Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of U.S House Representatives and veteran Democrat politician recently visited Taiwan. Her visit, ignoring China’s threats and warnings, has risked triggering a dangerous escalation amid already worsening ties. Beijing has responded by announcing military drills near Taiwan and more countermeasures could follow.
History of China-Taiwan relation
Taiwan is located in the East China Sea, to the northeast of Hong Kong, north of the Philippines and south of South Korea, and southwest of Japan.
At present, it is a democracy with a separate government and a military.
Taiwan, earlier known as Formosa and formally as the Republic of China (ROC), was administered by the imperial Qing dynasty.
Its control passed to the Japanese in 1895 by the Treaty of Shimonoseki.
After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the island passed back into Chinese hands.
After the communists led by Mao Zedong won the civil war in mainland China, Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the nationalist Kuomintang party, fled to Taiwan in 1949.
Chiang Kai-shek set up the government of the Republic of China on the island, and remained President until 1975.
In 1971, the UNGA recognized the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the only legitimate representative of China to the global body and does not recognize Taiwan as a separate country.
In fact, only 13 countries around the world, mainly in South America, the Caribbean, Oceania, and the Vatican, recognizes Taiwan.
In recent years, Taiwan’s government has said only the Island’s 23 million people have the right to decide their future and that it will defend itself when attacked.
Since 2016, Taiwan has elected a party that leans towards independence.
US stand over Taiwan
Strategic ambiguity– The US has maintained a “One China Policy” since the 1970s, under which it recognizes Taiwan as a part of China.
US has unofficial ties with Taiwan as well and this strategy is known as strategic or deliberate ambiguity.
In May, 2022, President Biden said that the US would defend Taiwan if it was invaded, but it was soon clarified that America does not support Taiwan’s independence.
While the US has no formal ties with Taipei, it remains Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms supplier.
China’s Opposition to the visit
Beijing has never recognised the existence of Taiwan as an independent political entity, arguing that it was always a Chinese province.
The Chinese government also passed a law in 2005, giving Beijing the legal basis for military action if it judges Taiwan to have seceded or to be about to.
For China, the presence of a senior American figure in Taiwan would indicate some kind of US support for Taiwan’s independence.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijiang has said that the visit would severely undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
It will gravely impact the foundation of China-US relations and send a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces.