After US state visit to Taiwan in August, tensions between Taiwan, China and the United States have increased sharply. Many experts fear a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. The subject has recently been mentioned frequently in the media, but the conflict can be difficult to understand. The development magazine explains the historical background to the conflict and US involvement in it.
In August 2022, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited Taiwan. As the highest-ranking politician to visit the country in 25 years, this was a symbolic act intended to demonstrate American support for the island. But the action angered China, which condemned the visit and responded with sanctions against the United States as well as massive military exercises in the waters around Taiwan. And to understand China's reaction, one also needs to understand the complex conflict between China and Taiwan that goes back many decades.
Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, has a history of both European colonialism as well as Chinese and Japanese rule. In 1945, the Republic of China took over control of the island from Japan, while it a civil war was going on on the Chinese mainland. The Republic of China's ruling party, the Kuomintang, was challenged by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which in 1949 took control and formed the People's Republic of China. The Kuomintang then evacuated to Taiwan to establish a government there. Therefore, Taiwan's official name is the Republic of China, even though they do not consider themselves part of the country we usually refer to as China. Both Republic of China in Taiwan and the People's Republic of China on the mainland continued to claim the full territory of China. In 1971, the UN chose to recognize the People's Republic of China, easy by the CCP, as the official China.
Tensions between the two parties have continued, and in the 2000st century Taiwan has become increasingly critical of China. A Taiwanese identity of its own has indeed emerged. The country has its own institutions, culture and democratically elected leaders, and an overwhelming majority opposes reunification with China. However, only admits fifthon countries in the world Taiwan as an independent state. Sweden is not one of them. The reason is that they do not want to anger China, which is threatening to break diplomatic relations with the countries that recognize Taiwan, according to SVT's former Asia correspondent Niklas Sjögren.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is openly China-critical and wants to reduce the island's dependence on China. China, in turn, sees the island as a breakaway province, and China's President Xi Jinping has expressed that reunification with Taiwan "must be pursued". Retaking control of the island had been an important way for President Xi Jinping to prove that China is a political, economic and military superpower.
Power play between the US and China
In general, the US has managed to keep its position on the issue somewhat ambiguous. During the Cold War, Communist China was an ideological adversary, particularly because of their close ties to the Soviet Union. The US and Taiwan were then automatically on the same side. In recent decades, however, the US has wanted to be on good terms with China and has therefore signed agreements not to have official relations with Taiwan. On the one hand, the United States recognizes the People's Republic of China as the only China, but on the other hand, it does not want to see China gain additional power by regaining control of Taiwan. In the power game between the US and China, Taiwan has therefore become a strategically important piece.
Currently, tensions are higher than they have been in decades. China has repeatedly threatened that they may use military means to retake Taiwan. If the US in such a case decides to militarily support Taiwan, as president Joe Biden has said they will, had this de facto meant war between the world's two great powers. The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Policy Committee, Bob Menendez, says the US is "not seeking war or increased tensions with Beijing", but needs to be "clear-sighted". That's what Svenska Dagbladet writes.