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Hong Kong CNN  — 

As a US Air Force jet carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi approached Taiwan on Tuesday night, expectations ran high in China over how Beijing would respond.

Since reports emerged that the key US lawmaker would visit Taiwan during an Asia tour, conversation in China had churned with nationalist furor and amped-up rhetoric on what the leadership could do about it.

Beijing had earlier threatened Washington that those who “play with fire” over Taiwan would “perish,” and warned the US against crossing a “red line,” saying the Chinese military would “not sit idly by” if Pelosi visited the self-governing island, which China’s Communist Party claims as its territory, despite never having controlled it.

Voices outside the government, including former Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin, had been more direct, saying China could take military action against Pelosi’s plane – raising the public’s expectations of a showdown.

Instead, Pelosi and her congressional delegation landed on the tarmac in Taipei’s Songshan Airport, where they were greeted in a live-streamed welcome by Taiwanese officials while the iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper flashed “US-Taiwan friendship forever” in brightly lit text and crowds, of both supporters and protesters, gathered outside Pelosi’s hotel to await her arrival.