The Rift Between China and Taiwan

Chinmayi Joshi '25

For decades, tensions between China and Taiwan have grasped international attention. Currently, China is in conflict with its smaller neighbor, Taiwan, a small democratic country off of the mainland. Less than two decades ago, Taiwan wasn’t considered a democratic state. [1]

During the Qing dynasty, Taiwan was a part of China. However, after Japan won the First Sino-Japanese War, China had to give up Taiwan. After Japan’s loss in World War II, it relinquished it’s hold on Taiwan, and Taiwan became an independent government. Since then, it has accepted numerous Chinese refugees over the decades. Some of these refugees were past Chinese leaders, namely Chiang Kai-shek. Despite his Chinese origins, Chiang dominated Taiwanese politics for years, a dictatorship the people despised. His government became known as the Republic of China (ROC). [1,2]

Though Taiwan was in theory, still a part of China and holds the Chinese seat in the U.N, the country slowly transformed to democracy. This shift to democracy occurred due to the Kaohsiung Incident, the first planned civil rights movement in Taiwan. On International Human Rights Day in 1979, a magazine in Taiwan, the Formosa Magazine,  assembled a movement to protest the violation of human rights that the Republic of China was committing. They requested the government for the right to assemble, but were denied every time. Despite this, the Taiwanese people assembled to protest. During this, the police attempted to crush the riot through harsh means, such as tear gas, and the people involved were arrested. Because of this, people cared more about politics, and they eventually forced the ROC out of power. [3] Subsequently, it made the government stricter, with harsher punishments. This further widened the divide between China and Taiwan. 

China believes that Taiwan is inherently theirs. They wish to reclaim the nation and make it part of mainland China. On the other hand, Taiwan, now independent and democratic, wants to remain a sovereign nation and be free of Chinese influence. [1]

China has continuously shown its motives to annex Taiwan by any means necessary. Recently, however, these motives have turned dangerously hostile and violent. 

A constant state of war, a constant back and forth between the two countries: China sends its aircraft into Taiwanese airspace, claiming it to be nothing but a military exercise. This leaves the Taiwanese military scrambling to respond, thus exhausting the country’s resources.

Additionally, the tensions  apply immense pressure on Taiwan, as it must remain alert and focused on defending itself. It cannot shift its focus elsewhere, thus limiting Taiwan’s diplomatic capabilities. In November alone, there were 159 incursions, the second-highest record in a month. [4]

China also recently released a statement claiming that it would hold anyone who supports Taiwan’s independence criminally responsible. They claim they will blacklist supporters for life. This statement comes in the midst of the continued air excursions and military coercion. [5]

The United States supports Taiwan’s right to independence, and the U.N. condemn China’s aggression. Despite this, China’s efforts remain undeterred and are escalating day by day.