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  5. Pelosi says she is in Taiwan to show the US will 'never give in to autocrats,' just weeks after Biden fist-bumped MBS

Pelosi says she is in Taiwan to show the US will 'never give in to autocrats,' just weeks after Biden fist-bumped MBS

John Haltiwanger   

Pelosi says she is in Taiwan to show the US will 'never give in to autocrats,' just weeks after Biden fist-bumped MBS
  • Pelosi visited Taiwan on Tuesday in defiance of threats from Beijing.
  • Pelosi said the trip was an important sign of America's support for democracy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touched down in Taiwan on Tuesday, visiting the self-governing island democracy in spite of incendiary threats from the Chinese government.

In a Washington Post op-ed defending the controversial visit, Pelosi contended that traveling to Taiwan sent an important message about the US government's commitment to defending democracy at a time when Beijing is increasingly aggressive. China views Taiwan as a breakaway province, and said it would launch a series of military drills around the island as a response to Pelosi defying Beijing's warnings.

Pelosi's trip to Taiwan came just weeks after President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat, visited Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — a leader widely regarded as an autocrat and enemy to democracy. The two trips highlight how the US government's professed values often clash with how it pursues what it perceives as the country's best interests.

"We cannot stand by as the [Chinese Communist Party] proceeds to threaten Taiwan — and democracy itself," Pelosi said, adding, "Indeed, we take this trip at a time when the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy. As Russia wages its premeditated, illegal war against Ukraine, killing thousands of innocents — even children — it is essential that America and our allies make clear that we never give in to autocrats."

Pelosi's op-ed echoed Biden, who has routinely said that there's a global fight between democracy and autocracy. Biden has said that the US is in a competition with China to win the 21st century, framing it as part of the broader battle against autocracy.

Along these lines, Biden faced widespread criticism when he visited Saudi Arabia and met with Prince Mohammed — often referred to as MBS — whom the US explicitly implicated in the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Biden on the campaign trail pledged to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" over Khashoggi's killing.

As he fist-bumped MBS before the world, Biden was accused of prioritizing business over human rights and democracy.

"MBS is in many ways a product of the American-led order of the past several decades. Our prioritization of profit over other values," Ben Rhodes, a former speechwriter and deputy national security adviser to former President Barack Obama, wrote in The Atlantic last month.

"American foreign policy often highlights the gap between the values-based story that the United States tells about itself and the reality of how a superpower pursues its interests," Rhodes wrote. He said that Biden is not the first president "who has struggled to reconcile a declared commitment to human rights with a more utilitarian definition of American interests," but added that the rationalizations the US employs to maintain relations with countries like Saudi Arabia "perpetuate a debilitating and cynical status quo."

Biden's visit to the oil-rich country and meeting with MBS occurred amid concerns over the global oil crisis linked to the Ukraine war. The president defended the visit by contending it was vital to upholding US interests, and ensuring that there wasn't a power vacuum in the Middle East filled by China and Russia.

Critics questioned why Biden would meet with MBS at a time when he's underscored the importance of defending democracy and democratic values. Aaron David Miller, a former US diplomat who advised multiple secretaries of state on the Middle East, in comments to Insider in June referred to MBS as "among the most repressive authoritarian leaders" in the region.

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