Taiwan has been the perennial problem in US-China relations for decades. President Biden’s comments during a recent trip to East Asia highlighted this. When asked if the United States would be willing to “militarily defend” Taiwan if China invaded, Biden said, “Yes, that’s the commitment we made.” Later, administration officials seemed to withdraw the president’s comments. But Beijing reacted forcefully, conducting military exercises near the island and with numerous Chinese officials condemning the comments. More recently, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in early June, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe warned that the People’s Liberation Army will “fight to the end” if Taiwan dares to “secede” “from China. Beijing’s audible reaction to Biden’s comments highlights the controversy that remains over the Taiwan issue and the ease with which tensions can erupt.
A Decades-Long Point of Contention
Washington and Beijing have never agreed on the state of the island. Beijing considers Taiwan a remnant of the Chinese civil war of the 1940s and the island as the last piece of territory to unify with the mainland to achieve what Xinping Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping has dubbed “the great rejuvenation. See the article : Latinos unite against the United States.” of the Chinese nation “. . ” Meanwhile, Washington has long seen Taipei as a staunch partner of the United States and, in recent decades, as a small but prosperous democracy living alongside a massive, muscular, threatening communist dictatorship.
Over the years, the United States and China, at best, have agreed to disagree, leaving aside the seemingly insoluble issue to move forward with what both parties saw as a mutually beneficial bilateral relationship. Undoubtedly, this was true at key times, including 1972, when the two countries issued the Shanghai Communiqué — a promise for both nations to work toward formal diplomatic relations — at the end of President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China. . As the negotiators found it impossible to agree on a common language related to Taiwan, they resorted to separate statements from the US and China within the same document.
Despite periodic crises and tensions in Taiwan in later decades, the United States and China have tended to see the wise handling of the bilateral relationship as a higher priority than resolving the island’s state. As a result, Washington and Beijing have focused on keeping the Taiwan issue manageable rather than pushing to resolve it. This approach was viable during the 1970s and 1980s, but has proven to be more difficult since the 1990s.
Moreover, in recent years, the issue has become increasingly challenging and controversial, especially as relations between the United States and China have deteriorated dramatically over the past decade. In fact, in 2022, Taiwan seems to be the most plausible place and the conceivable spark for a military confrontation between the United States and China. Because?
Why Taiwan has Re-emerged as a Flashpoint
Taiwan has re-emerged as a flashpoint in US-China relations for three main reasons. First, the Taiwan issue was never fully resolved and both sides tried to set it aside to be managed delicately and pragmatically over time. This may interest you : Flight delays and cancellations increase: Summer trips look messy. Second, despite these attempts, Taiwan has never been left out and has long been presented as the central theme of US-China relations. To aggravate this second reason there is a third: the issue of Taiwan has been the constant object of misperception and misinterpretation by both Washington and Beijing.
First, Taiwan is a problem that challenges resolution. The hopeful, in fact, excited thought that permeated Washington and Beijing in the 1970s and 1980s was that the problem would be taken care of naturally over time, as long as both parties could have a long-term vision. However, neither Washington nor Beijing foresaw how the Taiwan issue would be fundamentally altered by notable transformations on the island itself. Taiwan’s politics evolved in the late 1980s and 1990s from an austere authoritarian regime to emerge in the new millennium as one of the most vibrant democracies in the world. This complete change of political image baffled the calculation of the Beijing Strait and pushed Washington to see Taipei in a much more favorable and understanding way. In other words, the “status quo” on the island of Taiwan has undergone significant change over the decades.
Second, Taiwan has continued to be a central and controversial issue in US-China relations. Although China has publicly prioritized a policy of peaceful unification since 1979, it has never given up the use of force. Beijing has seen the democratization of Taiwan with skepticism and alarm, especially during the island-wide elections, and when the Democratic Progressive Party – the political party it considers pro-independence – has taken office. Although China has used both carrots and sticks, in recent years the emphasis has been on the latter at the expense of the former.
In addition, the solution of “one country, two systems”, a concept that Beijing has promoted for several decades as a framework that would allow the island to formally reconcile with the mainland while maintaining a high degree of autonomy, sounds empty for the people of Taiwan. This is especially true after the recent events in Hong Kong, where Beijing has harshly repressed basic freedoms and vigorously repressed dissent. Washington, meanwhile, has been deeply concerned about Beijing’s harsh actions in Hong Kong and its increasingly provocative activities in the Taiwan Strait, as well as the harshly written threats directed at Taipei. Consequently, the United States has tried to reassure Taiwan and severely warn China.
Third, misperceptions about Taiwan have accumulated over decades in both Washington and Beijing, amplifying the impact of misinterpretations of each other’s contemporary signaling efforts. This, in turn, has contributed to one or both parties perceiving an action-reaction dynamic, and each interpreting the other as violating existing agreements with respect to Taiwan. The result is high tensions in the Taiwan Strait and an increased risk of confrontation and conflict between the United States and China.
In 1972, Beijing mistakenly believed that Washington had irreversibly committed to its own “principle of a China,” which holds that Taiwan is a province of China. From Beijing’s perspective, this meant that the United States would one day leave Taipei forever. Washington, for its part, merely recognized Beijing’s principle, believing its own “one-China policy,” by which the United States “opposes any unilateral change in the status quo.” on both sides, he does not support Taiwan’s independence, and hopes that the differences across the strait will be resolved by peaceful means “- which depends on Beijing pursuing a peaceful rapprochement with Taipei. In both Washington and Beijing, no hope was expressed that, at a future date, China and Taiwan could reach a mutually acceptable formula for reconciliation across the strait.
These respective beliefs in Washington and Beijing have indelibly influenced the perceptions of the other. China perceives that the United States has never been sincere in its repeated commitments to end its political and security ties with Taiwan, while the United States perceives that China has not fulfilled in good faith its commitments to pursue unification with Taiwan peacefully. In fact, Beijing persists with threats, coercion and sabers in the Taiwan Strait – lately sending 30 fighter jets to the island’s air defense zone – and aggressively reducing Taiwan’s international space, preventing the island from join multilateral organizations and eliminating the small Taipei club. of formal diplomatic allies.
Meanwhile, Washington continues to sell arms to the island and reiterates its commitments to support Taipei under the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 (TRA). China interprets these sales as a violation of the guarantees it believes the United States repeatedly gave to China, especially in the 1982 U.S.-China statement, when the United States stated its intention to gradually reduce arms sales in Taiwan. China perceives the TRA as evidence that the United States never intended to comply with its “one-China policy” since the act, in addition to the joint bilateral communiqués of 1972, 1978 and 1982, has allowed in Washington and Taipei maintain an almost vibrant situation. -Official relationship for more than 40 years.
Who Changed the Status Quo? Not Me!
That is, Beijing and Washington believe the other has never fulfilled its commitment to Taiwan. To go further, the United States and China have focused on handling the issue by insisting that both sides maintain the delicate “status quo. Read also : No matter China’s new aircraft carrier, these are the ships the United States should take care of.” The problem with using the term is that there is no clear or commonly accepted understanding of what exactly constitutes the “status quo.” Consequently, each side is prone to interpret the words and deeds of the other as a violation of the “status quo”. At the same time, each side is determined to defend the same.
Speaking in Singapore at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said: “Our policy [in the Taiwan Strait] is unalterable and unchanging. It has been consistent across administrations. And we are determined. to maintain the status quo that has served this region so well for so long. ” Although Austin insisted that U.S. policy “has not changed,” he continued, “… unfortunately, this does not seem to be true for the PRC [People’s Republic of China].” Austin said the United States remained “focused on maintaining peace, stability and the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. But the PRC’s threats threaten to undermine security, stability and prosperity in the United States. ‘Indo-Pacific’. He stressed that the United States “categorically opposes any unilateral change in the status quo …”.
Defense Minister Wei stressed to Austin at a private meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La dialogue that: “It is not the continent that is changing the status quo. It is Taiwan’s pro-independence forces … and the forces those who are trying to change the status quo “. According to Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian, General Wei told his American counterpart: “If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost. “. In his formal public statements at the Shangri-La Dialogue, General Wei stated, “No one should ever underestimate the determination and ability of the Chinese armed forces to safeguard their territorial integrity. Those seeking Taiwan’s independence in an attempt to divide China will definitely not have a good end. “
In the Shadow of Ukraine
Amid frequent references to Taiwan, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia was undoubtedly major in the minds of participants in the Shangri-La Dialogue. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the meeting by videoconference warning that what happened in Ukraine could be repeated elsewhere in the world unless countries take decisive action and firmly comply with international law.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also invoked the ongoing conflict in Europe: “I myself have a strong sense of urgency that Ukraine today can be East Asia tomorrow.” Although Kishida did not mention China by name, he went on to identify “[l] peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait … [as a] … of utmost importance.” for Japan and the region, which strongly implied that Beijing was the main criminal.
It should be noted that a member of the Chinese delegation considered it necessary to respond publicly to Kishida’s comments. Lieutenant General He Lei said: “China does not accept the accusation that it is using its capabilities and strength to change the status quo in the area.”
What Comes Next?
The 2022 Shangri-La Dialogue emphasizes that Taiwan remains a controversial and volatile issue between the United States and China. While speeches and conversations in Singapore recall Winston Churchill’s concise aphorism that “the jaw is better than war,” the repeated use of the term “status quo” has ominous nuances and the point with the said associate highlights the urgency of addressing the underlying. distrust of Taiwan. It is also important to note that while Taiwan was the subject of much discussion in the dialogue, no Taiwanese participants were invited to make formal comments due to political sensitivities.
The United States and China must go beyond exchanging points of conversation and trade accusations if they want to de-escalate tensions over Taiwan and stabilize the situation in the Taiwan Strait. A basic but important initial step would be to provide greater clarity on what each side means by “status quo”. A basic component of this is the provision of Taiwan’s official political status. For its part, the United States may continue to claim that it does not support Taiwan’s independence. Austin reiterated this position during his Shangri-La Dialogue speech, as did Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his speech describing the Biden administration’s strategy in China last month. Identifying any differences between the Chinese and U.S. concepts of the “status quo” and working to reconcile those differences would be an important step in reducing tensions and avoiding conflict. It is also imperative not to overlook the reality that there are more than two major powers involved in the Taiwan issue. The most important and relevant party is, of course, the island of Taiwan itself, which probably also has its own understanding of what constitutes the “status quo” and the vision of who wants to change it.
At the same time, Washington must continue to strengthen its relations with allies and partners in the region. The best way to deter China from using force against Taiwan will always be, as Austin said, “to stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends” and promote the resolution of differences between the strait without the use of violence. and coercion. Washington and Beijing may have differing views on what constitutes the “status quo,” but as long as they agree that it includes prudence on both sides and a shared commitment to avoid confrontation, the potential for conflict in the Straits of Taiwan is shrinking.
Alex Stephenson is a program specialist for the USIP China program.
Does UN recognize Taiwan?
As a result, although Taiwan was recognized as a country by the United Nations from 1949 to 1971, it is currently not in the United Nations and is classified only as a territory, all due to a special political situation. thorny with China.
How many UN countries recognize Taiwan? Sourceless material can be challenged and removed. The Foreign Relations of the Republic of China (ROC), commonly known as Taiwan, maintains full diplomatic relations with 13 of the 193 member states of the United Nations and with the Holy See (Vatican City).
What does the UN call Taiwan?
They also consider that Taiwan is no longer part of China, as “China” is recognized by the UN as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) instead of the Republic of Korea / Taiwan, so they place “Taiwan” and “China” together in one term. is incorrect.
WHO recognizes Taiwan as a country?
Fifteen states currently recognize Taiwan as a ROC (and therefore have no official relations with Beijing): Belize, Guatemala, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Nicaragua, Palau, Paraguay, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland and Tuvalu.
Is Taiwan a free economy?
Taiwan has a free market economy in which the prices of goods and services are determined in a system of free prices, and there is little government involvement. Taiwan is a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
What is the Taiwanese economy based on? Taiwan’s trade-dependent economy is driven by a competitive manufacturing sector that includes electronics, machinery, petrochemicals, and information and communication technology.
Does Taiwan have a market economy?
Generally. With a population of 23.6 million, Taiwan is a thriving democracy with a vibrant market economy. In 2020, Taiwan’s GDP grew by 2.98 percent.
Does Taiwan have a capitalist economy?
Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy driven largely by industrial manufacturing, and especially by exports of electronics, machinery, and petrochemicals. This heavy dependence on exports exposes the economy to fluctuations in world demand.
Is Taiwan NATO?
2151 et seq.), Or any other legal provision, Taiwan shall be treated as a designated non-NATO ally (as defined in section 644 (q) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2403 (q))) [)]. & Quot;
Is China part of NATO? China is not part of NATO and has supported Russia in opposing the expansion of the alliance to the east.
Is Thailand a NATO country?
In December 2003, Thailand was designated as a major non-NATO ally (MNNA). Thailand has received U.S. military equipment, essential supplies, training and assistance in the construction and improvement of facilities and installations for much of the period since 1950.
What countries are non-NATO?
|Main ally in NATO
|Non-NATO military alliances with the United States.
|20 countries Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Argentina Australia Bahrain Brazil Colombia Egypt Israel Japan Jordan Jordan Kuwait Morocco New Zealand Pakistan Philippines Qatar South Korea Taiwan (de facto) Thailand Tunisia