Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan amid US-China tensions

The Chinese Communist Party founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949, sparking years of military conflict across the Taiwan Strait in the 1950s, with Beijing bombing several outlying islands controlled by Taipei twice.

The last major crisis occurred in 1995-96, after then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui visited the United States.

Lee, who had earned a doctorate from Cornell University in New York state, returned to his alma mater in 1995 to deliver a speech at a reunion event, which was broadcast across Asia and worldwide, depending on 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 June 10, 1995 in Ithaca , New York.
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 June 10, 1995 in Ithaca , New York. (Bill Mueller/AP)

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

Experts say Lee was the first Taiwanese leader to float the idea of ​​the island being a separate and distinct entity from the communist-ruled mainland – making him a particularly sensitive figure for Beijing, even decades later.