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Why Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan scares the world: Keys to the US-China conflict | International

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Nancy Pelosi’s brief visit to Taiwan has turned up the heat on the long-simmering dispute between China and the island it considers an inalienable part of its homeland. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her visit was intended to make it “unequivocally clear” that the United States would “not abandon” the democratically governed island. This infuriated Chinese leaders who warned the US about “playing with fire” and threatened a forceful response. A dispute that began as World War II ended has flared up in recent years due to President Xi Jinping’s assertiveness in defending Chinese interests and Taiwanese government’s gradual distancing from the giant that looms across the Taiwan Strait.

What are the impacts of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan?

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives is the highest-ranking US politician to set foot on the island since Newt Gingrich’s 1997 visit, when China was otherwise occupied integrating Hong Kong (annexed by the United Kingdom in 1842 and returned to China in 1997). Gingrich was also US House Speaker at the time, and Democrat Bill Clinton was in the White House. China chose to interpret Gingrich’s Taiwan visit as political jockeying between Republicans and Democrats. But both Pelosi and President Joe Biden are Democrats.

China’s prosperity and wealth has increased tremendously in the past 25 years. As it continues to build up its military, China has demonstrated more impatience with Taiwan, believing that it has no right to maintain independent diplomatic relations. When senior foreign officials visit the “rebel territory,” China interprets it as support for Taiwanese independence.

As rumors of Pelosi’s visit began to swirl a few weeks ago, China warned that it strongly opposed such a visit and would not hesitate to take “strong measures.” On the day Pelosi landed in Taiwan, Beijing announced new military maneuvers around the island lasting several days, including missile launches. The airspace and coastal waters around China’s Fujian province (nearest to Taiwan) were restricted for exclusive military use.

China also banned imports of products from more than 100 Taiwanese companies in the food, agriculture, and fishing sectors. Analysts anticipate an increase in Chinese military exercises in the region, as well as new Chinese sanctions against the island. However, they see little likelihood that escalating tensions will trigger a military conflict.

What is Taiwan’s status?

Taiwan is not a special administrative region of China, like Hong Kong and Macau, but functions as a de facto state with a democratically elected government, a constitution, and a military force of 300,000. Taiwan has the 21st-largest economy in the world, and is a global leader in semiconductors with over 65% of the market share.

China, however, considers the island a “rebel” province with an illegitimate government. Chinese diplomacy is based on the One China principle; that is, there is only one China, and it includes Taiwan.

The Taiwanese issue has been a constant theme in the policies of the Communist Party of China, although the rhetoric has been become more heated since President Xi Jinping was elected. China’s main objective is to defeat any attempt toward Taiwan independence, and it espouses a peaceful “reunification” process, although it never rules out the use of force as a last resort. In Xi’s own words, reunification is part of the “historical mission of the Communist Party of China.”

Has Taiwan historically been part of China?

Taiwan was part of China from 1683-1895, during the Qing dynasty. When China was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, it was forced to cede Taiwan to Japan. China recovered control over the island in 1945 when Japan was defeated in World War II. Civil war raged in China for the next four years until Nationalist troops led by Chiang Kai-shek fled the mainland and took refuge in Taiwan after being defeated by Mao Zedong’s communist forces in 1949. Chiang Kai-shek established the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan while Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland.

Does the international community recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state?

The United Nations ended its recognition of the ROC as a sovereign state in 1971 and instead formally recognized the PRC. Many countries followed suit. Currently, only 13 nations and the Vatican maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan instead of China.

What is the US position toward Taiwan?

Taiwan is part of what is known as the “first island chain,” a string of major Pacific archipelagos that extend from the East Asian continental mainland coast. They include a number of archipelagos that are traditionally friendly to the United States and are key to the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States has always had an unofficial relationship with the island, and maintains a “strategic ambiguity” formalized in the Taiwan Relations Act enacted in 1979, the year in which the US recognized the People’s Republic of China.

Because of this ambiguity, the Taiwanese issue has become one of the most sensitive issues between the two superpowers. The US is Taiwan’s main arms supplier and, as President Biden has stated on three occasions (although his press team immediately corrected him), the US would be Taiwan’s most powerful ally in the event of a military conflict with China.

How has Taiwan’s relationship with China evolved?

Taiwan undertook significant democratic reforms in the 1990s after 38 years of martial law under the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party), the longest period of martial law in history (later surpassed by Syria). In 2000, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), ascended to power by openly advocating autonomy from China. In 2008, the Kuomintang returned to power and attempted to patch up relations with China through trade and investment agreements.

Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP won the presidency in 2016 and was reelected with an absolute majority in 2020, dealing a severe blow to friendly relations with Beijing. The major fault line in Taiwanese politics is independence or unification with China, although many straddle the fence and favor maintaining the status quo of Taiwan as a de facto state. The Kuomintang officially accepts the One China principle and does not discourage reunification, while the DPP officially considers the Republic of China to be an independent state.

What do the Taiwanese people want?

According to a June 2022 survey, the vast majority want to maintain the status quo indefinitely. Only 5.2% support independence, while 1.3% aspire to reunification with China. More than 60% of the population identifies itself as Taiwanese citizens, while just over 30% identifies itself as being of Chinese-Taiwanese nationality.

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Nancy Pelosi: Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan revives the debate on international recognition of the island | International

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Nancy Pelosi’s brief and controversial visit to Taiwan could not have incited more contrasting reactions from the governments on either side of the Formosa Strait. President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration received the speaker of the United States House of Representatives with everything but a fireworks show, projecting flamboyant welcome messages on the island’s tallest building. Beijing, on the other hand, responded to what it considered a “blatant provocation” with a week of unprecedented military exercises. The superpower has also cut ties with Washington on key topics and recently published the first official report on Taiwan in two decades. Its aggressive reaction has brought to the forefront the debate about international recognition of the island, which functions as a state but is recognized by only 14 countries.

“My friends and I were very excited for a figure like this to come. It’s good to attract attention,” says Sun Hui’an by phone. “We are used to threats from China. We can’t let it dictate our lives,” adds the 29-year-old nurse.

Formosa was the place to which nationalist leaders and around a million people fled after the victory of the Communist Army in 1949 in the civil war. While in mainland China Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People’s Republic, Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Kuomintang (the formation that had presided over the country between 1927 and 1949), established a government in exile in Taiwan. Not until the 1970s did the United Nations and most Western countries began to recognize Beijing as the legitimate government of China, to the detriment of Taipei.

Taiwan is not a special administrative region of China like Hong Kong and Macau. It has a democratic government, a constitution and an army of 300,000 soldiers. It ranks as the 21st largest economy in the world, and it is the leading producer in the semiconductor industry. In 2019, it became the first place in Asia to legalize marriage between same-sex couples.

For the Chinese government, the island is a headache. The Asian giant considers Taiwan an inalienable part of its territory, whose “reunification” is, in the words of President Xi Jinping, “a historic mission of the Communist Party.” In recent years, especially since Tsai Ing-wen assumed the presidency in 2016, Chinese authorities have spoken with increasing assertiveness about a future unification, for which they have not ruled out the use of force. The rapport between the Tsai Administration and the United States, as evidenced by the recent visit of the American politician, has infuriated Beijing. On Wednesday, China published the first white paper on Taiwan in 22 years, drawing far more red lines than previous publications from 1993 and 2000.

Beijing’s discourse has never quite caught on across the strait. The two main Taiwanese parliamentary groups hold two radically opposed ideas about nationalism. While the Blue Coalition, led by the Kuomintang (KMT), aspires to an eventual unification with the People’s Republic, the Green Coalition, led by the Democratic Progressive Party (PDP), prefers to distance the island from Beijing.

Xulio Ríos, director of the Chinese Policy Observatory, points out that, however, that “the nuances are important”: “In the KMT there is everything from an intense blue –which defends unification and the idea of China – to a sky-blue, which understands that there are two different realities on both sides of the strait. The PDP advocated for independence, but today it does not defend it so aggressively and is committed to maintaining the status quo.”

Although historically opposed, the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have sometimes found ways to collaborate and prevent secession. KMT Vice Chairman Andrew Hsia is currently on a 17-day trip to the mainland to boost cross-border communication. “The cooperation between the KMT and the CCP really picked up momentum in 2008, with the victory of Ma Ying-jeou [KMT] in the elections. This made possible a rapprochement between the business and political elites of the mainland and Taiwan,” says Ríos.

Maintaining the status quo

That approach was cut short in 2014, when a group of protesters occupied parliament to denounce the approval, without bipartisan debate, of a controversial trade agreement with China. “The Sunflower Movement put the brakes on a whole process of rapprochement, which had generated the expectation of a possibility of peaceful unification through dialogue,” says Ríos. “After PDP’s victory with an absolute majority in 2016 is completely the opposite, a completely opposite path opened,” he adds.

Despite the two trends, the surveys carried out biannually by the Center for Electoral Studies of National Chengchi University (Taipei) since 1994 show that the vast majority of the 23 million Taiwanese are committed to maintaining the status quo. In its latest poll, from July, those in favor of unification are few (1.3%) and falling, while those in favor of declaring independence (5.1%) have also lost steam.

“My parents and I share the same opinion: we don’t care who rules Taiwan, but we don’t want to lose our freedoms. My grandparents and my parents had hopes for the principle of one country, two systems, but after what happened in Hong Kong we know that it is not viable,” says Wu, 32, who prefers to identify himself with a pseudonym.

Deng Xiaoping devised the one country, two systems model in the late 1980s. The goal was to ensure conformity to the idea that there is but one China, while ensuring that those areas that had developed their own economic systems could keep them under Chinese rule. The idea, originally conceived for Taiwan, has never been accepted by the island’s political parties.

Taiwanese fear that the idea’s acceptance will bring an erosion of democracy. China had agreed with the United Kingdom to guarantee Hong Kong’s system of freedoms until 2047. But after the 2019 protests, Beijing has become intransigent, with the approval of the draconian National Security Law and with an electoral reform that ended up placing Beijing-backed candidate John Lee as head of government in May.

“Once you visit the Chinese mainland, if you are green, you turn dark green. If you are blue, you go green,” Wu says, summarizing the Taiwanese’s misgivings. But given the obvious difference in opinion that has persisted in high political circles, the most intelligent response seems to be the one reflected by the polls. When asked what he would choose between preserving the status quo or moving towards complete autonomy from Beijing, Wu does not hesitate: “Independence does not deserve a war.”

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‘The Taliban no longer wanted to kill me. Now they wanted to marry me’ | Women’s rights and gender equality

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The day the Taliban entered my city last August, I started to receive renewed threats from Taliban commanders who wanted to punish me for my work as a news journalist. I was forced to leave my home that day, amid the loud explosions of an ongoing battle, hiding under a burqa, and praying to survive the journey.

What I did not know then was that this journey would continue for the next year.

Every few weeks, I moved from province to province, sometimes living in the heart of cities, other times hiding out in remote villages. In the first few days, I stayed at my uncle’s house in Sari Pul province, but once the local Taliban learned he was harbouring a fugitive, we had to leave in the middle of the night.

I went to Mazar-i-Sharif city in Balkh, and then took the road to Kabul, passing through Samangan, Baghlan and Parwan provinces. We were stopped at checkpoints in every province, and every time my heart would pound inside my chest. Luckily, I was under a chadari [the full Afghan burqa] and passed through checkpoints undetected.

In Kabul, the very air had shifted; there was fear and dread, alongside celebrations, as Taliban fighters from all over the country gathered in the capital. With the help of some friends, I was moved to a safe house, where I spent the next three months attempting to find ways to leave the country, but seldom even leaving the compound I was hiding in. The Taliban would launch random raids in the neighbourhood, looking for fugitives like me.

Somehow, our compound evaded suspicion, but when the number of raids increased, I knew I would have to leave Kabul soon.

In December 2021, I heard the news that my cousin had been killed by the Taliban. He was a policeman and often clashed with the Taliban during the years of conflict. Like me, he had been hiding for months, looking for a way to leave the country, but was caught and killed. I broke down, not just in grief over his loss, but also in incredible pain over what my life had turned into.

I decided to go back to my province, but did not go home because I didn’t want to risk my family’s lives. I hid at the home of another relative, but being so close to my family again made me homesick. I yearned for my mother’s embrace; I hadn’t seen her in months.

One day, I met my mother in a crowded marketplace. We hugged each other tight, and I cried, but she gave me strength. I knew I couldn’t give up now.

Over the next few months, I started weaving carpets to help support myself and my family. Since the Taliban takeover, we had not only lost income but my life in exile was costing my parents, who had already sacrificed so much to raise me and now had to support me. It was hard labour, and I developed rashes and sores on my hands, but it helped my family and took my mind off the threats I was still receiving.

Then the threats from the Taliban changed. They no longer wanted to kill me. They wanted me to marry one of their commanders. They reached out to my parents and community elders, pressuring them to give me away in marriage.

I couldn’t believe it was now happening to me. In the past, I covered stories of the Taliban imposing forced marriages on young girls. Now I was one of the women I had reported about last year.

When I refused, they sent me photos of AK-47s and pistols, threatening to kidnap me, and kill my parents. I blocked their numbers and deleted WhatsApp but they still found ways to send me threats. Eventually, I took out my sim card and broke it into pieces. I was terrified of what they would do to me, or worse, to my family.

So in July, with the help of friends, I made one more attempt to leave the country. First, with the help of my father, I moved to Mazar-i-Sharif, and then we took the road to Kabul again. I carried medical certificates, and every time we were stopped, we would say I was going to Kabul for treatment. I was nervous throughout the journey because the Taliban were more brutal than before.

Eventually we made it to Kabul, where I met with other women like myself. Together, under the pretext of seeking medical help, we were able to get on a flight leaving for a neighbouring country.

I am somewhat safer now, but not out of danger. I barely sleep because I fear for my family, who are still in Afghanistan. They are already being shamed because I ran away. A young unmarried daughter leaving by herself is considered very dishonourable in Afghan culture.

But I am fortunate in the support I have received from my parents, at great personal risk. They always prioritised my passion, my happiness, and now my security and future. Contrary to popular belief, many Afghan fathers would, like mine, rather face societal dishonour and threats than deny their daughters opportunities for a better future.

I appeal to our international allies to empower such Afghan families, particularly the women. We worked so hard to attain values of equality and freedom and have lost the most in the last year. But we are still resisting, and we are seeking allies to support us and amplify our voices.

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New Evidence Suggests Archaeologist Howard Carter Stole Tutankhamun’s Treasure

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery by Carter and his team of the tomb of the boy king, which was filled with thrones, chariots and lots of other objects Egyptians believed were needed in the next world.

Archaeologist Howard Carter, who discovered Tutankhamn’s tomb in 1922, stole some of the treasures found in the 3,300-year-old burial place, a previously unpublished letter sent to the archaeologist by a scholar from his team shows.

According to Bob Brier, a leading Egyptologist at Long Island University, rumors have long been circulating about Carter stealing treasures. “But now there’s no doubt about it,” Brier reportedly said.

Correspondence between Carter and members of his excavation team remains in a private collection but it will be published by Oxford University Press in Brier’s forthcoming book, ‘Tutankhamun and the Tomb that Changed the World’.

Carter gave British philologist Sir Alan Gardiner, who was enlisted by the archaeologist to translate hieroglyphs found in the tomb, a “whm amulet”, used for offerings to the dead, telling him that the amulet had not come from the tomb. Later, Gardiner showed the amulet to Rex Engelbach, who was the British director of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo at the time, and was told that it had actually come from the Tutankhamun’s tomb because it matched other examples which all had been made from the same mould.

In 1934, Gardiner wrote to Carter: “The whm amulet you showed me has been undoubtedly stolen from the tomb of Tutankhamun…I deeply regret having been placed in so awkward a position…I naturally did not tell Engelbach that I obtained the amulet from you.”

In 1922, Carter and his financial donor, Lord Carnarvon, discovered the tomb of the boy king, filled with thousands of objects, including thrones and chariots, that were believed to be needed in the next world. Within the next decade, Carter supervised the removal of those objects and their transportation down the Nile to Cairo where they were put on display in the Egyptian Museum.



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