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What ou need to know about China-Taiwan tensions 

 U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday night despite threats from Beijing of serious consequences, becoming the highest-ranking American official in 25 years to visit the self-ruled island claimed by China.

Pelosi’s visit has triggered increased tension between China and the United States. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, to be annexed by force if necessary, and views visits by foreign government officials as recognition of the island’s sovereignty.

China had warned of “resolute and strong measures” if Pelosi went ahead with the trip. China’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday night it will conduct a series of targeted military operations to “safeguard national sovereignty” in response to Pelosi’s visit. It vowed to “resolutely thwart external interference and ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist attempts.”

What is the history between China and Taiwan?

Taiwan had only been a Chinese province for 10 years before it was ceded to Japan as a colony in 1895, and was later handed over to Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China at the end of World War II. Taiwan separated again from China in 1949 when Chiang relocated his government to the island as Mao Zedong’s Communists swept to power on the mainland.

While they have established strong economic ties, efforts at political reconciliation have stumbled in recent years as Taiwan asserts its own identity and China ups its demands that the island accept its terms for unification between the sides.

Why does China want to annex Taiwan?

China says Taiwan is a part of its territory with no right to independent recognition as a state or representation on the world stage. Since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, Beijing has refused all contacts with her government.

China sends military aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense identification on a regular basis in what it calls an advertisement of its threat to use force. It has adopted increasingly menacing language, warning that Tsai, her ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party and others will pay a dire price for refusing its demands and that Taiwan will be attacked if it declares formal independence.

Tsai says Taiwan has no need to make such a declaration since it is already de-facto independent, and has refused to meet China’s basic demand that she recognize Taiwan as part of the Chinese nation. She has built up Taiwan’s traditionally strong ties with the U.S., Japan and other allies as she has sought to boost the armed forces’ ability to resist a potential Chinese invasion.

What does the US have to do with the China-Taiwan divide?

Washington’s long-standing policy has been one of “strategic ambiguity” to the extent that it would intervene militarily if China were to invade Taiwan.

Officially, it sticks to the “One-China” policy, which recognises only one Chinese government – in Beijing – and has formal ties with Beijing rather than Taipei.

But it has also pledged to supply Taiwan with defensive weapons and stressed that any attack by China would cause “grave concern”.

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