China’s state-run Global Times on Wednesday pounced on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) mistakenly stating “China is one of the freest societies in the world” when she meant to say Taiwan.
There was some black comedy to be found in the communist newspaper’s high dudgeon that anyone would dare insult China as being “free.”
Pelosi delivered the gaffe during an interview with NBC’s Today show on Tuesday. Chinese propagandists were hardly the only ones to notice Pelosi defending her trip to Taiwan as “only about saying China is one of the freest societies in the world.”
“Don’t take it from me, that’s from Freedom House,” she added.
Freedom House, of course, would never dream of characterizing Communist China as one of the freest societies in the world. China’s current ranking from the human rights organization stands at 9 points out of 100, a certified “Not Free” rating that positions China as one of the worst tyrannies on Earth. China managed the neat trick of having a negative score for political rights, which is hard to get without dropping barrel bombs and chemical weapons on citizens who vote the wrong way.
Taiwan, on the other hand, has a “Free” rating of 94 percent, good enough to land it a spot in Freedom House’s top-20 free countries. Taiwan scored top marks for political freedom even though its last few elections “featured online disinformation and influence operations that were attributed to the Chinese government.”
Pelosi’s staff rushed to clarify that she clearly meant Taiwan, not China, but the Global Times pounced on her comments even harder than the Republicans, who are world-champion pouncers and seizers in the estimation of the U.S. media.
NANCY PELOSI: “China is one of the freest societies in the world…” pic.twitter.com/8yN8W1q4CA
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) August 9, 2022
All the Republican National Committee did was post the Pelosi clip without comment, while the Global Times had a complete nervous breakdown:
The context as well as the gaffes of the interview evidently displayed that Pelosi was very tense and troubled. In the interview, she tried to defend her trip by underlining its significance on ideology such as so-called freedom and democracy, but she also claimed that this provocative visit did not violate the one-China policy, noted Shen Yi, a professor of international relations at Fudan University. This is because she is clearly aware that she has stirred up trouble – her reckless visit has severely challenged China’s red-line. As a result, instead of playing up the “success” of her visit, she was attempting to shirk her due responsibility.
This tongue slip has drawn wide attention and has sparked a new wave of criticism toward her in US’ public opinion. Many of those who lash out at Pelosi do not even accept the explanation that such a line is tongue slip.
“This is a consequence of the anti-China and anti-Communist hysteria nurtured by the US. American hostile against China stirred up by China hawks, represented by Pelosi, has entered a state of irrationality and hysteria. And Pelosi, in turn, had to swallow her own bitter fruit,” commented Shen.
The Global Times was obsessed with calling Pelosi out as a “selfish child,” harping on the narrative that she recklessly jetted off to Taiwan without properly consulting President Joe Biden and his officials, and is now trying to “pass the buck” to the White House.
Whatever else one might say about Pelosi’s interview with Today, there was little evidence of buck-passing and no sense that she regretted visiting Taiwan. In fact, she denounced Chinese dictator Xi Jinping as an insecure “bully” for throwing a temper tantrum with military drills after she flew out of Taipei and encouraged more U.S. lawmakers to pay their own visits to Taiwan.
“It doesn’t mean that I’m going to have [Xi] do my schedule for members of Congress. Members of Congress can show their support for countries and democracies who are our friends, and according to the Taiwan Policy Act, Taiwan is our friend,” she said during the Today interview.
Driven perhaps by a desire to deflect criticism of China’s belligerent response as childish, the Global Times built its “pass the buck like a spoiled child” narrative around Biden’s dithering. Instead of boldly supporting Pelosi’s assertion that Xi should not dictate the travel plans of American lawmakers, Biden settled for mumbling that the Speaker’s trip was “her decision.”
“In the face of the unfavorable public opinion both at home and abroad, which believes her Taiwan trip is reckless and risky, Pelosi is attempting to rationalize and legitimize the visit. After gradually realizing that she could not handle the pressure by herself, Pelosi is trying to drag Biden down,” shrieked Zhang Tengjun of the China Institute of International Studies, gravely underestimating Joe Biden’s ability to drag himself down.
“It is anticipated that Pelosi has talked about the trip to Biden before her departure. Based on the remarks by Biden and Pelosi, they are shifting the blame to each other. This is an embodiment of U.S. political mess and division – even within the Democratic Party, unity is hardly to be achieved and different opinions and even antagonism can still be widely seen,” Zhang fulminated.
This is all the more amusing coming from an editorial published on August 10, long after most of the American political establishment and public have moved on from Pelosi’s Taiwan visit to other issues. There is plenty of “political mess and division” to be found, but since China did not actually launch a shooting war last week, very little of the mess has to do with Joe Biden’s opinion of Nancy Pelosi visiting Taiwan.