The Portuguese named the island “Formosa”, which means beautiful island. It was against the treaty of Shimonoseki that the locals declared independence while resisting their accession to Japan and established Republic of Formosa. The Republic Formosa lasted only five months which led to complete occupation by Japan for five decades. Those fled were represented by Kuomintang Party which represented 14 percent of Taiwan’s population. The People’s Republic of China’s offer of reunification with the mainland in 2000 was rejected by the Taiwanese government. The present ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) favors independence of Taiwan whereas the KMT (Kuomintang) favor unification with mainland China.
The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and Six Assurances are famous policy guidelines issued by the US for Taiwan. The policy confirms the US commitment regarding Taiwan’s security. The US has established an American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) to act as its embassy for dealing with relations between the two countries. There was concern in Taiwan when the US-China signed an agreement on August 17, 1982 on the sale of weapons to China. However, then president Reagan decided to re-assure Taiwan that it would not be abandoned. Six Assurances given to Taiwan include arms sales, mediation with China and the Taiwan Relations Act among others. The Chinese government adopted an Anti-Secession law in 2005 about Chinese right to use non-peaceful means in case Taiwan secedes from China. Recently China strongly reacted to the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. This was the first visit by a US leader in 25 years. China warned that it will act strongly and will take all possible counter measures. The visit was supported by South Korea, Japan and the UK, while Russia and North Korea opposed the visit. The question is why did Nancy Pelosi go to Taiwan? Apparently to give a message to China that the US supports the breakaway province of Taiwan and it will defend in case of a Chinese aggression.
During the 18-hour visit, she met Taiwanese government officials, law makers, parliamentarians and the president. Taiwan is the 9th largest US trade partner and both countries also part of joint programmes and partnerships in different fields. Resultantly China is carrying out large scale military drills as its aircrafts and ships have encircled Taiwan. The Chinese military is also carrying out live firing drills including firing of ballistic missiles. The Chinese military has warned all commercial air liners and ships to stay away from Taiwan.
China has demonstrated that it has the capability and potential to take back Taiwan and can also put a blockade on Taiwan. China’s stand on Taiwan is clear and categoric that it is an integral part of the country with which it will be reunited one day. With the recent visit of Nancy Pelosi which has caused a huge diplomatic firestorm, the US has reconfirmed its earlier stance. According to US National Security Coordinator John Kirby, nothing has changed about the US’ China policy which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. On August 28, 2022 president XI Jinping and president Biden spoke to each other on phone for two hours and 17 minutes. The Chinese president made it clear and said, “those who play with fire will perish by it and it is hoped that the US will be clear eyed about this”.
The US president has opposed any unilateral efforts to change status quo in the South China Sea. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lijian Zhao also made it clear that the “Chinese do what we say”. Pakistan’s policy on Taiwan is clear that Taiwan is integral part of China which is the sole government representing the whole of China including Taiwan. The one China policy is Pakistan’s long standing principled position. While India too has vocally supported this policy, in 2010 during the visit of Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao, India did not reiterate its support for the ‘One China’ policy. Taiwan is important for China because it has a just and principle claim on it and will never compromise on it in any manner.
The relations between the two countries (China and Taiwan) have improved since 1990 as both countries are doing business worth billions of dollars. According to the BBC, between 1991 to May 2021, Taiwanese investment in China totaled 193.5 billion dollars. Millions from mainland China visit Taiwan through direct flights. Taiwan is a diplomatically isolated country as only 15 countries recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan), and it is not even recognized by the UN. Tensions and stakes between China and the US are high but war is not likely, however, any miscalculation with the present buildup may result in disastrous consequences for the world.