Recently the U.S. announced that Pelosi would be visiting Taiwan. The Chinese government threatened that if that happened, they would respond militarily. Xi even told Biden the following words: "Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.". These are very strong words to be told to the president of America. But the Americans are even discussing the cancellation of the visit. Is it not damaging to the international reputation of the U.S.? Why are they letting another country to interfere with their visit to their strategic partner? Please, correct me if any of my assumptions above are wrong.

  • Don't mix up words and actions. I don't know whether Pelosi will travel to Taiwan or not but if she does it becomes pretty irrelevant what Biden did or didn't say in response to Xi.
    – quarague
    Jul 31 at 8:37
  • Taiwan is not recognized as a country even by USA, so calling it strategic partner could be problematic.
    – convert
    Jul 31 at 11:11
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    ""Those who play with fire will perish by it. ...". These are very strong words..." I don't know. To me it rather sounds like diffuse threats. If China really wanted to attack Taiwan soon they would probably come up with more concrete things. And they probably wouldn't want to attack Taiwan only because of the visit of Nancy Pelosi. They aim for it for a very long time already.
    – Trilarion
    Jul 31 at 12:00
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    "But the Americans are even discussing the cancellation of the visit." Would probably improve the question to cite some sources for that. Who's discussing it? In a democracy all kind of things are discussed at all time. Doesn't mean that they get all done.
    – Trilarion
    Jul 31 at 12:03
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    You could make a very long list of threatening things the Chinese government has said; I'm not sure how this ranks.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 31 at 13:45

1 Answer 1


This is consistent with the policy followed by the USA since 1979, which can be summarised as "strategic ambiguity" Central to this policy is not stating the nature of the response that the US would make in the event of a military attack by the PRC on the RoC.

To this end the US is not saying "Pelosi will visit, and we will use the full range of military options available to us to ensure that this happens." Nor are they saying "We will do what Xi tells us". Instead they are remaining "strategically ambiguous".

  • That's interesting. But it could still hurt the U.S. reputation as they may be seen weak in the eyes of the people who don't know the details like these (which means most people around the world). What are the options of responding while still maintaining the "strategic ambiguity"? Could it be something seemingly unrelated to this case? Like, the U.S. putting some economic sanction on China, or a high level U.S. official condemning some Chinese action. Jul 31 at 9:50
  • Also, in May, Biden said that the US would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan if it came under attack from China. This does not fit with the "strategic ambiguity", how would this be explained? Jul 31 at 9:55
  • I'm not sure why you think "reputation" matters so much. In military terms, the USA has nukes, so it has the "reputation" to be able to obliterate any attacker. The options of responding are completely wide. Once you are responding to some military action you no longer care about ambiguity. If you look at what Biden actually said, you'll see he left himself wiggle room a mile wide. There was no guarantee of anything.
    – James K
    Jul 31 at 10:22
  • Responding militarily could also mean blocking off the Malacca canal. Biden's statements was also partially walked back by the Whitehouse. Exactly what that meant was ambiguous, strategically. Aug 1 at 13:06

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