China vs. Taiwan

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - February 14, 2021 - 12:00am

In Joe Biden’s first call with Xi Jinping, the White House said that Biden emphasized his “…fundamental concerns with Beijing’s coercive and unfair practices, its crackdown in Hong Kong, reported human rights abuses in Xinjiang and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including towards Taiwan.” Xi was reported to have taken a hardline stand and told Biden, in the same call, that  Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan were matters of “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Less than a month after the new American president took office, Taiwan and the United States officials had their first publicly acknowledged meeting in Washington.The Taiwanese ambassador was also invited to the Biden-Harris inauguration, the first Taiwanese invited since 1979.

Last September, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu warned that after China’s seizure of Hong Kong, Taiwan will be the next target as it looks for a “…scapegoat in facing its internal and external crisis.” Among the external problems of China are “…strained China-US relations, sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea and a military standoff with India.” China is increasingly becoming more aggressive in the South China Sea, including its recent “law” allowing its coast guard to fire on vessels and planes “intruding” in the South China Sea, which are actually disputed territories with several countries including the Philippines.

All these issues mentioned could accidentally lead to a “hot” war. The one issue that is most liable to convert the present cold war with the United States into a “hot” war or a shooting war is the issue of Taiwan.

These tensions over Taiwan date back to 1949 when Mao Zedong led the Communists to partial victory over the Chaing Kai Shek-led Nationalists. Chiang and his forces evacuated to Taiwan and re-established a rival Republic of China. Although China has never relinquished its claim over Taiwan, there has never been a serious attempt to invade Taiwan. However, Xi repeated last year that they will not renounce the use of force to occupy Taiwan.

It was under Lee Teng-hui, successor to Chiang, that Taiwan slowly became democratic and became an economic powerhouse. For a while succeeding presidents tried to establish close relations with China. The hope was that the “one nation, two systems” would apply to Taiwan. But the recent abandonment of its commitment to preserving democracy in Hong Kong has convinced many Taiwanese that China could not be trusted and the proposal of one nation under two systems was not a serious alternative.

However, the most serious movement towards independence is the new generation who started the Sunflower Movement that encourages a separate identity. In recent surveys the overwhelming majority, especially the new generation, consider themselves as Taiwanese and not Chinese.

There is also a big difference between the two in terms of political and economic models. China is an authoritarian society; and the Chinese Communist Party wants to export this model of authoritarianism to the rest of the world. Taiwan is a liberal democratic society and its government is democratically elected.

China has an anti-secession law that specifically states that over time, if Taiwan cannot be brought under Chinese rule peacefully, then “unification” must be done through force. The military and naval might of China grows every year, and together with the increasing support for independence in Taiwan has resulted in the growing possibility of armed conflict between the two nations.

Among several scenarios, experts seem to agree on three most possible scenarios. The first scenario is the continuing harassment by China by the constant violation of Taiwan’s air and naval space. Chinese fighter planes have been invading Taiwan air zone and forcing Taiwanese to continuously be on guard and to respond to these hostile activities. There has also been hostile cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns. It seems that China hopes this continuous subversion through disinformation campaigns will eventually result in the crumbling of Taiwanese society and its inhabitants will finally succumb to agreeing to unite with the Mainland.

The second scenario is the invasion of Taiwanese islands located geographically close to Xiamen. This could begin with sabotage and the use of Chinese maritime militias to blockade and engage in covert operations. The possibility is that the Taiwanese people would not have the appetite to have an all-out war over such small islands which are actually much nearer to China than Taiwan. When Putin invaded Crimea, there was a lot of denunciations but there was eventual acceptance by other European countries. Experts believe this scenario is the least possible because if China decides to use its military it would go for an all-out invasion of Taiwan.

The third scenario is an invasion of Taiwan by Chinese armed forces. This may seem unthinkable since the result would negatively affect the economies of all countries concerned. However, there are possible conditions which would make invasion possible.

One cause could be internal power struggles or political developments that could weaken the stranglehold of the Chinese Communist Party on Chinese politics and economics. This would make China’s rulers look to an invasion as a way of encouraging a wave of nationalism and militarism among its people. Another could be a miscalculation of America’s resolve to defend Taiwan against an invasion. This could result in spreading the conflict if China decides to retaliate against US Asian bases in Okinawa and Guam.

Hopefully, even with these conflicts, both nations – the US and China – will not panic and use nuclear weapons. The more possible outcome is a protracted war between China and the US-led alliance.

Hopefully the Philippines will be able to stay neutral and not be dragged into war on either side.

*      *      *

An invitation to young writers:

Young Writers’ Hangout via Zoom on Feb. 27 with Rin Chupeco, 2-3 p.m. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com.  0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with