When China Did Missile Tests in Taiwan Strait in 1996; Is Beijing Miscalculating Pelosi’s Visit?

China is outraged by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, an island nation that China claims is its territory. Taiwan claims to be an independent country with strong democratic ideals.

Taiwan, also known as ‘Republic of China’, has long been ruled by the Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT). KMT ruled mainland China from 1928 to 1949. It was defeated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the civil war, fled and formed a government-in-exile in Taiwan in 1949, and ruled the island territory under martial law until 1987, claiming to represent all of China. Taiwan, not CCP-ruled mainland China, has been part of the United Nations and its Security Council for many years. That changed in the 1970s.

In 1971, the United Nations General Assembly voted to replace Taiwan with mainland China as a member. On January 1, 1979, the US began formal diplomatic relations with China under a single China policy, to the detriment of Taiwan’s diplomatic alliance with the US.

Mainland China calls Taiwan a renegade province and does not shy away from making threats to conquer the island nation. The CCP has used mainland China’s economic and military might to force other countries to end their alliance and diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Today, China has diplomatic ties with 178 countries, while Taiwan is recognized by only 14 small countries.

In fact, after Russia attacked Ukraine, the world is assessing whether China can attack Taiwan as well. But China may misjudge the facts – ignoring the past and undermining US-Taiwan relations, something that has been reinforced again by the visit of Nancy Pelosi, the third highest-ranking US official after US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. .


The guiding principle of the CCP is ideologically one China policy. It has been the cornerstone of China’s domestic and international politics since 1949. No Taiwan, no Xinjiang, no Tibet, just China. To the rest of the world, China says Taiwan is a renegade province that should not be involved politically and economically.

Politically, the reunification between China and Taiwan is at the heart of the CCP’s political vision and internal political struggle. Xi Jinping must take heroic action to silence his rivals in the party and gain support for his third presidential term later this year.

Economically, Taiwan is a world leader in the high-tech industry and a dominant power in the semiconductor industry. Taiwan’s semiconductor players even surpass the US in advanced manufacturing technologies. Taiwan under mainland China could solve the semiconductor crisis facing China after the hostility in Washington. China, the world’s largest consumer of semiconductors, relies on the US, Taiwan, South Korea and other countries for semiconductor supplies as the domestic industry has failed to get off the ground despite years of efforts. In fact, Taiwan and South Korea control 70% of the world’s semiconductor production.

Taiwan under mainland CPC control, despite fierce US opposition, signifies China’s dominance in global geopolitics. It would be seen as China’s victory over US policy.


Taiwan, under martial law imposed by the KMT for 38 years from 1949 to 1987, has undergone a democratic evolution over the past three decades. Today it is a vibrant democracy with its people not ready to unite with China.

Promoting democracies worldwide defines the external politics of the US and Taiwan fits into that. Taiwan’s transition to democracy and development actually gives the US a response to China’s communist propaganda.

China says democracy cannot deliver sustainable growth. Xi Jinping believes that the 21st century is not for democracy. The Chinese president thinks autocracies would fare better as developments are now moving fast, as democracies need time to reach consensus.

China and Jinping have their answers just 100 miles away in Taiwan. The country was Asia’s best-performing economy ahead of India and China in 2020, the year in which almost all countries saw negative economic growth during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Taiwan is a clear response to the global geopolitical debate about democratic versus communist regimes and systems to be followed, and the US just cannot let this democratic claim fade to the threats and steps of a communist country or China in this case.


Chiang Kai-Shek and KMT received support from the US during the Japanese invasion of mainland China in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1949, the US decided to support the Chiang Kai-Shek-led government in exile in Taiwan as a representative of all of China and not the CCP-controlled mainland China. The Democratic versus Communist debate and the US-Soviet struggle were the reason for that. In the civil war, KMT was supported by the US, while the Soviet Union was with the CCP. The US, in fact, signed a mutual defense treaty with KMT and in 1955 threatened to attack China against PLA shelling the islands of the Taiwan Strait.

For the next 30 years, there was a tense relationship between the US and China, reaching normal levels only in 1979 when the US severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan, giving mainland China full diplomatic recognition.

Circumstances forced both China and the US to enter into the formal relationship. Facing domestic protests over its involvement in the Vietnam War and the deaths of approximately 50,000 US soldiers, the US sought a way out. The war (1955 to 1975) was between South Vietnam (supported by the US, Australia, South Korea, Australia and several other allies) and North Vietnam (supported by the USSR and China). After the split between China and the Soviet Union, the US expected that China could convince its ally North Vietnam to end the war or come to the dialogue table.

Another intent was to attack the Soviet Union, both for the US and China. The US wanted to isolate and corner the Soviet Union and China, a communist country, and in the past anything, now on bad terms, could be a big step forward in US cold war strategy. For China, a formal diplomatic relationship with the US was a step forward in keeping the Soviet Union in check after the Sino-Soviet border conflict in 1969.

But the US decision to formally recognize China over Taiwan met significant opposition from its lawmakers and ordinary Americans who saw it as an “act of abolition.” The Carter administration also saw the US Congress’ 180-degree political turnaround against fierce opposition. Jimmy Carter was the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

China’s communist rule, human rights violations and China’s expansionist policies have been and always have been a great deterrent.


Nancy Pelosi says Taiwan is under threat from China. 42 years ago, in 1979, it was also the case. The Carter Administration’s decision came as a shock to the content of the policy. US lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, were disappointed with the bill to maintain relations with Taiwan if it were not a diplomatic ally. Carter Administration left the issue of Taiwan’s security to the small island nation alone.

Congressional lawmakers made significant changes to the bill, including a security guarantee for Taiwan, and passed it on April 10, 1979. The main purpose of the law was to give Taiwan a comparable status as a sovereign nation and its security against Chinese threat.

The law deals with the role of the US in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. It mentions two broader points about Taiwan’s security and US involvement in it:

“Taiwan equipped with weapons with a defensive character.”

“To maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to violence or other forms of coercion that would endanger the security, or the social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan.”

Obviously, the act is some sort of deterrent to China with its eyes on Taiwan, something China experienced in 1996 when it conducted missile tests in the Taiwan Strait and one missile actually flew over Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. Two missiles were fired new two of Taiwan’s largest ports. The flashpoint behind the China-Taiwan missile test in 1996 was the visit of then-Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui to the US in June 1995. The visit was informal as the Taiwanese president went to the US to attend an alumni party. at Cornell University, his alma mater.

In response, America sent its two aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait and forced China to withdraw. US President Bill Clinton said in April 1999, while outlining China policy: “When China tested some of the missiles deployed near Taiwan in 1996, tensions increased in the Taiwan Strait. commitment of our carriers demonstrated that America will act to prevent miscalculation there.”

Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan after 25 years of missile crisis, despite Chinese threats, reaffirms that. She says China cannot stop world leaders from traveling to Taiwan. In May 2022, current US President Joe Biden gave a clear message that the US would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan if China decides to invade it. He said the commitment to protect Taiwan is now “even stronger” after the Russian attack on Ukraine. The G7 has also argued that there can be no justification whatsoever for China’s aggressive military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.

China’s military exercises in the Taiwan Strait firing ballistic missiles say China is miscalculating again. It is true that China is now much bigger militarily and economically, but can it afford a war with the US, arguably the strongest military power on Earth yet?

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