BRUSSELS — The visit to Taiwan by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking official to travel there in decades, could take the acrimony between the United States and China to new highs and leave U.S. allies in difficult positions.
Bonnie S. Glaser, the director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, called the trip ill-timed and said the Biden administration would find it “very difficult to recover” relations with China in the wake of the trip.
Speaking as Ms. Pelosi’s plane approached Taiwan, Ms. Glaser said that in general, China was likely to see Mr. Biden, whose party faces midterm elections in November, “increasingly as a lame duck.”
She added that after the midterms in November, “they may feel that they just don’t even want to engage very productively with this administration.”
With a crucial party congress coming this year, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, will have noted other visits to Taiwan by senior Republicans like Mike Pompeo, a former secretary of state, and Mark Esper, a former secretary of defense, who have respectively urged the United States to recognize Taiwan and design a new China policy.
Support for Taiwan is also growing in the U.S. Congress, and Mr. Xi “may be worried that this administration is moving toward supporting Taiwan independence,” Ms. Glaser said.
“I think they want to stop this slippery slope, the slide toward Taiwan independence, and I think they feel compelled to bolster their red lines to let the United States know that they are not kidding,” she said. “They’re very serious about preventing Taiwan independence before it gets to a point that it’s really, really dangerous. So I think they have identified this visit as where they want to draw that red line.”
American allies in Asia and in Europe are also anxious about the Chinese reaction to the Pelosi visit, she and other analysts said.
Antoine Bondaz, a French political scientist at Sciences Po, said on Twitter: “What bothers me in the way we talk about Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan and the Chinese response is that we forget the real question: Will the security and prosperity of the Taiwanese be strengthened or diminished in the coming weeks? That’s what counts.”
And while China’s image in Europe has deteriorated with its responses to Covid and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Beijing remains powerful on the continent, Philippe Le Corre, a French scholar of China who is a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, wrote in the Ouest-France newspaper.
“European governments and companies are not leaning toward a ‘decoupling’ with the Chinese economy,” which has the unique advantage of “a relatively integrated market of 1.4 billion consumers,” he wrote.
The real question for Europe, Mr. Le Corre added, is the future of democracy and the weight Europe gives to a democracy like Taiwan, “whose 23 million inhabitants have proven — rather like the Ukrainians — that they could build a democracy in a hostile environment.”