United States Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan late in the evening of Aug. 2, sparking a wave of reactions in both China and Taiwan.
Her trip is significant as she is the highest ranking U.S. official to visit the island in 25 years -- Pelosi is second in line to the presidency as well.
China's reaction officially has been to announce live fire exercises worryingly close to Taiwan island, in a non-subtle signal that they have Taiwan surrounded.
PLA will conduct important military exercises and training activities including live-fire drills in six regions surrounding the Taiwan island from Thursday to Sunday pic.twitter.com/k9q1WEDsyF— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 2, 2022
It also announced bans of the importation of fruit and other foodstuffs from Taiwan, as well as banning sand exports to the island, as reported by Nikkei.
Chinese diplomats highlighted the support received from close ally Russia as well, with one tweeting a pledge of support from Russia that stated their stance about there being "only one China", and that the People's Republic of China (PRC) government is the "only legitimate government representing all of China".
#Russia operates on the premise that there is only one China, said its foreign ministry, stressing that the People's Republic of China's government is the only legitimate government representing all of China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. pic.twitter.com/E72KwciuDb— Zhang Meifang张美芳 (@CGMeifangZhang) August 3, 2022
This is also Washington's official position, although they only acknowledges the Chinese position that Taiwan is part of China, and doesn't recognise Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan.
Depicted her as a clown and called her a "witch"
As collated by SupChina, many of the trending reactions were spearheaded by youth organisations under the Chinese Communist Party.
They used hashtags such as #美台勾连挑衅玩火必自焚 (“The U.S. conniving with Taiwan is provocation, playing with fire, and will certainly burn themselves") or #干涉中国主权问题14亿人不答应 ("1.4 billion people don't agree with interference in China’s sovereignty issues”).
They also typically accompanied their posts with drawings that mock Pelosi, such as the following picture of her as a clown juggling fire while riding a unicycle on the edge of a cliff, where a pile of gasoline canisters lies close by.
Weibo users also took to referring to Pelosi as an “old witch” (老巫婆) and “unhinged hag” (神经病老太婆) . The "witch" insult played into the image of Pelosi as a schemer or conniver, perhaps alluding to a Global Times article published in April which posited that Pelosi's visit represented coordination at the very top of the U.S.'s government, including President Joe Biden.
Chinese online users also discussed what the appropriate next steps would be, debating the merits of military action. While some dreaded the possibility of war, others said that it was imperative for the Chinese government to take decisive action.
Some cast about looking for any sign of disloyalty they could that was displayed by celebrities, with some even accusing S.H.E's Hebe Tien of culinary based treachery.
Many users tracked developments late into the night, prompting one to lament "we are literally on the verge of a war and I can’t believe I still have to go to work tomorrow".
Chinese disappointed by government's response
But many ordinary Chinese Weibo users were also disappointed in their government's response to Pelosi's visit, with one saying, "Someone steps on your red line and yet you made no moves?"
Prior to Pelosi's visit, China has repeatedly given stern warnings, saying the U.S. would "pay the price" if she goes through with the trip.
In a post, former editor-in-chief of the Global Times, Hu Xijin, acknowledged that China's official response failed to live up to the public's expectations, adding that he understands why people are feeling disappointed.
Hu is known for his nationalistic views and has issued belligerent warnings to Taiwan in the past for accepting the visits of American officials.
However, he sought to encourage his fellow nationalistic Chinese, telling them not to think of Pelosi's visit as a failure on China's part to stop her, adding that they must not have this sort of "collective weakness" for thinking this way.
He added that the six live-fire military exercises that China would be holding every day from Aug. 4 to Aug. 7 are something that Taiwan is terribly frightened of.
"If we're the Taiwanese, such a tiny place, surrounded by offensive military exercises, would we still think that these are 'exercises'?" he wrote.
Hu further said these exercises are actually meant for the actual scenario when China finally uses military force on Taiwan to wrest control of it.
On the Taiwanese side, because Pelosi's Taiwan trip was not officially scheduled, there was some doubt regarding whether she would actually visit the island or not.
The @Taiwanmemes twitter account posted a useful catchup guide for those out of the loop, with some comparing Pelosi's arrival to a typhoon.
The joke is that many folks in Taiwan thought "Pelosi" was a new name for the seasonal typhoon because the news kept suspecting whether she might come or not. https://t.co/eNPKeC9baV— wen liu (@wenliunyc) August 3, 2022
Wagers were made on whether Pelosi would even show up, with a tasty consequence for the "losers".
To my knowledge, at least five Taiwanese commentators and politicians are gifting more than 300 bags of Taiwanese fried chicken chop for free on the street because they won/lost the bet on whether Pelosi will come or not.— Austin H. Wang (@wearytolove) August 2, 2022
It's a win-win tradition and should be treasured.
Some sentiments were conveyed less subtly, with the Taiwan 101 building, amongst the world's tallest buildings, lighting up with messages that welcome Pelosi to Taiwan.
Taiwan’s tallest building and most iconic landmark, Taipei 101, lit up at 9pm tonight, welcoming @SpeakerPelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Words include “Speaker Pelosi”, “Welcome to TW”, “Thank you”, “TW ❤️ US” (1/2) pic.twitter.com/q0aFEjqGZl— Tingting Liu 劉亭廷 (@tingtingliuTVBS) August 2, 2022
Not everyone was pleased with her arrival, with some demonstrators urging her to go away, and not interfere with an issue that's between China and Taiwan. Banners and placards referred to Pelosi as an "old witch", an "ugly American", and even called for her to be jailed.
Protests broke out in Taiwan against Pelosi's visit.— Chaudhary Parvez (@ChaudharyParvez) August 2, 2022
Residents in #Taiwan island protested on the streets on urge #Pelosi to stay out of the island.#China #Taiwan #TaiwanIsNotChina #Taiwanchina #Pelosi #Russia #USA pic.twitter.com/VGFk9oKJ2G
Pelosi has left for South Korea on the evening of Aug. 3, after having met with President Tsai Ing-Wen in the afternoon. She will continue on to Japan, another U.S. ally, before ending her trip to Asia.
Top image via @taiwanmemes/Twitter & Weibo