House speaker Nancy Pelosi has always had a flair for the dramatic. During the Trump presidency, for example, she ostentatiously tore up his State of the Union speech. But for sheer spectacle, it will be hard for Pelosi to top her “will she, won’t she” visit to Taiwan this week.

In spite of the suspense, there was never really any doubt about it. For weeks China has issued dire warnings about the perils of her visit. So, as it happens, have several commentators, including The Spectator’s Freddy Gray, whom I debated on the Americano podcast, and...

House speaker Nancy Pelosi has always had a flair for the dramatic. During the Trump presidency, for example, she ostentatiously tore up his State of the Union speech. But for sheer spectacle, it will be hard for Pelosi to top her “will she, won’t she” visit to Taiwan this week.

In spite of the suspense, there was never really any doubt about it. For weeks China has issued dire warnings about the perils of her visit. So, as it happens, have several commentators, including The Spectator’s Freddy Gray, whom I debated on the Americano podcast, and who seems to have a bad case of the collywobbles about the Pelosi trip. Or at the very least he was unduly influenced by a new column from Thomas Friedman, who declared that a Pelosi sojourn in Taiwan might even lead to World III — a new Guns of August.

But Pelosi was never going to flinch. She is the Margaret Thatcher of American politics. Unlike the men, she doesn’t go wobbly. President Biden may have tried to dissuade her from going, but he must have known it was a lost cause. Pelosi does what she wants, when she wants, where she wants. The woman who pushed Obamacare over the finish line wasn’t about to be pushed around by Biden, who recently paid obeisance to Saudi Arabia.

The brouhaha around her trip is probably overblown. The truth is that China, beset by a variety of domestic difficulties, including a bungled response to Covid-19 and a faltering economy, is in no position to risk a war with the United States. It is Washington that enjoys the upper hand in the standoff with Beijing.

There can be no doubting that for the past several decades China has sedulously fomented nationalism, partly from longstanding grievances against the West that date back to the Opium Wars, when it was ruthlessly carved up, and partly from a desire to use it as a safety valve for an increasingly restive population. But China’s Xi Jinping can hardly desire an actual conflict.

One reason is that China cannot dispense with America as a trading partner. In 2020, US trade with China came to an estimated $615 billion. Another reason is that for all the huffing and puffing about China’s newfound military prowess, its troops are not battle-tested. The last war China fought was against Vietnam in 1979, and it got its nose badly bloodied. Conquering Taiwan, which lies 100 miles east of China, would be no easy task. Add in the fact that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s calamitous foray into Ukraine is unlikely to inspire much desire inside China to emulate his aggression by launching an attack on Taiwan.

For her part, Pelosi drew an explicit link between Ukraine and Taiwan. Not surprisingly, the Kremlin is backing Xi, calling America a “state provocateur.” But sometimes provocations are in order. Pelosi stated, “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.” Now that China has swallowed up Hong Kong, Pelosi is determined to help ensure that Taiwan does not become the next savory morsel.

Support for her position in Congress is deep. In the Senate, twenty-six Republicans, including minority leader Mitch McConnell, issued a statement backing her visit. If the GOP takes over Congress in November, it is unlikely that there will be any diminution in that backing. Instead, Republicans are eyeing China as the new Soviet Union — an ideological foe intent on challenging American supremacy around the globe.

So far, however, China’s ambitions appear to be centered on what it regards as its own sphere of influence. Treating Beijing as a USSR redux is a mistake. But so would be abandoning Taiwan. In drawing international attention to Taiwan’s precarious status, Pelosi has put Beijing on notice that she isn’t intimidated by Xi. Quite the contrary.