In this photo released by the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, center, walks with Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, left, as she arrives in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday night despite threats from Beijing of serious consequences, becoming the highest-ranking American official to visit the self-ruled island claimed by China in 25 years. Credit: Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs / AP

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on

My opinion of Speaker Nancy Pelosi is, to put it mildly, negative. Since she arrived on the national stage in 2003, she has practiced a brand of politics that I believe has harmed the country. I despise her political agenda, and view her as hopelessly corrupt, because of the frequent and repeated accusations of insider trading directed at her during her time in Congress.

And yet, I must admit that this week I gained a small smidgen of respect for her, due to her decision to make an official visit to Taiwan.

Taiwan is a separate, free, sovereign, democratic nation. You wouldn’t think that would be a controversial thing to say, given that it has operated as such since 1949, yet due to the intricacies of geopolitics, it is.

This all harkens back to the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War, which had been raging intermittently since 1927. After the end of World War II, the communist forces led by Mao Zedong gained the upper hand, and eventually captured the entirety of mainland China in 1949, pushing the forces representing the Republic of China to the island of Taiwan.

In the aftermath of that, the United States government recognized the government in Taiwan as the legitimate Chinese government and Mao’s Communist regime as illegitimate. Taiwan occupied China’s seat in the United Nations, and enjoyed full diplomatic recognition.

All of that changed in the 1970s. In 1971, the United Nations, over the objection of the United States, removed the government of Taiwan from the United Nations, replacing it with that of the People’s Republic of China. Then came the 1972 diplomatic trip to China by President Richard Nixon, which resulted in the normalization of relations between the United States and the mainland Communist regime.

The United States would then go on to sever official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, redefine its view of what the island was, and develop what is known as the one-China policy, which states that “there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.” This was an ambiguous, cowardly statement meant to leave open the question of what government was legitimate while giving a nod to the Chinese Communist government, which has never given up its desire for total conquest of its exiled rival government.

Throughout these various diplomatic shifts and changes, the government of Taiwan has been a country of its own for 70 years. It is not a part of China. We know that. Taiwan knows that. China knows that. The world knows that.

Our instance of pretending otherwise is ridiculous, and it only persists because of risk-averse foreign policy voices that cry out for a preservation of the status quo at all costs, so as to not wake the dragon on the mainland.

For their part, the Chinese have gotten very good at intimidating the United States to cower in the corner over even acknowledging Taiwan’s existence. In the wake of the news of a possible visit by Pelosi, the Chinese threatened “targeted military operations” in response.

And yet, in the face of those threats, Pelosi didn’t blink for and went ahead with the trip anyway. In an opinion column submitted to the Washington Post, she explained why.

“In recent years, Beijing has dramatically intensified tensions with Taiwan,” she wrote, “leading the U.S. Defense Department to conclude that China’s army is “likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with the PRC by force.”

“In the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) accelerating aggression,” she continued, “our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.”

Good for her. I’m sure that her motives for the trip are political, and less than pure, but regardless she has correctly identified what China is doing, has managed to bring attention to it, and state clearly an American commitment to oppose it. Well done.

My only real criticism is this. “Our visit — one of several congressional delegations to the island — in no way contradicts the long-standing one-China policy,” she wrote. “The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo.”

That statement is expected, but disappointing. It is a shame she didn’t take this opportunity to highlight the absurdity of the one-China policy, and call it what it is: a ridiculous fiction.

Still, the trip itself and most of her statements are worthy of praise, and I’m very glad to have seen her go.

Matthew Gagnon, Opinion columnist

Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Policy Institute, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist...