In response to Pelosi’s visit — the first of a high-ranking American politician in almost 30 years — has reportedly angered Beijing. China is now holding live-fire military drills in the sea as well as the air of the Taiwanese territory and Chinese media are now describing the trip as the “opening salvo of war”.
Here is all you need to know about the island:
1. Taiwan at a glance
Approximately 24 million people live in Taiwan, an island 100 miles off the coast of China.
Since 1945, Mandarin Chinese has been the official language. Approximately 70 percent of the population speaks Taiwanese Hokkien.
Some of the world’s biggest electronic companies are from Taiwan, such as the computer manufacturers Acer and Asus.
2. Taiwan’s contentious political status
From 1895 to 1945, Taiwan was under Japanese rule. But after Japan surrendered in WWII, China took over the administration of the island.
In 1949, People’s Republic of China was formed under General Mao in Beijing following civil war with the nationalist party fleeing to Taiwan where they then ruled.
But Taiwan has insisted on its independence since 1949.
Today, China’s ruling Communist Party sees Taiwan as a province that it hopes will one day become part of its country.
3. How the people of Taiwan identify themselves
According to research conducted by the National Chengchi University, based in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei, the number of people living in Taiwan who describe themselves as Taiwanese, as opposed to Chinese has risen.
While in 1992 less than 20 percent described themselves as Taiwanese, in 2021, that figure had risen to over 60 percent with around 30 percent saying they felt both Chinese and Taiwanese.
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4. The US and Taiwan
The US House Speaker arrived in Taipei yesterday as part of her four-nation Asian tour after flying in from Malaysia.
Pelosi was greeted with a message on the island’s tallest building which read in Mandarin: “Thank you friends of democracy forming support TW (Taiwan)”, “Co-maintaining world order”, and “US-Taiwan friendship lasts forever.”
Republican Newt Gingrich was the last House Speaker to visit the island in 1997 — a visit which similarly caused anger.
But today, China’s government is more heavily armed, wealthier, and less willing to compromise.
The US stopped recognising Taiwan in 1979 but has continued to support and offer military assistance.
During the visit, Pelosi said: “We will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan and we are proud of our enduring friendship.”
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5. How likely is conflict?
This year, China announced its military budget was 1.45 trillion yuan (approximately £18 billion). China has far more resources than Taiwan: China has more than 2 million active forces compared to around 200,000 Taiwanese.
As it stands, 21 Chinese warplanes including 10 J-16, a Chinese advanced fighter jet, and one KJ-500, an early warning and control aircraft, have been witnessed taking part in drills on Taiwanese territory.
Taiwanese ships have had to find alternative routes to avoid the drilling sites.
According to the Economist, Taiwan is “the most dangerous place on Earth” with what Taiwan views as military harassment ongoing for months.
Pelosi’s visit is, according to Chinese media, fuelling the fire as the “stage was set” for war.
6. The mood in Taiwan now
A survey carried out by the Brookings Institute on Taiwanese last year found just under 60 percent “worry that war is a distinct possibility” with 79 percent seeing an increase in Chinese military action.
The Taiwanese newspaper, United Daily News, has since ran a poll which found two-thirds thought Pelosi’s visit was “destabilising”, according to a Guardian report.
While some Taiwanese gathered to greet Pelosi, others attempted to warn her off, calling Pelosi a “warmonger”.