Did Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan Trip Close the Thucydides Trap?
The Chinese standpoint is clear: The status quo that gave cross-Strait relations a semblance of stability has been ruptured.
In Northeast Asia, China’s growing camaraderie with an isolated North Korea coupled with enhanced American alliances with Japan and South Korea portends an even trickier situation given Kim Jong Un’s impending seventh nuclear test. The absence of President Yoon Suk-yeol and his foreign minister during Pelosi’s visit to South Korea, which was noted by China, is a signal to avoid any unnecessary diplomatic controversy with Beijing. Japan’s defiant trajectory, of course, has already been set as an Indo-Pacific anchor state that has indicated military support for Taiwan’s defense though, considering the potential for volatility, it has largely refused to comment on Pelosi’s stopover in Taiwan.
China’s calculation with India, the United States Indo-Pacific partner, despite the ongoing Himalayan conflict, has become more predictable because of Beijing’s need to expand its outreach in China-led multilateral forums like the SCO and India’s centrality as a buffer with the West and formally non-aligned power. However, a simple misstep would be enough to derail this fragile détente—the border talks have just reached a political “four-point consensus” though without any further disengagement. Hence, India will have to deftly manage Chinese advances for cross-regional cooperation.
Regardless of the furor, whether Pelosi’s visit should be criticized as a grave miscalculation or praised as a valiant attempt at displaying solidarity (or dominance in China’s view) seems moot in the grand scheme of things. What matters now is how the various regional stakeholders will maneuver diplomatic entente to de-escalate tensions between China and the United States and avoid making the Indo-Pacific the scapegoat of hegemonic gambling.
Dr. Jagannath Panda is a Contributing Editor at the National Interest. Dr. Panda is the Head of Stockholm Centre for South Asian and Indo-Pacific Affairs (SCSA-IPA) at the ISDP; and a Senior Fellow at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. He is also the Director for Europe-Asia Research Cooperation at the YCAPS, Japan.