Chinese diplomat slams Nancy Pelosi over Taiwan visit
Tensions between China and the West have flared this week as US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi defied Beijing’s warnings and visited Taiwan. Only 100 miles off the coast of mainland China at the junction of the East and South China Seas, Taiwan as a country has its roots in the Chinese Civil War, wherein the Republic of China (ROC) was forced to flee to the island after defeat to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Long since viewed as a breakaway state by the CCP, President Xi has sworn his commitment to unification and has not ruled out the use of force to that end.
Settled by Dutch and Spanish colonists in the early 17th century, European sailors recorded the island we now call Taiwan as Ihla Formosa, or beautiful island.
After being administered by the Qing dynasty for 200 years, defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War meant Taiwan was to Japan in 1895.
On the mainland, the Republic of China was founded in 1912 when revolutionaries overthrew the Qing Empire.
Military leader Chiang Kai-shek set about consolidating the Chinese territory in the Twenties, before becoming head of the ruling nationalist government, known as the Kuomintang, in 1928.
Tensions are higher than ever as Beijing claps back at any recognition of Taiwanese sovereignty
The Beijing government is furious at US politician Nancy Pelosi’s decision to visit Taiwan
In July 1945, as WW2 was drawing to a close, the ROC, UK and US jointly issued the Potsdam Declaration, calling for Japan’s unconditional surrender.
Shortly after the war’s end, ROC government representatives accepted the surrender of Japanese forces in Taiwan and regained jurisdiction over the island.
After suppressing communists for decades, the Chinese Civil War opposing the ROC and Mao Zedong’s CCP came to a head in 1949.
The ROC fled to the island of Taiwan, followed by 1.2 million people from the mainland, establishing a government-in-exile.
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Only the narrow Strait of Taiwan separates the two, closer than Cuba is to Florida
Taiwan is headed by a democratically elected government from Taipei
Ever since, the governments in Beijing and Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, have argued over the status of the island.
Chiang Kai-shek’s ROC initially claimed to be the truthful representatives of the whole of China, seen as such by many internationally.
However, in 1971 the UN began recognising the Beijing government instead, arguing the small island could scarcely represent the hundreds of millions of Chinese people on the mainland.
Since, China has insisted that any country wanting diplomatic relations with the mainland must cut ties with Taipei, and as such only 13 countries and the Vatican formally recognise Taiwan as a sovereign state as of 2022.
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Separated by the Taiwan Strait, only 81 miles wide at its narrowest, China has long published maps including the island as part of its territory.
The Taiwan Strait separating the two is only 81 miles wide at its narrowest, making it closer to the mainland than Cuba is to Florida.
The Taiwanese people consider themselves a separate nation, regardless of whether or not independence is officially declared.
The country developed its own constitution and has its own democratically-elected leaders.
Diplomatic relations have ebbed and flowed over the years, but calls from the CCP to reclaim the island have become considerably louder in recent years under President Xi.
Towards the end of last year, Taiwan’s defence minister claimed relations with China are the worst they have been for 40 years.
Today, following the decision of US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan, tensions are higher than ever.
The highest ranking US official to visit the island in 25 years, the act is seemingly in defiance of the Washington’s One China policy, which acknowledges but does not endorse Beijing’s position that there is only one Chinese government.
The US’s strategic ambiguity on the issue also came under scrutiny earlier this year when President Biden was asked whether the US would defend Taiwan militarily, to which he replied: “Yes.”