Everything About China-Taiwan Conflict And The Role Of The US In It

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China is holding one of the largest military exercises in the Taiwan strait in the rise of recent tensions.

China conducted the military exercises following the visit of the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan. China perceives this move as an attempt by the US to increase its control over Taiwan.

China sees the island as a breakaway province that should reunify with Beijing. Therefore, President of China Xi Jinping stressed the reunification of Taiwan as a need that must be fulfilled. To know everything related to the China-Taiwan conflict, read this article.

Gravitas Plus: Explained: The China-Taiwan conflict | WION

History Of China-Taiwan Conflict

Taiwan is a small island state in the western pacific ocean located around 160 km from the coast of Southeastern China. China and Taiwan didn’t share a strained history before the 17th century. Taiwan came under the Chinese administration for the first time in the 17th century when the Qing Dynasty defeated the Ming Dynasty to take control of Taiwan. But, after losing the Sino-Japanese war, Qing Dynasty gave up Taiwan to Japan. However, China was able to regain control of Taiwan in 1945 after Japan lost WWII.

During that time, China was known as the Republic of China (RoC) and was ruled by Kuomintang (KMT)- led capitalist government. But in 1949, China faced a dreadful civil war between the Kuomintang (KMT)- led capitalist government and the Chinese communist party (CCP). The war was titled on the communist’s side. A communist government was set up in Beijing, and Mao Zedong became the first president of the newly formed the People’s Republic of China. The capitalist KMT government fled to Taiwan, now officially known as the Republic of China(RoC), where they have been ruling the island for a major period since the civil war.

One China Principle & One China Policy: What Is It?

‘One China Principle’ is the core belief of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that under the name of China, there’s only one sovereign state. PRC is the only legitimate authority that has the right to govern China, and Taiwan (RoC) is a part of China. Many countries acknowledge this principle and therefore profess the peaceful integration of RoC within the PRC.

On the other hand, one China Policy is the acknowledgment of China’s position on the PRC-RoC issue. The US and many other countries recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the only legitimate state and maintain official ties with them. They believe Taiwan is a breakaway state and fails to recognize its claims. 

While the One China Principle and One China Policy are very vital ideas, they are not enshrined in any foreign treaties or acts, which makes them a mere acknowledgment by other countries. Therefore, the US and many other countries have unofficial ties with Taiwan and maintain economic and strategic relationships with the RoC. These unofficial ties have sowed the seeds for the China-Taiwan conflict as China doesn’t want Taiwan to grow close with other nations, especially US.

First Island Chain: What Is It?

The first island chain refers to the major groups of Islands in the Pacific Ocean located east of the Eastern Asian mainland. The chain comprises the Kuril Islands, the Japanese islands, the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the northern Philippines, and Borneo. As the name suggests, the first island chain forms the first of the three island chains within the Island Chain Strategy of the US foreign policy. 

The island chain strategy is a strategic containment strategy that plans to situate naval bases in the three island chains under project power and monitor and resist sea access to China and Russia. Therefore, it holds important strategic value during the US-China conflict.

How Is The US Relationship With Taiwan?

US severed its official relationship and halted the mutual defense treaty with the RoC when it recognized PRC under the One China Policy. However, the US maintains an unofficial relationship with RoC. 

To date, the US is the major supplier of military aid for RoC. US’s main goal is to maintain peace in the Taiwan strait. It advocates for peaceful negotiations between the two governments and condemns military use. Though acting neutral, the US has made clear its intentions that it will not hesitate to defend Taiwan in case of a Chinese Invasion. The US respects how things stand in the status quo and will work to prevent the China-Taiwan conflict.

Why Is The US At Loggerheads With China Over Taiwan?

Taiwan holds a very strategic and economic value in the US foreign policy. While the US didn’t meddle in the PRC-RoC relationship, it is pretty evident that they don’t want Taiwan to fall under the control of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The main reasons for this stance are threefold: 

1. Strategic: Taiwan is a very important strategic location for the US since Taiwan falls under the first island chain. Chinese occupation of Taiwan will put the US at a great security risk. If China has control over Taiwan, then it can easily launch naval attacks without any country monitoring or restricting them. So, the US needs Taiwan to have a strategic advantage over China in case of surprise Chinese attacks.

2. Economic: Though being a small island, Taiwan has a very developed economy. But, it is highly reliant on imports from China. Therefore, a China-Taiwan conflict will lead to economic disruption in Taiwan. This will be very problematic for the US as the US is highly dependent on Semiconductor chips manufactured in Taiwan. Semiconductor chips are found in most electronics which makes them very valuable. Thus, it can be said that US dependence on semiconductor chips heightens its motivation to defend Taiwan.

3. Ideological: One more reason for the US defending Taiwan is the presence of the capitalist democratic government in Taiwan. The US, which is a pro-capitalist democratic country, views communism as a threat. And PRC is the most affluent and famous communist country in the world. Thus, the US has an ideological motive to maintain the rule of the RoC government.

How Many Countries Recognize Taiwan As Rightful China?

Taiwan represented China till October 1971 in the United Nations. But, a resolution was passed on 25 October 1971, which recognized the PRC (People’s Republic of China) as the ‘one and only’ legitimate representative of China. After that, due to the ‘One China Policy, most states around the world renounced Taiwan as a legitimate state. Therefore, there are only fifteen states that recognize Taiwan as the Republic of China (RoC), namely Guatemala, Haiti, Belize, Holy See, Nauru, Nicaragua, Palau, Tuvalu, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, Honduras, Marshall Islands, St Vincent, and the Grenadines, Swaziland, and Paraguay. These states, thus, don’t have an official relationship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Why Doesn’t Taiwan Declare Independence And Become A Separate Independent Country?

To understand the reason behind Taiwan’s unwillingness to declare independence, we must first understand that Taiwan was never a country in the first place. Taiwan is just an island that came under the jurisdiction of different regimes throughout history.

The Republic of China (RoC), which holds jurisdiction over Taiwan currently, has been an independent country since 1912. So, the RoC never needed to declare independence. What RoC needs is recognization from other states. 

Since RoC was repelled away by the Communist Party coup, it never gave away the belief of being the ruler of China. So, RoC has always insisted on the ‘reunification’ of Taiwan and China under their jurisdiction. The PRC also holds similar beliefs and calls for the unification of Taiwan with China under their rule. These have generated tensions that may lead to the China-Taiwan conflict. Thus, RoC is not declaring itself as a separate independent country since it still believes that they’ve got the right to rule over China.

India’s Stance On The China-Taiwan Conflict

India was a firm supporter of the ‘One China Policy. India believed the One China Policy applies to both Taiwan and Tibet. However, over time, India’s stance has shifted towards Taiwan. 

The relationship between India & China started to strain after the 2010s. India was infuriated by China’s stance on the Kashmir issue. Moreover, a regular altercation between Indian and Chinese troops around the border further deteriorated Sino-Indian relations.

Though India doesn’t have official ties with Taiwan, there is the Indian Taipei Association (ITA) in Taipei and Taipei Economic and Cultural Center(TECC) in New Delhi to commence diplomatic ties between the governments. Both the Indian government and RoC have been holding regular meetings and gatherings to strengthen their relationships further.

Over the years, India’s trade relations with Taiwan have also grown. This has led to many experts and ministers calling for a re-evaluation of the One China Policy. However, India still holds a neutral position regarding the China-Taiwan conflict. While India may aid Taiwan during a crisis, India will not have a confrontation with China during the time of the China-Taiwan Conflict.

China-Taiwan Conflict: The Impact On India 

India and Taiwan have been holding negotiations for a free trade agreement since 2021. However, the recent developments in the Taiwan strait may affect or even halt this negotiation. 

India has been facing a semiconductor crisis since 2020. Popular Indian cars and other electronic items have a long waiting list due to the shortage of semiconductors. India wants to resolve this issue and increase profits from Taiwan’s semiconductor market.

Since Taiwan produces around 60 percent of the world’s semiconductor chips, India’s ability to sign a trade agreement with Taiwan will mean increased and cheaper production of semiconductor chips in India. To the Indian economy, this will be a huge boost. However, the recent China-Taiwan conflict may intensify the semiconductor crisis India is facing and may lead to a further economic crisis.

A Word From Lawzik

It can be said that there’s no one right in the China-Taiwan conflict. Both China and US are trying to maintain their strategic advantage and, therefore, are working for their interests. While the RoC is adamant enough not to lose hope of ruling China again. 

However, one thing that everyone ignores while discussing the China-Taiwan conflict is the role of the Taiwanese people. Recent surveys have noted that the Taiwanese people are happy with the status quo. They don’t want to reunify with China as they have developed a distinct Taiwanese identity. But, both the PCR and the RoC are ignoring their wishes. 

Conflict, as seen in the case of Russia and Ukraine, doesn’t benefit anyone. Both the parties involved in the conflict have to suffer in most cases. Therefore, China and Taiwan must work together to resolve their differences through diplomatic means to an end the China-Taiwan conflict without suffering any dire consequences. 

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