US joins Taiwan as island nation observes battle anniversary with China: A timeline of roller coaster relations between Beijing and Taipei

The de facto US ambassador in Taipei joined Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, amid rising tensions with Beijing, to commemorate a key military clash and the last time Taiwanese forces joined battle with China on a large scale.

In the cross-strait conflict in 1958, the United States had come to Taiwan’s defence and is now the island’s main arms supplier. Economic relations continue to thrive with China being Taiwan’s top trading partner, having seen trade totalling $226 billion in 2018. However, they do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to the One China policy and the island’s independent status, in response to which Tsai had said that Taiwan remains the Republic of China.

1949: Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists lose civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communist forces, sets up government-in-exile on Taiwan.

1958: China bombards offshore islands held by Nationalist troops, nearly sparking war between China and the United States.

1971: Taiwan loses UN seat held since 1946 as the Republic of China to the People’s Republic of China. Its diplomatic allies dwindle to 23 by 2008 as most countries in the world switch recognition to China.

1979: US Congress passes the Taiwan Relations Act, bringing an end to artillery attacks on Taiwan’s Kimmen island.

1987: After decades of hostility, Taiwan and China embark on cautious rapprochement, allowing cross-Strait family visits.

1991: Taiwan renounces use of force to retake mainland, paving way for unofficial talks.

1993: Landmark bilateral meeting held in Singapore.

January 1995: Chinese President Jiang Zemin calls for high-level talks to end state of hostility. Taiwan rejects offer.

June 1995: Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui enrages Beijing by making landmark private trip to the United States.

March 1996: China test-fires missiles in waters near key ports in northeastern and southwestern Taiwan ahead of island’s first democratic presidential elections. Lee wins by a landslide.

1998: Taiwan envoy Koo Chen-fu meets Jiang in China in highest-level contact in nearly five decades.

1999: Lee unilaterally redefines bilateral ties as “special state to state”. Beijing freezes semi-official talks.

January 2001: Taiwan opens direct but limited trade and travel links with China. In November, Taiwan partially eases decades-old curbs on Chinese visiting the island in a goodwill gesture.

2003: First Taiwan commercial flight to China for more than 50 years arrives in Shanghai, but has to go via Hong Kong.

March 2005: China’s parliament passes anti-secession bill authorising the use of force if Taiwan declares independence.

2007: Taiwan bans 2008 Beijing Olympics torch relay from the island after months of talks with China fail.

June 2008: Beijing hosts two-day talks seen as the first step in new Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s plan to reinvigorate ties.

2010: Taipei and Beijing sign an economic cooperation framework agreement, the most sweeping document yet between the two sides.

2014: Beijing and Taipei hold first government-to-government talks since they separated in 1949. Hundreds of students occupied Taiwan’s parliament for weeks in protests nicknamed the Sunflower Movement. They demanded more transparency in trade pacts negotiated with China in the largest display of anti-China sentiment the island had seen in years.

November 2015: Presidents of China and Taiwan make history when they meet for the first time in Singapore.

January 2016: Tsai Ing-wen of pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party is elected the first female president of Taiwan.

June 2016: Beijing says it has cut off diplomatic contact with Taiwan because of President Tsai Ing-wen’s refusal to endorse the concept of a single Chinese nation.

November 2016: Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Taiwan’s opposition leader, Nationalist Party Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu.

December 2016: Trump and Taiwan’s president talk on the phone. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi calls the contact “just a small trick by Taiwan” and says he doesn’t believe it would change US policy toward China.

2017: Trump administration approves $1.4 billion worth of arms sales to Taiwan, prompting anger from Beijing.

March 2018: The US adopts a law reinforcing ties with Taiwan, again infuriating China.

September 2018: In another blow to the US-China ties, the American State Department approves the sale of spare parts for F-16 fighter jets and other military aircraft worth up to $330 million to Taiwan.

14 July, 2020: China says it will sanction Lockheed Martin for its involvement in the latest US arms sale to Chinese-claimed Taiwan. Lockheed Martin is the main contractor for a $620 million upgrade for Taiwan’s Patriot surface-to-air missiles, which the US government approved the previous week.

22 July, 2020: Taiwan’s parliament passed a proposal to rebrand the island’s largest airline to avoid confusion with carriers on the Chinese mainland. China Airlines (CAL) is frequently mistaken for Air China — the mainland’s national carrier — and there have long been calls to rename it or make it more clearly Taiwanese.

23 August, 2020: The US envoy to Taiwan joined President Tsai Ing-wen at a military memorial service Sunday in a fresh show of warming relations that threatened to add to irritants in Washington’s relations with Beijing.

With inputs from agencies

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