In recent years, the China Taiwan Dispute has continued to escalate due to differences over the island’s status.
Not only does China see Taiwan as part of itself, but it is determined to “unify” the democratically-ruled island with force if necessary. The tension between these two countries is on the rise.
The Beijing government claims ownership of the island, Taiwan, and is determined to “reincorporate” it into Chinese territory, if necessary, by force.
Any Chinese military confrontation with Taiwan would also drag the United States into the fray because of Washington’s special relationship with the Taipei government.
Let’s have a detailed look at this controversy!
How Did China Taiwan Dispute Start?
In 1949 China and Taiwan separated. This happened when the Chinese Civil War ended with the victory of the Communists under the leadership of Mao Zedong.
At that time, the defeated Nationalists, led by Mao’s rival and leader of the Kuomintang (KMT) Party, Chiang Kai-shek, fled to Taiwan.
Taiwan has had a separate and independent government since then. Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China, while the official name of China is the People’s Republic of China.
The Taiwan Strait separates the island from China. Taiwan has a democratically elected government and a population of about 23 million.
For more than seven decades, the Beijing government has viewed Taiwan as a “breakaway province” and vowed to “unify” it with the Chinese mainland.
What Is Taiwan’s International Status?
Beijing’s position is that there is only “one China,” and Taiwan is part of it. China pressures countries around the world to side with Beijing in China Taiwan Dispute and cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Taipei is also not a member of United Nations agencies, although it has membership in organizations such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Trade Organization. China also pressures companies worldwide to recognize Taiwan as part of China.
For example, in 2021, China cut off trade with EU member Lithuania. The reason was that this European country allowed Taiwan to open a representative office in its capital.
How Is America’s Relationship With Taiwan?
For nearly three decades after the Communist regime came to power in China, the United States recognized the Republic of China (Taiwan) as the government of all of China.
But in 1979, Washington canceled its diplomatic relations and mutual defense agreement with the Republic of China (Taiwan) and established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
Despite this shift, Washington has unofficially maintained close ties with Taipei.
The US continues to sell military equipment to Taiwan for defense purposes, despite repeated warnings from Beijing not to do so.
US Navy warships also regularly pass through the Taiwan Strait to project US military power in the region. The US says it aims to ensure peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Under President Donald Trump, the United States had deepened military ties with Taiwan, increasing arms shipments and selling more than $18 billion of weapons to the island.
Recently, President Joe Biden said that the US would defend Taiwan if China attacked.
Can China Attack Taiwan?
The Beijing government has not ruled out using force to make Taiwan part of China again.
In an important speech in January 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for reunification, saying that the China Taiwan Dispute cannot continue forever.
He said at the time, “We do not promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of using all necessary means.”
The Chinese president has also emphasized that reunification is necessary to realize the “Chinese Dream” of restoring the country’s status as a world superpower by 2049.
China is increasingly sending its fighter, bomber, and surveillance aircraft close to Taiwan, while its warships also move in and out of the Taiwan Strait in a show of force.
The willingness to use force, China’s rapidly expanding military capabilities, and the deteriorating situation around the Taiwan Strait have raised concerns that a new conflict could erupt there.