Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan amid US-China tensions

The Chinese Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China in 1949 — ushering in years of military conflicts across the Taiwan Strait in the 1950s, with Beijing bombing many of the remote islands controlled by Taipei on two separate occasions.

The last major crisis occurred in 1995-1996, after the then President of Taiwan, Lee Teng-hui, visited the United States.

Lee, who received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in upstate New York, returned to his alma mater in 1995 to give a speech at a reunion event, which was broadcast across Asia and around the world, according to the university.

Cornell University President Frank Rhodes and Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui pose with their wives Lee Wen-hui and Rosa Rhodes before a private dinner at the president’s home on June 10, 1995 in Ithaca, New York. (Bill Mueller/The Associated Press)

China fired missiles into the waters around Taiwan, angered by the visit, and the United States granted Lee a visa. The crisis only ended after the United States sent two carrier battle groups to the region in a strong show of support for Taipei.

Experts say Lee was the first Taiwanese leader to put forward the idea that the island was a separate and distinct entity from the communist-ruled mainland — making him a particularly sensitive figure for Beijing, even decades later.

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