In the field of international relations, a visit to a foreign country is never just a visit—and if the conditions are ripe for it, a mere visit can snowball into a full-blown crisis. US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is a good example of such a situation—what on paper is just a congressional delegation tour of many parts of Asia, has pushed consequential questions of US-China relations, and the future of Taiwan, to the foray.

All parties in this complication have reacted in escalatory ways. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday that US politicians who play with fire” on the Taiwan issue will “come to no good end”. On the US’s side, it is evident that the entire idea of the visit was not apolitical—this is the first such visit in 25 years, and appears to be a provocation, with US representatives constantly referencing “solidarity” with Taiwan and its “vibrant democracy compared to autocracy”. Taiwan seems unfortunately stuck in this proxy cold war—there are reports that its officials fear that no matter the outcome of this visit, this controversial visit has compromised its security.

All parties need to exercise restraint and deescalate this situation from spiralling into a pointless fiasco. We have seen all too well how minor diplomatic skirmishes have proliferated into major lasting sources of contention and conflict between countries. Both sides must look at this and see what they gain out of escalation at this point. It appears that the US may be regretting this indulgence as the White House now seems to be working urgently to de-escalate tensions with China as the visit takes place in real-time. Beijing’s annoyance is understandable, but it must also ponder over what there is to gain by escalating this conflict and issuing ultimatums. At a time of global recession, and when there is already one debilitating war happening in the world, world powers cannot go towards conflict over something this petty.