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Dangerous Escalation - Everyone's Talking About Nancy Pelosi's Trip to Taiwan, but Why is it Such a Big Deal?

Dangerous Escalation - Everyone's Talking About Nancy Pelosi's Trip to Taiwan, but Why is it Such a Big Deal?

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Aug. 2 2022, Published 3:17 p.m. ET

This week, headlines everywhere are drawing attention to the fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just landed in Taiwan, and China's mad about it.

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But why is it such a big deal - and why does China care? Here's a quick look at the buzzworthy topic of this week - that actually is a pretty big deal.

Pelosi Lands in Taiwan

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Today, Pelosi set foot on Taiwanese soil. It's the first such visit in 25 years, and the delegation led by Pelosi is stirring up trouble like a poked fire ant nest.

Pelosi and her small delegation were greeted in Taipei by Taiwan's foreign minister, Joseph Wu, and Sandra Oudkirk, the top U.S. representative in Taiwan.

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Blockquote open

Our congressional delegation's visit to Taiwan honors America's unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan's vibrant democracy. America's solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.

- a statement from Pelosi shortly after landing in TaiwanBlockquote close

Pelosi says the diplomatic gesture shows solidarity with the self-ruled island, but like many foreign affair situations, it's much more complicated than it first appears.

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China has responded to Pelosi's diplomatic efforts by escalating their troop presence on shores facing the small island nation of Taiwan.

To the Chinese government, these overtures threaten the stability of the region and push China and US relations to a new low.

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Why Does Anyone Care about Pelosi and Taiwan?

To understand why this visit is such a big deal and why China is so angry, you have to go back in time. At the heart of it: no one can seem to agree on who Taiwan belongs to. China claims the island nation belongs to them - but Taiwan self-rules and decries Chinese claims of ownership.

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Blockquote open

It gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for 'Taiwan independence. China firmly opposes and sternly condemns this, and has made serious démarche and strong protest to the United States."

- a statement from the Chinese Foreign MinistryBlockquote close

When Taiwan was first settled, the people ostensibly came from the region eventually known as China. The first records of Taiwan appear in Chinese history as early as 239AD, which is information China uses to reinforce their claim to the island nation.

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During the Qing dynasty in China, from the 1600's to late 1800's, Taiwan did belong to China. But then, some rebels and a little independence started to shake up the landscape.

BBC writes, "From the 17th Century, significant numbers of migrants started arriving from China, often fleeing turmoil or hardship. Most were Hoklo Chinese from Fujian (Fukien) province or Hakka Chinese, largely from Guangdong. Their descendants are now by far the largest demographic groups on the island.

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 it had taken from China. The Republic of China (ROC) - one of the victors in the war - began ruling Taiwan with the consent of its allies, the US and UK.

But in the next few years a civil war broke out in China, and the then-leader Chiang Kai-shek's troops were defeated by Mao Zedong's Communist army.

Chiang, the remnants of his Kuomintang (KMT) government and their supporters - about 1.5m people - fled to Taiwan in 1949."

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Although they made up a minority of Taiwanese people (about 14%), Chiang established a government-in-exile in Taiwan which he led for 25 years.

However, next in line was Chiang's son, Chiang Ching-kuo. Ching-Kuo allowed more shifts towards democracy, under pressure from locals who tired of authoritarian rule.

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President Lee Teng-hui would take the final leap, later known as Taiwan's "father of democracy," and he instituted a series of constitutional changes which eventually led to the election of the first non-KMT president, Chen Shui-bian, in 2000.

Throughout the years, China has claimed ownership of the island nation, which has its own constitution and standing army several hundred thousand strong.

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By recognizing Taiwan's independence, foreign leaders are spitting in China's eye - and they consider it insulting and aggressive. However, many leaders through the years have said they cannot countenance how China has run roughshod over Taiwan's independence simply because they are a small nation easily intimidated by their huge neighbors.

Many US presidents have shared their thoughts on the relations between China and Taiwan. Jimmy Carter, and later George W Bush reaffirmed the possibility that the country could defend Taiwan militarily if China should aggress.

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But other presidents such as George Bush (senior), Barack Obama and others have suggested that they support staying out of the conflict.

Pelosi's trip is reportedly her choice alone, and although President Joe Biden has reaffirmed the possibility of providing defense to Taiwan, the responsibility for potential fallout is being placed squarely on the Speaker's shoulders.

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