China isn’t about to invade Taiwan. But the two sides are on a dangerous path

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Beijing has launched waves of aggression towards the island since the former Nationalist government fled the country in 1949 at the end of the Chinese Civil War.

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But that doesn’t mean there’s no cause for alarm.

Beijing is exerting military, economic and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan to achieve its long-term goal of “One China” – a single united country including the island.


And experts worry that if Chinese Communist Party leaders believe they have no hope of a peaceful “reunification”, they may turn to more drastic measures to fuel their ambitions. .

China’s ‘red lines’

In the first five days of October, more than 150 aircraft from China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force entered Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone, the area around the island where Taipei says it will respond to any incursions.
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The maneuvers began on October 1 on China’s National Day, a holiday commemorating the founding of the People’s Republic and a natural moment for acts of military currency. But that wasn’t the only reason for the record-breaking drills – they limited months of escalating tensions between China and Taiwan.

Experts said the deteriorating relationship was due to two things – an increasingly assertive and self-confident Taiwanese, The spark from heating up relations between Taipei and Washington, and domestic Chinese politics.

Although Taiwan and China have been governed separately for more than 70 years, Beijing sees the democratic island of 24 million people as part of its territory and regularly states its objective of “reunification”. Despite the fact that Taiwan has never been ruled by the Chinese. Communist Party.

To try to force Taiwan’s hand, Beijing has spent the past 40 years trying to isolate the island with offers of support to its diplomatic allies – Taiwan now has full diplomatic relations with only 15 countries.

But despite Beijing’s best efforts, Taiwan has gained more global influence since the start of 2020.

Fears of conflict are increasing due to China-Taiwan tensions.  In Taipei, however, people are not worried.
Countries around the region are defending Taiwan’s right to self-government like never before. Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told Granthshala that Tokyo would “respond accordingly” to any attempt by China to take Taiwan by force, while Australia’s Foreign Minister Maris Payne committed to forging. Strong ties with the island.
And support extends beyond Asia-Pacific. For example, in September, Lithuania became the first European nation in decades to allow a diplomatic mission to Taiwan. under his own name.
Taiwan’s close ties with the United States have cemented it on the world stage. Under the Trump administration in 2020, Taiwan welcomed some of its highest-profile US visitors in decades, and to the dismay of Beijing, the Biden administration has not reversed that trend.

Senior Fellow at the Global Institute Taipei, Taiwan, J. Michael Cole said rising tensions between the US and China have also helped Taiwan raise its profile.

“As Taiwan realizes that the international community is becoming a little more accommodating to Taiwan, there is a greater understanding of Taiwan’s role as a liberal democracy in this growing conflict of ideologies,” he said.

instead of a preamble a Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund for the United States, said the invasion, increased Chinese flyovers are a symbol of Beijing’s frustration and remind Taiwan and the US not to cross China’s “red lines”.

It said those red lines, if crossed, could lead to a military escalation from Beijing, including a campaign for formal Taiwan independence or a decision to deploy large numbers of US troops to the island.

“China wants to put Taiwan in a box and they are doing more and more force against Taiwan… They want to intimidate Taiwan,” she said.

“China wants to put Taiwan in a box and they are doing more and more force against Taiwan… They want to scare Taiwan.”Bonnie GlaserDirector of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States

But Beijing’s audience is not only in Taiwan and the US – it is at home as well.

By pressuring Taiwan, President Xi Jinping is trying to garner support ahead of the 2022 Chinese Communist Party Congress. Only then would Xi’s second term end, although it is almost certain that he will continue as president.

Wen-Ti Sung, a fellow of the Australian Center on China in the World at the Australian National University (ANU) said Xi also wanted to garner support ahead of the Communist Party meeting in November, where a shortlist of candidates for the higher office would be finalised.

A strong policy on Taiwan could determine how many allies it can keep in top positions for the next five years.

“At such times, using any kind of force to incite nationalist sentiment, ‘rally around the flag’, is usually a good thing for the Commander-in-Chief,” he said. .

And the Communist Party’s major priorities in the coming year are what will dramatically complicate an invasion of Taiwan – a smoothly-running Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in February and the impending 20th Party Congress.

China aims for ‘peaceful reunification’

One of the clearest signs of Beijing’s reluctance to invade Taiwan came from an unusual source – Xi himself.

In a speech on 9 October, the Chinese president emphasized his desire for a “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan, and it appeared that he was willing to wait for the island to voluntarily comply.

“When I read what Xi Jinping said about Taiwan, I was struck by a lack of urgency,” Glaser said.

The goal of a peaceful resolution to the standoff over the Taiwan Strait is understandable – experts have long said that any attempt by Beijing to forcefully take the island would be an extremely costly endeavor with uncertain results.
In the massive war games hosted by the US earlier this year, the US military was able to thwart a simulated Chinese invasion of Taiwan in the year 2030 – that’s it. According to defense news, practice predicts that this will be a Pyrrhic victory with massive loss of life.

But experts say it is difficult to see what path is left for Beijing’s vision of unification.

Support for Taiwan to move toward “independence”, which means formally pursuing a future separate from mainland China, is on its own. Highest point in decades, according to surveys by the Election Study Center of Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.

In June, a survey of 4,717 people in Taiwan found that 25.8% want to move toward independence, while less than 10% want “unification” with mainland China. The majority opinion was to stick with the status quo for now.

The survey found that the spirit of moving towards independence has more than doubled since 2018.

“In light of the Hong Kong crisis, I find that Taiwan has little appeal for peaceful integration under a ‘one country, two systems’ scenario.”wen-ti sungFellow at the Australian Center on China in the World at the Australian National University

Sung blamed Beijing’s brutal treatment of Hong Kong, a major financial center that had been promised 50 years of semi-autonomy. Governance, Only for Beijing to severely curtail its civil liberties After large pro-democracy protests in 2019.

“In light of the Hong Kong crisis, I find that Taiwan has little appeal for peaceful integration under the ‘one country, two systems’ scenario,” he said.

Beijing has many reasons to hope that Taiwan will eventually unite voluntarily. Taiwan’s newly elected leader The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party, Eric Chu has agreed that mainland China and Taiwan belong to the same country. He has also promised to resume communication channels with Beijing if the KMT is elected in 2024.

Taiwan’s invasion could backfire

Experts said that any Chinese invasion of Taiwan would not happen without warning.

Before any military action against the main island of Taiwan, Taiwanese-administered islands in the South China Sea are likely to be attacked or potentially an international blockade. trade with the island, he said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government is determined to put pressure on Taiwan.

China regularly opposes Taiwan’s participation in any international forums, sometimes going to extremes to prevent countries from including the island.

Even at the peak of the pandemic, Beijing refused to allow Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization, giving the impression that the island was not part of China.
Taiwanese soldiers prepare grenade launchers, machine guns and tanks in preparation for the Chinese offensive in Tainan, Taiwan, September 16, 2021.
When the issue of Taiwan’s membership came up at a meeting in May, China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Chen Xu, said that countries were “politicizing health issues and using Taiwanese issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs”. should stop.”

Both China and Taiwan have applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement between Pacific Rim countries pioneered by the US. Beijing has come out strongly against Taipei joining the agreement.

Even economic pressures of various kinds are being exerted. Taiwanese fruits, including the country’s iconic pineapple, Used to be Banned from Chinese markets, with the government saying “Dangerous Creatures” may present a biosecurity risk to the country.

But some experts said it is possible that Taiwan has already passed the point of no return to Beijing and that any “reunification” is unlikely, based on the Communist Party’s stance on civil liberties or Taiwan on China. Except for a massive change in the situation.

Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be a bloody, logistical nightmare

And Cole of the Global Institute Taiwan said that in itself could be the most worrying thing. If it becomes clear that there is no chance of reunification, and Xi’s prestige or hold on power is at stake, the Chinese president may resort to drastic measures.

“At that point, I fear he may be forced, to resort to force or other measures against Taiwan, if only once again … to demonstrate to the Chinese people that he has things under control. ,” They said.

The ANU’s Sung said all diplomatic, economic and military coercion could backfire against Beijing and undermine its objective of “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan.

Instead of creating an atmosphere of fear and helplessness, the Chinese Communist Party is creating a strong sense of identity and community for Taiwan, he said.

Sung said, “It takes no genius to find that the more you expose that shared experience, the more you enhance Taiwan’s national identity. And the more you reduce support for integration with China.” ,” said Sung.


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