VSHina warned the United States of the serious consequences of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosis’ visit to Taiwan. Beijing has made a number of daunting maneuvers, and the People’s Liberation Army has conducted live-fire drills in the South China Sea, Yellow Sea and Bohai Hills. Undeterred, Pelosi continued her successful visit. And so, the first round of the war of nerves goes to the United States.
The White House downplayed the visit, calling it a private matter and reiterating the US establishment’s commitment to the one-China policy. But Beijing is not convinced. Why would the United States station four warships near eastern Taiwan? United States said these are normal, routine deployments.
China has replied reducing the import of fruits and fish from Taiwan and suspending the export of natural sand. It also started its military operations against Taiwan. The resolve of island nations to fight back is at its best, showcasing the conflict between hegemonic authoritarianism and democracy. It remains to be seen whether the United States would move its navy across the Taiwan Strait if the conflict escalates. Unlike Ukraine, the sea around Taiwan is not as inaccessible to the US Navy and Air Force.
While India was following the one China policy, the Manmohan Singh government dropped his mention during the visit of the then Chinese prime ministers in 2010. Then, in 2014, Narendra Modi invited Taiwanese Ambassador Chung Kwang Tien and Central Tibetan Administration Chairman Lobsang Sangay for his swearing-in ceremony. Clearly, India has moved away from the policy of pampering China. Now is the time for New Delhi to strengthen its trade relations with Taiwan and intensify its diplomatic relations.
Also read: As Taiwan pushes back on call for China’s reunification, a look at 350-year-old dispute
Who benefits from the crisis?
Russia is closely monitoring the US-China split over Taiwan. Moscow does not seem ready to jump into the fray. The former USSR was not involved in any of the previous China-Taiwan crises, despite the ideological brotherhood. Moscow would like the Taiwan issue to escalate so that Ukraine’s immediate attention is diverted.
But the United States is unlikely to let Moscow deal with Ukraine. A day before Nancy Pelosi traveled to Taiwan, US special operations forces killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in his safe house in Kabul, Afghanistan. Displaying the traits of a superpower, the White House is capable of multitasking when it comes to managing global affairs. It would therefore be naive to think that the United States would get bogged down in one country at a time.
For now, Beijing does not seem in the mood to escalate the crisis. China is known for acting in a calibrated manner and striking at the time and place of its choosing. But Xi Jinping is in a hurry because he must maintain his image as a strong man and someone who does not succumb to American bullying. The choice for him is between a third presidential term and an unceremonious exit from power. Additionally, Beijing must grapple with the end of the Covid pandemic and a plummeting economy. It is doubtful that Beijing can resist economic sanctions at this stage.
Also read: To check China’s hostility, India, Taiwan and Japan need an intelligence-sharing alliance
The question of economy
The post-pandemic economic recovery has seen an increased demand for electronic parts and equipment. A leader in these industry sectors, Taiwan recorded 64% of the global market for foundry and semiconductor manufacturing and exports. Many electronic spare parts for the automotive industry and other related manufacturing fields still rely heavily on Taiwanese production facilities.
China’s consumer goods manufacturing industry depends on exports from Taiwan, but Taiwan depends on heavy imports of energy and consumer products, which should be cause for concern. But the silver lining is that foreign exchange reserves Taiwan accounts for about 280% of its GDP, which is enough to support 13 months of imports. Protracted conflict and punishment by China could strain Taiwan’s economy in the long run.
Economic uncertainty will not help China or Taiwan. Any extreme military action and attempted forced annexation will result in a Ukrainian-style conflict, which will be very damaging to Taiwan but will also isolate China.
While some South Asian and Southeast Asian economies are struggling, India has been able to weather the headwinds. New Delhi should do its best to be part of all attempts to reduce the conflict situation without getting drawn into the flashpoint vortex.
Greater economic partnership with Taiwan should be followed by encouraging domestic manufacturing, removing all barriers, liberalizing tax laws and strengthening the supply chain mechanism. Economic strength will be a key factor in determining leadership in the emerging global order.
The author is the former editor-in-chief of Organizer. He tweets @seshadrichari. Views are personal.
(Edited by Prashant)
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