Emil Guillermo: Pelosi's stand in Taiwan and the choice of democracy over autocracy even here.

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You may recall the picture of the anonymous “Tank Man” who stood up alone to the columns of military might rolling into Tienanmen Square in 1989.

It reminded me of Pelosi this week in 2022, though she was no anonymous passerby, and certainly no “Tank Lady.”

Not when you’re the third highest ranking official of the United States government, one of the most powerful women in the world.

No, when Nancy Pelosi took a stand in Taiwan for democracy, she was standing up to China for all of us.

China had warned the U.S. prior to Pelosi’s trip that it was dangerous to “play with fire.” But that was the risk worth taking in order to give comfort to the resilient island nation of Taiwan, the largest Chinese democracy in existence.

When Pelosi met Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen and received that country’s highest honor–the Order of Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon– a blue sash like a beauty queen’s was placed across her chest.

But Pelosi, suited symbolically in white, was more like a knight, arriving to give assurances to the embattled Taiwan, that democracies in the world stand together.

In her op-ed published in the Washington Post, Pelosi mentioned her history on human rights issues in China, dating back to her congressional visit more than 30 years ago to Tiananmen Square, where the delegation unfurled a banner that read, “To those who died for democracy in China.”

Since then, Pelosi noted how things have only worsened.

“Beijing’s abysmal human rights record and disregard for the rule of law continue, as President Xi Jinping tightens his grip on power,” Pelosi said.

She mentioned the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong that has left the idea of “one country, two systems” a stifled memory. She also pointed out the ongoing erasure of the Tibetans and the genocide against the Muslim Uyghurs. But her focus was Taiwan and how the China has waged not just a cyberwar against Taiwan, but has also “ramped up patrols of bombers, fighter jets and surveillance aircraft near and even over Taiwan’s air defense zone,” leading the U.S. Defense Department to conclude that China’s army is “likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with the PRC by force.”

“We cannot stand by as the CCP proceeds to threaten Taiwan — and democracy itself,” Pelosi said. “Indeed, we take this trip at a time when the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”

Democracy you know.

Autocracy? That isn’t being forced to drive a plug-in electric car.

No, autocracy in the starkest of terms is dictatorship. It’s a matter of degree. But you know the difference between autocracy and democracy.

That’s a choice we face every day here in the U.S.

While Pelosi stood up for democracy in Taiwan, it was a mixed bag in America where primary elections were held.

Democracy triumphed in Kansas when a majority voted to keep abortion a constitutional right in their state.

But democracy remained befuddling when in Arizona and Michigan in particular, voters chose candidates who believe in the “Big Lie,” that former President Donald Trump won in 2020.

Given revelations during the Jan. 6 Select Committee hearings, election deniers are a troubling aspect in our American democracy. The truth is well known. But that’s a modern new definition of autocrat. In their world, autocrats always win. They dictate the truth. And never lose an election.

Many Americans choose to believe the lie being pushed by Trump, who has publicly envied the idea of China’s Xi as “president for life.”

That’s troubling.

But here’s another positive sign from this week’s elections. In Missouri’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate, voters rejected their sex scandal-riddled former governor, Eric Greitans.

Does Greitans, and not Trump, become the new standard for “unfit for office”?

As Prince would say, Greitans is the side-effect. Trump is the dope.

The GOP remains in the grips of Trump. But hope comes out of Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan.

More than 20 Republicans came out in support of the speaker, including Sen. Mitch McConnell. But then he’s married to Elaine Chao.

Still, it’s a rare show of unity in our divided country. In standing up to China, there were some rational Republicans who had to publicly acknowledge we really are on the same team, in support of our enduring democracy. And all democracies. Everywhere.

We need to be thinking that way all the time.

That’s why Pelosi’s trip wasn’t just worthwhile; it will be her legacy moment to remember. China firing missiles all around Asia is testament to that. The New York Times called it a “fire drill.” It’s more serious, of course. She poked Xi. But it had to be done. We can deal with the response.

Autocracy vs. democracy? It’s a choice. It’s the reason there are 24 million Asian Americans in this country (including 5.2 million Chinese Americans, with an additional 226,000 Taiwanese Americans). For our parents and forebears, whether they came on their own or fled politics or war, a choice was made.

As Americans, we can’t let the autocrats can’t win anywhere, not in Asia. And not at home.

NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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