Wait... we sent *another* congressional delegation to Taiwan already?

AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File

After Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taipei, China began a series of military operations including warplanes, troop ships, and rockets fired into the waters around three sides of the island of Taiwan. The exercises didn’t end until Wednesday. Now, barely four days later, another jet has landed in Taipei and discharged another delegation of members of the United States Congress, led by Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts. Markey was joined by four members of Congress. The agenda sounds mostly the same as Pelosi’s trip, with plans to discuss trade deals, supply chain management, and “security.” (That last portion was left a bit ambiguous, no doubt by design.) There was no immediate response from Beijing, but I’m sure it will be arriving presently. (NBC News)

A congressional delegation led by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., landed in Taiwan Sunday, less than two weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the Beijing-claimed island drew a furious response from China.

The five-member delegation also includes Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., Rep. Amata Coleman Radewagen, R-American Samoa, the American Institute in Taiwan said in a statement on Sunday.

They will meet senior Taiwanese leaders to discuss security, trade, supply chains and other issues, the statement said.

Here’s part of the welcoming party.

There are a couple of differences between this trip and Speaker Pelosi’s that are worth noting. This time, rather than announcing the visit in advance, the delegation returned to our usual habit of keeping this off the schedule and not notifying anyone until they had already landed in Taipei. This doesn’t allow the Chinese any time to prepare any sort of military maneuvers or even put out a statement of condemnation, warning against the trip.

Beijing will still condemn it, of course, but they can’t say we disregarded their warnings because they didn’t have time to issue any. This also helps the Chinese save face to a certain extent, although it sounds counterintuitive. Now we aren’t openly rubbing it in their faces. It’s at least somewhat better than saying “we forbid this” and having us just do it anyway.

The other change is the fact that this delegation has a much less bipartisan look to it. After all the controversy that was stirred up by Pelosi’s visit, this group is compromised almost completely of Democrats. The only “Republican” they could get to come along was our largely ceremonial, non-voting representative from American Samoa, Amata Coleman Radewagen.

I’m already seeing two schools of thought about the timing of this trip emerging on social media. Some may be drawing the conclusion that our new policy regarding China is to keep pressing the issue until we either goad them into attacking Taiwan and deal with the fallout later or make it increasingly obvious to the world that their threats are meaningless. The other theory is that we are simply making good on what Pelosi said after her last trip. “We cannot allow the Chinese government to isolate Taiwan. They’re not going to say who can go to Taiwan.”

There may be some crossover between those two views, depending on if and how China responds to this latest trip. If this trip had not been scheduled, we might have allowed for a cooling-off period and a return to the status quo. But that’s clearly not the plan, or at least not for the time being. Perhaps this will make us look stronger to our other allies in the region. But if China decides that this is too much of a slap in the face and pulls the trigger on an attack plan, I sincerely hope that somebody in the White House and at the Pentagon already has a plan in place for what comes next. Because, at that point, there will not be time to dither and we can’t afford to get it wrong.

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