Ky.) and key foreign policy figures Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) ― issued a joint statement on Pelosi’s trip soon after she landed on the island.
Saying the California Democrat had their “support,” the lawmakers wrote: “For decades, members of the United States Congress, including previous Speakers of the House, have travelled to Taiwan. This travel is consistent with the United States’ One China Policy to which we are committed. We are also committed, now more than ever, to all elements of the Taiwan Relations Act.”
Pelosi’s team promoted the statement to reporters after its release.
The U.S. codified its “One China” policy in 1979 to open official relations with the Chinese government in Beijing, which views Taiwan ― where Chinese nationalists retreated in 1949 after being defeated by the ruling Communist Party ― as a breakaway province. The policy acknowledges that Taiwan and the Chinese mainland ultimately comprise a single entity.
But in the same year it went into effect, Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act to ensure the U.S. and Taiwan’s government maintained unofficial ties. Crucially, the act states that the U.S. would oppose any attempt to coerce Taiwan to unify with mainland China and requires Washington to maintain the military capacity to resist such an attempt.
The balance established by those two policies and other diplomatic agreements among the U.S., China and Taiwan prevented a full-scale war over the island and allowed both Beijing and Taipei to focus on their development and cooperation in areas like trade, analysts say. Yet national experts worry that the equilibrium is increasingly fragile ― with China escalating a campaign of isolating Taiwan internationally and American officials increasingly sending mixed signals on how far they will go to protect the island.
With her visit, Pelosi has become the highest-ranking U.S. elected official to travel to Taiwan since then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich did so in 1997. She flew to the island despite Beijing’s fierce warnings and hints of a forceful retaliation, arguing that her travel was consistent with America’s policies and vital “at a time when the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”
On Fox News, correspondent Aishah Hasnie argued that Pelosi was acting courageously.
“Whether you agree with the speaker’s policies or not ... she is not one to back down,” Hasnie said. “She is a bold one.”
Pelosi invited multiple Republican legislators to join her delegation but none accepted, Hasnie later reported.
Jay Nordlinger, a senior editor at the National Review, called Pelosi’s decades of opposition to China’s ruling Communists “one of the best things about her.”
“Some Republicans will tell you this, in whispers. Some even say it out loud,” Nordlinger wrote on Twitter.
And in Taipei itself, crowds gathered to welcome the speaker while the city’s best-known skyscraper blasted out a message to her: “TW hearts US.”