Nancy Pelosi poked the panda big time by going to Taipei in an utterly reckless show of bravado.
The Pelosi visit will not trigger WWIII. But it is instructive that so many of the Twitterati spoke about her visit in such terms. Its timing has unnecessarily raised anxiety when so many people worldwide are deeply exercised about the Ukraine invasion and the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I respect the plucky Taiwanese for holding fast to their democratic values and system of government.
But timing is everything. It doesn't take much to ignite a fire.
If you read reports of the upsurge of nationalistic anger on China's Weibo platform, it is clear it is not simply Xi Jinping's Government which is exercised by the visit, but many Chinese.
This external focus will not do Xi any harm to his standing as he heads towards the 20th meeting of the National Congress of the Communist Party later in the year. But the brutal Covid lockdowns and the impact of mortgage boycotts may do so.
The Pelosi visit has not triggered a US-China showdown. China did launch an unprecedented series of live-fire drills around Taiwan in response. It was largely symbolic.
Even before Pelosi's military jet touched down at Taiwan's Taoyuan International Airport, Jacinda Ardern was advocating dialogue and diplomacy on this and other issues involving China.
She told the China Business Summit that she did not want to conflate the Taiwan issue with the Ukraine conflict. She also urged China to use its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying Beijing has benefited from international rules and has a duty to uphold them.
"As history shows us repeatedly, when large countries disregard sovereignty and territorial integrity with a sense of impunity, it does not bode well particularly for small countries like New Zealand," Ardern said.
"And that's why as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and in line with its commitment to the UN Charter, we continue to urge China to be clear that it does not support the Russian invasion, and have called on China to use its access and influence to help bring an end to the conflict."
Ardern has continued to advocate for dialogue and diplomacy, later saying she would not "cast judgment" on Pelosi's decision, and adding it was positive that the leaders of China and the US had recently spoken.
Ardern is treading a careful line with both major powers.
It is not going to get easier.
It is ironic in the extreme for the Speaker of the US House of Representatives to fly in on a military jet and preach democratic values.
This while the United States' own democracy remains so dysfunctional that a former President who disavowed the results of the last presidential election appears to be getting ready to make another run for the role.
Republican Donald Trump was defeated by Joe Biden at the January 2020 election, resulting in his supporters storming Capitol Hill in a bid to thwart the certification of the election.
Pelosi is also a member of the Democratic Party like her President Biden. But she took no notice at all of Biden's caution that the Pentagon saw her visit as too risky, "The military thinks it's not a good idea right now," he said last month in reference to her planned trip.
Pelosi's show of political independence simply undermines Biden's standing with China, making him seem impotent, and also with Congressional and Senate members.
In truth, US democracy is not in good shape.
In a campaign advertisement for his daughter Liz Cheney, the Republican representative for the state of Wyoming, former Vice-President Dick Cheney said there is "no greater threat to our republic" than Donald Trump.
"He tried to steal the last election using lies and violence to keep himself in power after the voters had rejected him.
"He is a coward," Cheney continued. "A real man wouldn't lie to his supporters. He lost his election and he lost big. I know it, he knows it, and deep down, I think most Republicans know it."
The US should take greater care of its own democracy — first.