Ho, like many of Taiwan’s 23 million citizens, has lived with threats from China for decades. “Maybe it’s because Taiwanese are used to being scared,” Ho said. “We’re at the center of this conflict, but somehow I still feel like a viewer – just curious how it’s going to turn out.”
Pelosi is a longtime critic of the Chinese Communist Party, winning her fans among those who support Taiwan independence. In 1991, Pelosi traveled to Beijing and held up a black and white banner in Tiananmen Square to commemorate the victims of the 1989 massacre that read, “To those who died for democracy.” In recent years, she has been a strong supporter of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
At Taipei Songshan Airport on Tuesday, a small group of supporters waited to greet Pelosi – and the atmosphere felt “like a countdown to the New Year”, wrote Lin Ching-yi, a Progressive Party lawmaker. Democrat of Taiwan, on Facebook.
“I am very happy that President Pelosi came to show her support,” said Liu Yueh-hsia, 72, holding a banner that read: “President Pelosi, welcome to the Republic of Taiwan.”
Liu, who has been advocating for Taiwan’s formal independence for decades, added: “We have nothing to do with China. We don’t want to be united with them.
Taipei 101, the tallest skyscraper in Taiwan, was lit up with welcome messages for Pelosi in English and Chinese.
Elsewhere on the island, however, small groups of protesters, including those who support unification with China, trampled American flags and held up signs disparaging Pelosi and urging the American delegation to return home. One held up a sign calling Pelosi an “American witch.”
At a press conference with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday, Pelosi was asked what she could offer Taiwan to offset any costs the island would incur — including economic retaliation from China — following his visit.
She replied that her visit was part of a larger US effort to have “better economic exchanges” with Taiwan, and she said that “important” Taiwanese companies were already considering investing in manufacturing in the States. She also praised the “ingenuity, the entrepreneurial spirit, the intellectual power, the intellectual resource that exists in Taiwan”, and called the island’s technology sector a “model”.
White House spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that “China has positioned itself to take further action” following Pelosi’s visit – which could include more military exercises near Taiwan and measures of “economic coercion”, he said. “We expect them to continue to respond in the longer term,” he added.
China on Thursday blacklisted two Taiwanese nonprofit organizations affiliated with Taiwan’s foreign ministry, a move that local reports say is a response to Pelosi’s visit. “Beijing’s intimidation would serve no purpose other than to incite Taiwanese antipathy towards China,” Lai Jui-lung, a lawmaker with Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, told the Taipei Times. “We urge the communist regime in China to stop before it falls into an abyss.”
Although most Taiwanese think war is the last thing China wants, some still worry about the short-term consequences of the visit.
Zamake Chang, 30, an engineer from Taoyuan, said Wednesday he spent the day watching flights from Taiwan’s main airport to see if any had been disrupted. “I’m supposed to travel overseas soon, and I’m quite worried that the Chinese military maneuvers will block us, and I won’t be able to go,” he said.
“Before the start of the war in Ukraine, people were also saying that Russia would not invade,” he added. “Historically, there have been many wars that started suddenly. So really, it’s quite tense now.
Annabelle Timsit, Vic Chiang and Pei-Lin Wu contributed to this report.