The Chinese government claims Taiwan as a province of China and does not rule out seizing it by force.
At the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the losing Kuomintang government fled to the island of Taiwan, establishing the Republic of China (ROC) government in exile. On the mainland, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) established the People’s Republic of China. Beginning in the 1970s, many countries began changing their formal ties from the ROC to Beijing, and today fewer than 15 world governments recognize the ROC (Taiwan) as a country.
The CCP has never ruled Taiwan, and since the end of the civil war, Taiwan has enjoyed de facto independence. Since the end of decades of martial law in the 1980s, Taiwan has also become a vibrant democracy with elections and a free media.
But unification is a key goal of Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The island’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, said Taiwan was already a sovereign country that did not need to declare independence, but Beijing views Taiwan’s democratically elected government as separatist.
Under Xi’s rule, aggression against Taiwan has increased and analysts say the threat of invasion is at its highest level in decades. In recent years, the People’s Liberation Army has sent hundreds of warplanes to the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone, as part of greatly increased “gray zone” activities, which are adjacent in combat but do not reach the threshold of war. Taiwan is striving to modernize its military and is buying a large number of military assets and weapons from the United States in hopes of deterring Xi and the CCP from moving.