US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives for a meeting with Taiwanese legislators in Taipei (Image: EPA/Ritchie B Tongo)
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Taipei (Image: EPA/Ritchie B Tongo)

Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has made headlines the world over, prompted Chinese sabre-rattling and live drill military exercises, and raised tensions in Asia and beyond. But the reality is that senior officials from many Western countries regularly visit Taipei -- except, it seems, Australia.

There is a well-worn playbook of official yet unofficial relations between Taiwan and Australia -- as well as other nations -- that play out to satisfy Beijing. Australia’s substantial representative office in Taiwan does not have diplomatic status. But it remains an important foreign affairs post and its head reports to Australia’s ambassador in Beijing. Taiwan’s representative office in Australia is the “Taipei Economic and Cultural Office”.

Despite a growing trade and investment relationship, politicians from Canberra have fallen out of the habit of visiting the nation. Taiwan may well be Australia’s 12th-largest trading partner and ninth-biggest export destination, but ministers from the Morrison government were absent from the island for almost a decade -- although ​​Australian MPs from all sides of politics have travelled to Taiwan.