Hi, this is Hot Mic and I’m Nidhi Razdan.

It was probably the most watched landing since man landed on the moon. US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was being tracked by millions all over the world, as her plane made its way to Taipei for a historic visit on Tuesday night. It’s the first time in 25 years that a senior US official visited Taiwan, sparking off a serious confrontation with China, which considers Taiwan its territory and views any diplomatic engagement with it as a violation of its sovereignty. A furious China has strongly condemned the visit and warned that the United States will pay the price.

As a defiant, Pelosi met the Taiwanese president on Wednesday. She said her delegation’s visit to Taiwan was a show of support for the island. She said, “we came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear that we will not abandon our commitment to it and we are proud of our enduring friendship.” President Biden did not want Nancy Pelosi to go to Taiwan, as US-China ties are at an all time low at the moment. But in the end, he couldn’t stop her from going.

Taiwan’s 23 million people have long lived with the possibility of a Chinese invasion. But that threat has intensified under the current president, Xi Jinping, who has been China’s most assertive leader in a generation. China, in fact, has announced live fire military drills encircling Taiwan, in a move that Taipei’s defense ministry said, threatened the island’s key ports and urban areas. Even though Nancy Pelosi is not a representative of the White House and therefore not a representative of the Biden administration, her visit has angered Beijing simply because of her seniority. She is the third senior most person in the US hierarchy after the president and the vice president and second in line for the US presidency after Kamala Harris.

Nancy Pelosi actually has a long history of criticizing China for its human rights record and poking it in the eye. The most famous incident was back in 1991, two years after the pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, which were crushed by the Chinese government. Pelosi went there and displayed a banner to honor those who died in the protests, angering Beijing. In 2002, at a meeting with then Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao, Pelosi tried to pass him a number of letters expressing concern over the imprisonment of activists in China and Tibet and called for the release. Mr Hu refused to accept those letters. Pelosi has also consistently opposed China’s bids to host the Olympic Games over the years.

The Chinese government is not exactly a fan either. They once said that, “Pelosi was full of lies and disinformation.” So what about the history of China-Taiwan relations itself? Well, Taiwan is an island. It’s about a 100 miles from the coast of southeast China. China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that will eventually be under Beijing’s control again. However, Taiwan sees itself as an independent country. China’s President, Xi Jinping, is determined to what he calls reunify Taiwan with China and is clear that he’s not averse to using force if he has to. A Chinese takeover of Taiwan could also threaten US security with US military bases as far away as Guam and even Hawaii coming under the Chinese radar. Taiwan first came under full Chinese control in the 17th century. In 1895, China had to give up Taiwan to Japan after losing the first Sino-Japanese war. China took the island again in 1945 after Japan lost World War Two. But after a civil war erupted in China between nationalist forces and the communists, the communists won in 1949 and the nationalists fled to Taiwan, where they continued to rule for many decades. Beijing cites this history to claim Taiwan as a Chinese province, but Taiwan says that they were never part of the modern Chinese state that was formed either after the 1911 revolution or even when the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949.

At the moment, only 13 countries recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country. Thanks to Chinese pressure, most countries do not. The US policy also is – support for Taiwan self-ruling government, while diplomatically recognizing Beijing over Taipei and opposing a formal independence declaration by Taiwan or a forceful takeover by China. Now, India does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan either, since it recognizes the one-China policy. But over the years, New Delhi has made a subtle shift in this. There was, for example, no mention of the one-China policy in a joint India-China statement way back in 2010, when the Chinese premier came to India. And then Prime Minister Modi invited Taiwan’s ambassador to India to his swearing-in, in 2014. India has also got an office in Taipei for diplomatic functions which was set up in 1995. And Taiwan has an economic and cultural center in Delhi. For the most part, India has engaged with Taiwan only on cultural and commerce issues. But after the Galwan clash with Chinese soldiers on the border in 2020, India has played up its ties with Taiwan just a bit.

Taiwan’s economy is also hugely important. Much of the world’s everyday electronic equipment, from cellphones to laptops, watches, game consoles, all of them are powered by computer chips that are made in Taiwan. So remember, that any conflict in this region will have huge consequences for the entire world, perhaps for our day to day lives. For now, let’s watch this space.



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