US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made an unannounced but heavily anticipated landing in Taiwan on Tuesday, plunging US-China relations to a new low. Despite warnings from other top Washington officials, Pelosi has now become the highest US official to visit the island in 25 years – but the situation is far different now than it was then.
First, it should be recognized how consequential this decision is. For the US, it’s not that big of a deal. Congressional delegations, not just from the US but many Western countries, go to Taiwan frequently. It’s also seen as separate from official US government policy because the legislative branch of government is separate from the executive, which is tasked with managing foreign policy.
In fact, Pelosi noted this in a tweet when she first arrived on the island. “Our visit is one of several Congressional delegations to Taiwan – and it in no way contradicts longstanding United States policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, US-China Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances,” she said.