House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tiptoed around the issue of US-China relations Friday as she wrapped up her swing through Asia — knocking Beijing’s human rights record before insisting in the next breath that America had to “work with” its superpower rival.
“I have said it again and again: if we do not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out about human rights any place in the world,” Pelosi told reporters during a news conference at the US Embassy in Tokyo.
“We’re trying to find our common ground,” she added. “China has some contradictions, some progress in terms of lifting people up, some horrible things happening in terms of the Uyghurs. In fact, it’s been labeled a genocide.
“So, again, we have – we must work with China on issues that relate to the climate crisis, being two of the biggest emitters, and we can learn a lot from China in that regard,” the speaker concluded. “But we also have to work together for some decisions.”
However, that could prove to be difficult after the Chinese government announced on Friday it would be canceling or suspending talks with the US on issues ranging from climate change to military relations and anti-drug efforts in retaliation for Pelosi leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan earlier in the week.
The government also announced it would be imposing largely symbolic sanctions against the speaker and her family over the stay, which lasted about 19 hours.
China said Friday that more than 100 warplanes and 10 warships have taken part in the live-fire military drills surrounding Taiwan over the past two days. The exercises are expected to continue through Sunday and experts say they could lead to Beijing asserting new territorial claims and enforcing them.
The Chinese drills have not only set the world on edge about a potential war over Taiwan, they have also reportedly disrupted key global trading routes through the Taiwan Strait.
“As ships are utilized for by-passing the tensions and not for expediting trade it’s a move in the wrong direction – meaning more hardship for supply chains,” Peter Sand, chief analyst at ocean freight platform Xeneta, told Reuters Friday.
In response, the White House summoned Chinese ambassador Qin Gang late Thursday to protest the military activities.
“After China’s actions overnight, we summoned PRC Ambassador Qin Gang to the White House to démarche him about the [People’s Republic of China’s] provocative actions,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN.
“We condemned the PRC’s military actions, which are irresponsible, at odds with our long-standing goal of maintaining peace and stability and across the Taiwan Strait,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has defended its actions while continuing to point blame at Pelosi.
“The current situation is entirely caused by Speaker Pelosi and other US politicians,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Friday, blasting Kirby for accusing Beijing of using Pelosi’s visit as a “pretext” to increase military activity.
“Hearing this type of rhetoric from the US officials reminds people of the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. It is time for the US to get rid of its arrogance, selfishness, and hypocrisy and bullying practices,” Hua said.
“The context and the events that led to the tensions in the Taiwan Strait are crystal-clear. The US is the unprovoked provocateur and creator of the crisis”
The spokesperson later reiterated its claim that Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan is a “serious violation of the One China principle” and “seriously tramples on basic norms in international relations.”
“It also seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. China has done everything diplomatically possible. We had repeatedly warned the US through various channels of the grave nature and severe harm of this visit,” Hua said.
Throughout the week, Pelosi and other Washington officials have insisted the US still abides by the “One China” policy, which acknowledges China’s claim over Taiwan but does not recognize it.
Kirby has also reiterated that the administration does not support the island’s independence.