Seven decades of China-Taiwan tensions

Published August 3, 2022
<p>TAIPEI (Taiwan): Demonstrators take part in a protest against US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit on Tuesday.—Reuters</p>

TAIPEI (Taiwan): Demonstrators take part in a protest against US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit on Tuesday.—Reuters

TAIPEI: As tensions spike between China and the United States over reports of a planned visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, this news agency looks back at relations between the self-governing island and its much bigger neighbour.

1949: separation: Mao Zedong’s communists take power in Beijing in October 1949 after defeating Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) nationalists in a civil war. The KMT flee to the island of Taiwan and form their own government in Taipei in December, cutting off contacts with mainland China.

In 1950, Taiwan becomes an ally of the United States, which is at war with communist China in Korea. The US deploys a fleet in the Taiwan Strait to protect its ally from possible attack.

1971: Beijing gets UN, US nods: In October 1971, Beijing takes over China’s seat at the United Nations, previously held by Taipei. In 1979, the United States cuts formal ties with Taiwan and establishes diplomatic relations with Beijing instead.

Washington expresses support for the “One China” policy, which states that Taiwan is part of China, but maintains trade and military ties with Taipei.

1987-2004: relations improve:

In late 1987, Taiwan residents are for the first time permitted to visit mainland China, allowing families to reunite.

In 1991, Taiwan lifts emergency rule, unilaterally ending a state of war with China. The first direct talks between the two sides are held in Singapore two years later. But in 1995, Beijing suspends talks in protest at a visit by Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui to the United States.

In 1996, China tests missiles off Taiwan to deter voters in the island’s first democratic presidential election.

In 2000 elections, the KMT loses power in Taiwan for the first time. Over the next few years trade links between the two sides improve.

2005-2015: threats and talks: In March 2005, Beijing adopts a law authorising the use of force if Taiwan declares independence. In April, KMT chairman Lien Chan makes a landmark visit to Beijing for talks with Chinese leader Hu Jintao.

In 2008, Taiwan and China resume high-level talks after the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou is elected president on a Beijing-friendly platform.

In 2010, they sign a sweeping Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and in 2014 hold the first government-to-government talks since separation.

2016: honeymoon over: In January 2016, Tsai Ing-wen, from the traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, wins presidential elections.

In June, China suspends all communications with Taiwan after the new government fails to acknowledge the “One China” policy.

In December 2016, US president-elect Donald Trump breaks with decades of US diplomatic policy by speaking directly, by telephone, with Tsai.

In January 2019, Xi Jinping warns that the unification of China and Taiwan is “inevitable”.

2021: US-China tensions: In 2021, Chinese military jets make hundreds of incursions into Taiwan’s defence zone. In October, US President Joe Biden says the United States will defend Taiwan if China attacks it, in comments later partly walked back by the White House.

Tsai confirms that a small number of US troops are present in Taiwan to help train its forces.

2022: Furore over Pelosi tour: On May 23, Biden urges the West to stand firm against Russia over Ukraine to deter China from trying to take Taiwan by force, and repeats that the US will defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2022

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