Taiwan’s China problem

Taiwan’s China problem
On 26th March, Taipei sent fighter jets to shadow a number of Chinese aircraft including fighters and bombers. Tensions between the two countries have escalated as..

On 26th March, Taipei sent fighter jets to shadow a number of Chinese aircraft including fighters and bombers. Tensions between the two countries have escalated as China has been increasing military presence in Taiwanese waters. President Jinping has been vocal about implementing the “One China” policy. 

Background

The island nation of Taiwan is a highly contested region in East Asia. While Taiwan is considered a province in “Greater China,” it is largely an independent state. The ambiguity can be traced back to 1927, when the seeds were sown for a civil war between the Kuomintang (KMT)-led government of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China (CPC). Both parties wrestled for control of China. While the civil war lasted between 1927 and 1950, the main phase is considered to be from 1945 to 1949.

The war came to an end when CCP captured Beijing. The leader of CCP, Mao Zedong, then officially declared the formation of the People’s Republic of China. The leader of the opposing faction, Jiang Jieshi fled to Taiwan. It is here that he declared the formation of Republic of China (ROC). PRC has repeatedly used the threat of force to ensure Taiwan (ROC) never declared independence. As far as mainland China is considered, Taiwan is a rebel force well within China.

Despite the controversy that surrounds Taiwan, the region itself is economically robust and it is one of the biggest traders in Asia. It is a leader in the field of computer technology. The province pursues independent informal relations with other countries. Taiwan has a democratically elected President, laws and its very own armed forces. Its most influential friend in world politics is the US, which has supported it for years while also adhering to the “One China” policy.

After a recent move by the Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been allowed to rule indefinitely. Jinping has been firm on his “One China” rhetoric, and repeatedly warned against separatism. His self-proclaimed goal is that of “national rejuvenation”; Taiwan is an important part of this goal. During the National Party Congress, Jinping said that China would “absolutely not tolerate the tragedy of the country’s split.” He issued a specific warning to Taiwan, stating that China had “a firm will, sufficient faith, and adequate capacity to defeat any intention of ‘Taiwan independence’ in any form.”

 

Analysis

On Monday, the island nation of Taiwan dispatched aircrafts to shadow a number of Chinese fighter planes that flew close to Taiwanese airspace, through the Bashi Channel, a waterway between Taiwan and the Philippines. According to the Taiwanese defence ministry, these aircrafts included Xian H-6 bombers, Su-30 fighter jets, and Y-8 transport aircraft, which were en route to a base in the West Pacific.

Only last week, Taiwan’s Republic of China Armed Forces sent ships and jets to track a Chinese aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait.

On the 22nd of this month, a state run Chinese newspaper said that mainland China must prepare for military action in Taiwan. “The mainland must also prepare itself for a direct military clash in the Taiwan Strait. It needs to make clear that escalation of US-Taiwan official exchanges will bring serious consequences to Taiwan,” the paper said.  The Global Times, run by CPC’s People’s Daily, added that Beijing could “send military planes and warships across the Taiwan Strait middle line.”

This publication came after comments from Washington that US-Taiwan ties “have never been stronger”. The Taiwan Travel Act, passed by President Trump earlier this month, also encouraged diplomatic relationships between Taipei and Washington. Chinese officials stated that they were “strongly dissatisfied with” the act, as a number of clauses “severely violate the one-China principle.”

China has grown increasingly aggressive with its island neighbour, particularly since the anti-China, pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2016. The Anti-Secession law of the People’s Republic of China allows Beijing to use “non-peaceful means” against the country in event of a declaration of independence by Taiwan. Taiwan’s most recent defence review, published in December 2017, noted an increasing number of Chinese military drills in Taiwanese waters and airspace. The frequent drills “have created [an] enormous threat to security in the Taiwan Strait”, Taiwanese Defence Minister Feng Shih-Kuan said in the report.

Assessment

Our assessment is that China is increasing its presence in the Taiwan Strait as a show of power. However, Taiwan has shown no intention to back down. As we stated previously, we believe Taiwan’s “re-unification” with China is an inalienable part of Xi Jinping’s vision for the country. The move to allow Jinping to rule for life does not bode well for Taiwan, where pro-independence sentiment is high. This has the potential to result in a political crisis. 

 

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