Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China’s problem with top US senator visiting Taiwan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: US meddling in China-Tawian friction

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, landed in Taiwan, ignoring Chinese threats and a warning by President Xi Jinping to “not play with fire”.

Why in news?

  • Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is the highest-level visit by an American official to the island in a quarter century.
  • The senior US politician has been critical of China on multiple fronts over the decades.

US defiance of One China Policy

  • The US has maintained a ‘One China’ policy since the 1970s, under which it recognises Taiwan as a part of China.
  • But it has unofficial ties with Taiwan as well — a strategy that is known as strategic or deliberate ambiguity.
  • Beijing considers Taiwan a part of China, threatens it frequently, and has not ruled out taking the island by military force at any time.

Why does China have a problem with Pelosi visiting Taiwan?

  • For China, the presence of a senior American figure in Taiwan would indicate some kind of US support for Taiwan’s independence.
  • This move severely undermined China’s perception of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Brief history of China-Taiwan Tensions

  • Taiwan is an island about 160 km off the coast of southeastern China, opposite the Chinese cities of Fuzhou, Quanzhou, and Xiamen.
  • It was administered by the imperial Qing dynasty, but its control passed to the Japanese in 1895.
  • 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.
  • Beijing has never recognised the existence of Taiwan as an independent political entity, arguing that it was always a Chinese province.

Taiwanese stance

  • Taiwan says that the modern Chinese state was only formed after the revolution of 1911.
  • It was not a part of that state or of the People’s Republic of China that was established after the communist revolution.
  • While the political tensions have continued, China and Taiwan have had economic ties.
  • Many migrants from Taiwan work in China, and China has investments in Taiwan.
  • No doubt, cultural ties are indispensable.
  • 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.

How does the world, and US, view Taiwan?

  • The UN does NOT recognise Taiwan as a separate country; in fact, only 13 countries around the world — mainly in South America, the Caribbean, Oceania, and the Vatican — do.
  • In June, President Biden said that the US would defend Taiwan if it was invaded, but it was clarified soon afterward but 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.


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