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 China Taiwan Conflict

Context:

China has announced that it is prepared to fight against any attempt to achieve Taiwan’s independence or any foreign interference.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. What is the Taiwan issue?
  3. Why is Taiwan so important to China?
  4. India’s Stand on Taiwan Issue

Details:

  • China conducted military exercises simulating a “seal off” of Taiwan, in response to the visit of Taiwan’s President to the United States.
  • Largely unrecognized by other nations, Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign country. However, China considers it to be a breakaway state and is determined to bring the island under its control.

What is the Taiwan issue?

The Point of Contention: The situation between China and Taiwan

Background:
  • Taiwan came under Chinese control during the Qing dynasty, but Japan was given control after China lost the first Sino-Japanese war in 1895.
  • China regained control of Taiwan in 1945 after Japan lost World War II, but the civil war between the nationalists and communists led to the nationalists fleeing to Taiwan in 1949.
  • The Kuomintang party, led by Chiang Kai-shek, ruled Taiwan for many years and is still a prominent political party.
Current Situation:
  • China claims Taiwan as a Chinese province, but Taiwan argues that it was never part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
  • Only 13 countries recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country due to China’s diplomatic pressure.
  • The US officially subscribes to PRC’s “One China Policy”, but backs Taiwan’s independence, maintains ties with Taipei, and sells weapons to it.
  • In the 1950s, the PRC bombed islands under Taiwan’s control, drawing in the US, which passed the Formosa (Old Name of Taiwan) Resolution to defend Taiwan’s territory.
  • In 1995-96, China’s testing of missiles in the seas around Taiwan led to the biggest US mobilization in the region since the Vietnam War.
  • The 2016 election of President Tsai marked the beginning of a sharp pro-independence phase in Taiwan, which has been intensified by her re-election in 2020.
  • Taiwan now has significant economic interests, including investments in China.
  • Pro-independence groups worry that this economic dependence may hinder their goals, while pro-reunification groups in Taiwan, as well as China, hope that increasing people-to-people contacts will eventually wear down the pro-independence lobbies.
Conclusion:
  • Taiwan has been able to maintain its independence, but the situation remains volatile.
  • As Taiwan continues to develop economically, tensions are likely to rise between China and Taiwan, making it crucial to monitor the situation in the region closely.

Why is Taiwan so important to China?

  • China has always seen Taiwan as a territory with high geopolitical significance.
  • This is due to its central location in the First Island Chain between Japan and the South China Sea, which is seen as the first benchmark or barrier for China’s power projection.
  • U.S. military outposts are scattered throughout this region, and hence, taking control of Taiwan would mean a significant breakthrough as per China’s geostrategic calculus.
  • Moreover, its reunification will formally bury the remaining ghosts of China’s “century of humiliation”.
  • China under President Xi Jinping seems to have lost its patience and currently sees very slim chances of a peaceful reunification.
  • This has been demonstrated in the growing frequency of rhetorical spats between Beijing and Taipei, and China’s military drills and patrols across the Strait, as well as the record-breaking aerial transgressions by China of Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ).
  • Also, this build-up of tensions is happening simultaneously and drawing parallels with the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

Strategic Significance of Taiwan

  • Location: Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, adjacent to China, Japan, and the Philippines
  • Gateway: Its location provides a natural gateway to Southeast Asia and the South China Sea, critical for global trade and security
  • High-tech electronics: Major producer of high-tech electronics, including semiconductors, and home to some of the world’s largest technology companies
  • Semiconductors: Produces over 60% of the world’s semiconductors and over 90% of the most advanced ones
  • Military: Has a modern and capable military focused on defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity
  • Geopolitics: A major focus of regional and global geopolitics, with the potential to influence the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond

India’s Stand on Taiwan Issue:

India’s stance on Taiwan has evolved over the years, with a focus on improving economic and cultural ties, while also adhering to the One China policy. Here is a breakdown of India’s stand on the Taiwan issue:

India-Taiwan Ties:
  • India’s Act East policy has helped in improving India’s ties with Taiwan gradually over the years.
  • India has been working towards developing extensive cooperation with Taiwan in science & technology, environment issues, and people-to-people exchange, apart from trade and investment.
  • Though there are no formal diplomatic relations, India and Taiwan have representative offices in each other’s capitals that have facilitated high-level visits and helped deepen economic and cultural ties.
One China Policy:
  • India follows the One China policy, which recognizes Taiwan as part of China.
  • India also expects China to recognize India’s sovereignty over territories like Jammu and Kashmir.
  • However, India has stopped mentioning its adherence to the One China policy in recent times.
  • India’s engagement with Taiwan is restricted due to its ties with China, but it considers Taiwan an important economic partner and strategic ally.

Source: Indian Express


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