Just two little words – as Bloomberg Asia's headline put it – have the world on edge with expectations that US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi will visit Taiwan in the next 24 hours.
Chinese media and officials have warned of dire consequences, calling any such trip a provocation and promising retaliation.
While the White House has not confirmed the trip, multiple reports claim the diplomatic visit is happening in the coming hours as the United States said it would not be intimidated by Chinese threats to never "sit idly by" if she touches down on the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing.
One of the highest ranking US politicians, Ms Pelosi, who began an Asia trip earlier in Singapore, was due to spend Tuesday night in Taiwan, Reuters reports. A Taiwan news outlet and CNN have also reported that the trip is going ahead.
It will be the first trip by a US politician to the island nation since 1997.
The prospect of the visit has enraged China, which abruptly announced live fire drills in waters opposite Taiwan on the weekend in response to the growing likelihood of the visit.
On Monday, Ms Pelosi featured on the front page of state media outlet The Global Times newspaper under the provocative headline; "Pelosi visits Asia in the smell of gunpowder."
China's propaganda machine has also kicked into overdrive, with many analysts fearing Xi Jinping has backed himself into a corner where he must do something dramatic in response to avoid losing face.
China's responses could include firing missiles near Taiwan, large-scale air or naval activities, or further "spurious legal claims" such as Beijing's assertion that the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington.
"We will not take the bait or engage in sabre rattling. At the same time, we will not be intimidated," Mr Kirby said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters the country's People's Liberation Army (PLA) "would not sit idly by" if Ms Pelosi visited the democratic island of 23 million people.
There would be "very serious developments and consequences" if it went ahead, he said on Monday.
Calling it "a gross interference in China's internal affairs", he said the army will take "resolute and strong countermeasures" to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
When pressed about what that might look like, he responded: "If she dares to go, let's wait and see."
'Bury all enemies': China's military video
A video by the People's Liberation Army which showed scenes of military exercises and preparations was posted on state media sites on Monday evening, urging troops to "stand by in battle formation, be ready to fight upon command, [and] bury all incoming enemies."
This is the People's Liberation Army, the guardian of the Chinese people for 95 years, who will not sit idly by when it comes to safeguarding national sovereignty & territorial integrity. pic.twitter.com/muJEtiQCXx
— Qin Gang 秦刚 (@AmbQinGang) August 1, 2022
The White House has dismissed China's rhetoric as groundless and inappropriate and said the trip doesn't change the US position on Taiwan.
But there is also the fear the bluster could spark an unintended escalation in the increasingly frosty relations.
"When you have these kinds of military vessels acting in robust ways in close proximity to each other, accidents can happen," Ian Chong, a Political Scientist at the National University of Singapore, told ABC radio.
"If things get a little bit out of control, we could have a crisis."
S&P 500 futures tumble on news Pelosi will visit Taiwan. Worries of war. pic.twitter.com/uOD6riCu0M
— The Chartist @ChartSystems (@chartsystems) August 1, 2022
Why China is so against Taiwan visits
China views visits by US officials to Taiwan as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp in the island.
Washington does not have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is bound by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
A visit by Ms Pelosi, who is second in the line of succession to the US presidency and a long-time critic of China, would come amid worsening ties between Washington and Beijing.
Republican Newt Gingrich was the last House speaker to visit Taiwan, some 25 years ago in 1997.
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