Tensions between China and Taiwan can be traced back to 1911-1912, when Chinese revolutionaries in the small East Asian island overthrew the Qing Empire and established the Republic of China (ROC), or what would later come to be known as Taiwan ("History"). Following the eruption of civil war between the ROC and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the ROC, led by Kuomintang party leader Chiang Kai-shek, relocated to Taiwan in 1949 ("History"). In the same year, Chairman Mao declared the foundation of the People's Republic of China on October 1 ("History").
Over the years, Taiwan has made steps towards democratization, including a historic bill that gives same-sex marriages similar legal rights to a marriage defined in civil law between heterosexuals (Lee). This is the first bill of its kind to be proposed in an Asian country, and represents an important development for human rights' activists in Asia.
The divide between China and Taiwan stems mostly from the topic of independence. Many Taiwanese want Taiwan to become a separate nation, while China views Taiwan as a province and a part of the country. In January of 2016, the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Tsai Ing-wen, was elected as Premier ("What's behind the China-Taiwan Divide?"). The DPP holds a separatist stance on the issue of independence, and in January, Tsai officially rejected Chinese President Xi Jinping's call for a "peaceful reunification" with China (Jiang). In his same speech, Xi mentioned that China "make[s] no promise to renounce the use of force" in the case of Taiwanese independence (Rivers et al.).
In an interview on February 21, Tsai stated that Taiwan's "independent existence, security, prosperity and democracy" is currently under attack as China continues to pose a military and economic threat to Taiwan (Rivers et al.). On February 22, a statue of Chiang Kai-shek (a political hero to the pro-China camp) was vandalised, which further increased the political strain between China and Taiwan (Hermesauto). Beijing has increased the frequency of military drills, and in February even released a a propaganda video "juxtaposing images of Chinese jets with famous landmarks across Taiwan" (Rivers et al.). The Taiwan military replied with footage of its own, depicting the message, "On standby 24/7" (Rivers et al.). This further indicates that Taiwan is aware of the threats its facing, and is fully prepared to defend its rights if things should escalate to that step.
Taiwan is historically an ally of the US, whose Congress signed the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979 which allows the US to intervene in the case of a non-peaceful attack from China (Rivers et al.). Under President Donald Trump, the US has also signed the Taiwan Travel Act, which encouraged "visits between officials of the United States and Taiwan at all levels" (Jiang). With the current trade war between the US and China ramping up (Jiang), Taiwanese independence has become a topic of heated debate. Therefore, any military fall-out between the two could have drastic impacts on international relations, and change the current political landscape.
Hermesauto. “Statue of Former Taiwan Leader Chiang Kai-Shek Vandalised in Taipei amid Rising Tension with China.” The Straits Times, 22 Feb. 2019, www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/statue-of-former-taiwan-leader-chiang-kai-shek-vandalised-in-taipei.
“History.” Government Portal of Republic of China, Taiwan, www.taiwan.gov.tw/content_3.php.
Jiang, Steven. “Taiwan Appoints New Premier amid Rising China Tensions.” CNN, Cable News Network, 11 Jan. 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/01/11/asia/taiwan-premier-china-intl/index.html.
Lee, Yimou. “Taiwan Unveils Asia's First Draft Law on Same-Sex Marriage.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 21 Feb. 2019, www.reuters.com/article/us-taiwan-lgbt/taiwan-unveils-asias-first-draft-law-on-same-sex-marriage-idUSKCN1QA0I2.
Rivers, Matt, et al. “Facing an Aggressive Beijing, Taiwan's President Issues a Warning to the World.” CNN, Cable News Network, 20 Feb. 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/02/19/asia/tsai-ing-wen-china-us-interview-intl/index.html.
“What's behind the China-Taiwan Divide?” BBC News, BBC, 2 Jan. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34729538.