Estonian in Taiwan: Pelosi visit latest in major shift in western relations

Tauno Kelder.
Tauno Kelder. Source: ERR

A sea change in the interaction between western countries and the Republic of China (Taiwan) has been taking place in recent years, at least according to one Estonian, who resides in Taiwan.

Tauno Kelder told ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade" Wednesday that this came to a head with House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan this week, in defiance of People's Republic of China warnings that "consequences" would ensue if the trip went ahead.

The visit was expected and unexpected, all at the same time, Kelder said.

He said: "When the news started to trickle in, it was most likely as a leak, making it already impossible for her to back down, because then the U.S. would have appeared very weak. Initially, people didn't seem to notice that something along these lines was happening."

"There has been a major shift in recent years, whereby, essentially, officials, especially incumbent officials from other countries generally do not visit Taiwan, lest it incurs the PRC's wrath," he added.

This sea change started to pick up pace last year, when more current, high-level foreign officials started to visit Taipei, to the extent that the phenomenon became the subject of public dialogue.

"Earlier on, the same thing had been happening to a lesser extent, but it wasn't talked about. However, now people in the western world have probably realized that Beijing actually gets cross about everything in any case, so now things have become more relaxed, because, well, what can be done anyway?"

Kelder acknowledged that Beijing's reaction to Pelosi's visit has, however, been more stern than usual, given the country announced upcoming naval exercises both in the Taiwan strait and on all sides of the island nation's coast, in response to the visit. 

The exercise's area in question includes zones located to the north, south, east, and west of the island of Taiwan (see map below). According to the Ministry of Defense in Taipei, these drills amount to essentially a blockade of Taiwan's sea and airspace.

Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan Wednesday at the end of a two-day trip that included visits with the country's president, Tsai Ing-wen, and vows to preserve democratic integrity in the teeth of threats from the Chinese mainland.

Pelosi was the highest-ranking U.S. official to have visited Taipei in well over 20 years and is traveling home in an official capacity via the other two independent countries in the region which have also long formed a bulwark for the U.S. and western presence, Japan and South Korea.

Beijing says its military exercises initiated in the wake of the Pelosi visit will involve live-firing.

Taiwan, formerly Formosa, became the sole territory ruled by the Republic of China, initially under Chiang Kai-shek, who had relocated there after defeat by communist forces on the mainland in 1949. However, Beijing asserts a claim over the island as part of its own territory. In recent months, Lithuania has also drawn Beijing's ire, after it opened a Taiwanese embassy in its capital, Vilnius.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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