The visit to Taiwan by United States House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi was a needless provocation of China. While she is not the first House Speaker to go to Taiwan - Mr Newt Gingrich visited it in 1997 - her visit comes as relations between Beijing and Washington have suffered sharply on a number of fronts. Also, China today is a much more powerful country economically and militarily than it was a quarter of a century ago. Indeed, it is difficult to discern what exactly in China's recent actions towards Taiwan could have compelled Mrs Pelosi to have put the weight of her office behind a visit that is controversial at best. The calculus of peace in the Indo-Pacific demands that the most powerful countries hew to a stable trajectory of relations and not veer off in adventurous directions.
Clearly, the trip was inspired by Mrs Pelosi's desire to leave behind a legacy of herself as an activist for international democracy who is known to have stood up to China. Also, with US midterm elections due in November, when she is expected to step down as Speaker, her visit could be expected to win support among those Americans who believe in robust and public opposition to China's global policies. Problematically, personal and domestic political considerations have the potential of complicating US-Chinese ties, the brunt of whose effects Taiwan is likely to bear. Beijing already has announced economic measures and other sanctions against the island that will hurt in particular the fruit-growing region which is a traditional bastion of support for Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen. The Communist Party of China's 20th National Congress, due at around the same time as the US midterms, makes it necessary for the Beijing leadership to display iron resolve at meeting the freshest challenge from the US.