Tensions between China and Taiwan have escalated since October 1, when China celebrates its National Day to mark the birth of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
In line with the 72nd anniversary celebrations, China flies over 100 fighter jets to Taiwan air defense identification zone, shaking the nerves in Taiwan and setting the alarm all over the world that it was preparing to take the island by force.
Although largely unknown to other countries as such, self-governing Taiwan sees itself as no less than an independent nation, and its leaders, including tough pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen, have vowed to defend his sovereignty against the Chinese intention of reunification
But Taiwan is completely dependent on the US for its defense against possible Chinese aggression and that is why any increase in military tensions between China and Taiwan injects more hostility into the already strained relations between Washington and Beijing.
1949: Establishment of the PRC
Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa, a small island off the east coast of China, is where the Chinese Republicans of the Kuomintang government withdrew after the communist victory in 1949 and has since continued as the Republic of China (RoC). The island is located in the East China Sea, northeast of Hong Kong, north of the Philippines and south of South Korea, and southwest of Japan. What is happening in and around Taiwan is a deep concern for all of East Asia.
Taiwan notes October 10 10 doubles as its national day; it was on this day in 1911 that sections of the Manchu army rose in revolt, eventually leading to the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and the end of the 4000 years of the monarchy. The RoC was proclaimed on December 29, 1911, and was found standing in the 1920s under the leadership of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Kuomintang Party (KMT).
The Sun was succeeded by General Chiang Kai-shek, whose actions against the Chinese Communists, who were part of an alliance with the KMT, sparked the civil war that ended with the Communists’ victory and the withdrawal of Chiang and the KMT to Taiwan.
Since its founding in 1949, the PRC has believed that Taiwan should be reunited with the mainland, while the RoC has been maintained as an independent country. The RoC became the non-communist border against China during the Cold War and was the only China recognized at the UN until 1971. That was when the US inaugurated ties with China through the secret diplomacy of Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s national security adviser. .
The US supports Taiwan’s independence, maintains ties with Taipei and sells arms to it, but formally agrees to the PRCs One China Policy, meaning that there is only one legitimate Chinese government. Only 15 countries, mostly very small, recognize Taiwan.
In 1954-55, and in 1958, the PRC bombed the islands of Jinmen, Mazu and Dachen under Taiwanese control, retreating to the US. Congress passed the Formosa Resolution authorizing President Dwight D Eisenhower to defend RoC territory.
In 1955, Prime Minister Zhou En-lai declared at the Bandung Conference that he wanted negotiations with the US. But as the civil war in Lebanon erupted in 1958, China resumed bombing, provoking the US to supply Taiwanese posts to the islands. The PRC and ROC then reached an arrangement to bomb each other’s garrisons on alternate days this continued until 1971. (Highlights in U.S. History of Foreign Relations, history.state.gov)
The most serious meeting was in 1995-96, when China began testing missiles in the seas around Taiwan, triggering the largest U.S. mobilization in the region since the Vietnam War. The tests led to the 1996 re-election of President Lee Teng-hui, seen by the Chinese as a pro-independence leader.
The politics of independence
In 1975, Chiang Kai-shek died, martial law was repealed, and Taiwan received its first democratic reforms. Beginning in the 1990s, and despite the missile crisis, relations between the PRC and the RoC improved, and trade links were established. As the British prepared to leave Hong Kong in 1999, the One China solution, Two Systems was also offered to Taiwan, but it was rejected by the Taiwanese.
In 2000, Taiwan took over its first non-KMT government when the Taiwanese Progressive Nationalist Democratic Party (DPP) won the presidency. In 2004, China began drafting an anti-secession law aimed at Taiwan; trade and connectivity, however, continued to improve.
Today, the two major players in Taiwanese politics are the DPP and the KMT, generally the Hakka Island resident parties and the mainland Chinese minorities respectively. President Tsai’s 2016 election marked the beginning of a sharp phase of pro-independence in Taiwan, and current tensions with China coincided with its re-election in 2020.
Taiwan now has massive economic interests, including investing in China, and pro-independence sections worry that this could get in the way of their goals. Conversely, pro-political parties, as well as China, hope that economic dependence and increased human contacts will tire pro-independence lobbies.
Last year, amid deteriorating US-China relations over Covid and trade, the State Department sent its highest-ranking delegation to Taipei to date. During the visit, the Chinese conducted a military exercise in the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from mainland China.
In October 2020, President Xi Jinping urged the PLA to prepare for war, triggering alarm in Taiwan, which read it as an open threat.
At the beginning of the Biden administration, which has declared strong commitment to Taiwan, Taipei raised an alarm for an intervention by Chinese fighter jets. In April, Taiwan reported Chinese aircraft in its air defense zone. In July, Xi warned that he would destroy any Taiwanese movement towards independence.
Earlier this month, as Chinese planes returned, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told Parliament that China already has the capacity to invade Taiwan, but will be able to bring cost and demolition to a lower level. until 2025.
In a speech on October 10, Xi appeared to him erase the fear of a forceful control, and spoke of peaceful reunification. But he underlined that the historic task of complete reunification of the homeland … will definitely be fulfilled. That same day, the Taiwanese president said that while her government would not act in a hurry, the Taiwanese people would not bow to pressure either.
Challenge for the US
As tensions rise, the world is watching the US, whose status as a major world power has been marred by a messy exit from Afghanistan. In East and Southeast Asia, several countries, including Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, which are sheltered under the U.S. protective umbrella, are reading tea leaves.
President Joe Biden has so far walked a fine line between promising support for Taiwan and keeping a lid on tensions with Beijing. after talking to Xi earlier this month, he said they had agreed to abide by the Taiwan Agreement, according to which US support for the One China Policy is based on Beijing ‘s non – occupation of Taiwan.
Pact AUKUS between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, under which Australia will be supplied with nuclear submarines, has given a new dimension to Indo-Pacific security dynamics. Taiwan has welcomed the pact while China has denounced it seriously undermining regional peace.
Implications for India
With India facing its own problems with China in the LAC, there have been suggestions that it should review its One China Policy it in any case has long ceased to officially repeat this and use not only the Tibetan charter but also develop stronger relations with Taiwan to send a message to Beijing.
India and Taiwan currently hold trade and cultural exchange offices in each other’s capitals. In May 2020, Tsai’s oath was practically followed by BJP MPs Meenakshi Lekhi (now the MoH Foreign Ministry) and Rahul Kaswan. In 2016, New Delhi had scrapped plans to send two representatives to Tsais’s first-minute inauguration.
Bloomberg has reported that talks with Taipei are continuing to bring a $ 7.5 billion semiconductor or chip manufacturing plant to India. Chips are used in a variety of devices from computers to 5G smartphones, to electric cars and medical devices. The deal was reported on the eve of the summit of Quad, a group of the US, India, Japan and Australia seeking to curb China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific. One of the topics discussed at the meeting was the need to build a secure supply chain for semiconductors.
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