Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan award: What is the Order of Propitious Clouds?

Nancy Pelosi has been awarded Taiwan’s highest civilian order during a visit that has sparked escalating military tensions with China.

Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen honoured Pelosi, the US House speaker, with the Order of Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon, draping the blue sash over the US House Speaker during a meeting broadcast live on Wednesday from the presidential palace.

Tsai claimed it “represented their [Taiwan’s] gratitude to Pelosi and the wish to continue progressing US-Taiwan relations through more cooperation.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and accepts the Order of Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon, a symbol of America’s strong and enduring friendship with Taiwan. — The Recount (@therecount) August 3, 2022

What is the Order of Propitious Clouds?

The order is Taiwan’s highest civilian honour. Both citizens and foreigners can be awarded the order for contribution to the country. Propitious means giving or indicating a good chance of success.

At the centre of the medal on the blue sash is a token of auspiciousness, in other words, that future success is likely.

Who else has been awarded it?

Only 21 people have been awarded the honour since it was established in 1941. Pelosi is not the first foreigner, nor American to receive the award.

It has also been bestowed to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was a member of the US house of representatives from Florida’s 27th district; and, Jesse Helms, who was a US senator from North Carolina.

In June, French Senator Joël Guerriau was gifted the award by Tsai for his role in strengthening the relationship between Taiwan and France.

How important is it that Pelosi was given the award?

Upon receiving the award, Pelosi posted to Twitter that the award was a “symbol of America’s strong and enduring friendship”.

Jeniffer Hsu, a research fellow at Australia’s Lowy Institute, said the award, in addition to Tsai commenting that Pelosi is a “devoted friend” of Taiwan, is highly symbolic for Tsai to cement the relationship not only between herself and Pelosi, but also the American and Taiwanese people.

“I think it indicated the long standing position of Pelosi in support of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet – all the things that are sensitive and controversial for the People’s Republic of China as well as the Chinese Communist Party,” Hsu said.