US President Joe Biden indicated that he would use military force to defend Taiwan if it were ever attacked by China.
About ‘Taiwan’ –
- Taiwan is located north of the Philippines and the South China Sea.
- It is about 180 km off the south-eastern coast of China.
- It is separated from the mainland by the Taiwan Strait.
- The island seems to have first appeared in Chinese records in AD239, when an emperor sent an expeditionary force to explore the area. This evidence is used by Beijing to back its territorial claim.
- After a relatively brief spell as a Dutch colony (1624-1661), Taiwan was administered by China’s Qing dynasty from 1683 to 1895.
- In 1895, Japan won the First Sino-Japanese War, and the Qing government had to cede Taiwan to Japan. After World War Two, Japan surrendered and relinquished control of territory.
The period of Civil War –
- When Japan surrendered, The Chinese Nationalist Party (also known as the Kuomintang) began ruling Taiwan with the consent of its allies, the US and UK. Chiang Kai-shek was the ruler of this party.
- However, almost immediately following Japan’s surrender, the Chinese Civil War broke out between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CPC).
- Chiang and the remnants of his Kuomintang government fled to Taiwan in 1949.
Disagreement and confusion about Taiwan –
- China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province which it has vowed to retake, by force if necessary. China has repeatedly insisted that Taiwan should be called “Chinese Taipei”, in efforts to prevent international recognition of Taiwan as a country.
- But Taiwan’s leaders argue that it is a sovereign state. Taiwan continues to participate in international events and dialogues separately. It has its own constitution, democratically-elected leaders, and about 300,000 active troops in its armed forces.
Who recognises Taiwan?
- Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China (ROC) government held China’s seat on the United Nations Security Council.
- It was recognised by many Western nations as the only Chinese government.
- However, in 1971 the UN switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing and the ROC government was forced out.
- Since then, the number of countries that recognise the ROC government diplomatically has fallen drastically to about 15.
Strategy of the U.S. towards Taiwan –
- The strategy of U.S. towards Taiwan is guided by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.
- The Act made it clear that “the United States decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China rests upon the expectation that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means”.
- Under this act, U.S. has long promised to help Taiwan defend itself, but it has stopped short of pledging to send troops or directly participate in any conflict.
- So far, the U.S. has followed a policy of strategic ambiguity on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
- Although, Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.
- The Act also established the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), as a private, nongovernmental organisation to maintain the facade of un-officialness in the ties. The AIT is the de facto US Embassy in Taiwan.
How did the U.S. recognise PRC as the real China?
- It began with the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1971. In April that year, American table tennis players crossed into the mainland and became a medium for both sides to move towards a thaw in relations.
- The UN nod came later that year, and in 1972, President Richard Nixon made a trip to China. This is the trip that brought about the Shanghai Communique that can be seen as a major milestone in the birth of the US’s ‘One China’ policy.
- It said: “The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position.”
- Subsequent US administrations, including the present one, have reiterated their commitment to the One China Policy.
One China Policy of the U.S. –
- ‘One China’ is a longstanding US policy that forms the bedrock of its relationship with Beijing.
- Under the policy, the US snapped formal diplomatic ties with the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan, and established ties with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing in 1979.