The current visit by US Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan makes her the most senior US politician to travel to the island since her predecessor Newt Gingrich in 1997. The reaction by Beijing has been furious from the moment the story leaked, with President Xi reportedly telling President Biden last week that those who ‘play with fire’ over Taiwan will get burned.
With these threats in mind, and with relations between the superpowers at a low not seen for decades, there are severe risks at play. The American political commentator Thomas Friedman has even gone as far as to say that her actions ‘might start World War III’. But will her visit really tip the US, and therefore potentially its allies, into some kind of conflict with China?
First of all, it’s important to understand why Pelosi is making the trip.