By Aarti Binani, Punit Saurabh
Ever Since the trade imbroglio between US and China reached its peak during the Trump’s Presidency (and which was later sustained by President Biden with call for open support for Taiwan), Chinese aggression against Taiwan has doubled. Latest developments indicate 56 Chinese Jets consisting of H -6 bombers and J -16 Fighter planes encroaching inside Taiwanese air defense Zone (ADZ) in the first week of October 2021. Since the last week alone, Chinese PLA has sent 150 aircrafts inside Taiwanese air defense zone (ADZ) within a period of 4 days drawing increasing condemnation from the international community.
President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen warned Beijing against further actions that could accidentally spark conflict across the Taiwan Strait. “Chinese aggression has severely undermined regional peace and stability,” Tsai said at the weekly meeting of the Democratic Progressive Party’s Central Standing Committee. “Beijing must refrain from going too far and accidentally sparking conflict across the Strait.”
China has been trying to showcase its strong military power ever since Taiwan’s meteoric rise as a high tech superpower and a challenger to the Chinese Electronics chips dominance but the attacks have become more pronounced ever since Xi Jing Ping assumed dictatorial power in China. Chiefly, its objective is to make people of Taiwan understand by force that’s its best in their interest to unify with Mainland China or face the wrath of the dragon. To that end, China has increased the frequency and scale of patrols of PLA bombers, fighter jets, and surveillance aircraft over and around Taiwan. It has also increasingly set sails its warships and aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait in shows of force. China has also been instrumental in deep cyber-attacks on Taiwan and government owned agencies. Beijing has also used nonmilitary measures to pressure Taiwan. In 2016, China suspended a cross-strait communication mechanism with the main Taiwan liaison office. It restricted tourism, trade with Taiwan putting additional pressures on global corporations, including airlines and hotel chains, to list Taiwan as a Chinese province. Nevertheless, Taiwan has held the ground to the surprise of China rather, made mincemeat of the provocations.
Given the provocations emanating from China, The United States is now at its closest with Taiwan since the de-recognition of the Republic of China in 1979. In the past few months, US delegations consisting of senior diplomats, senators, cabinet officials, and ambassadors have landed separately in Taipei to reaffirm American support for cross-strait stability and bilateral engagement. A delegation of French senators on Sunday (10th of October, 2021) departed Taiwan after concluding a five-day visit that included meetings with President Tsai Ing-wen and other high-level government officials, an indication to China of the close proximity Taiwan enjoys with France despite creeping differences with USA.
Even as Beijing protests these visits as violations of Chinese sovereignty, the Biden administration has doubled down, expressing its intentions to develop relations with Taiwan in “every sector.” Americans’ attitudes toward Taiwan have also shifted, with an increasing proportion of Americans supporting US intervention in the event that Taiwan were invaded by China (41%), a figure that has been trending upward since 2014 in spite of overwhelming war weariness from Iraq and Afghanistan. US reiterated that its relations with Taiwan is rock solid and any adventure will be countered with force. Recently it approved sales of series of arms defense agreement aimed at strengthening Taiwanese Defenses. To convey its intent US Navy has just dispatched four Aircraft carrier groups consisting of USS Ronald Reagan , USS Carl Vinson, HMS Elizabeth along with Japanese , New Zealand, Australian, Netherland and Canadian Naval vessels in the Indo Pacific to dissuade China from any nefarious designs against Taiwan reports by Reuters news Agency.
The United States’ doubled-down commitments to Taiwan have spilled onto the international stage. The international community has long kept Taiwan at a distance, excluding it from international bodies and often giving in to Chinese pressure, but this has begun to change. Beijing’s blocking of Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly amid the COVID-19 pandemic has invited wariness toward China’s conduct and elevated Taiwan’s visibility. After being sidelined for decades, cross-strait stability and Taiwan’s inclusion in multilateral institutions are now on the agenda of the G-7, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the European Union. Beijing’s attempts to revise the cross-strait status quo have already forced Australia and South Korea to take stances on the Taiwan Strait, testing Chinese sensitivities. Australian call for probe against China for the COVID pandemic as added salt to the Chinese wound forcing it to cancel the coal contracts to Australian companies which in turn has led to massive power outages inside China. Even Japan, which hosts US bases within 500 miles of Taiwan, now acknowledges that Taiwan’s security is deeply linked to its own security and even questioned its adherence to the “One China” position. In addition, the recent incursion in India’s Ladakh mountain region near Chusul and finger 4 of Pangong Lake by Chinese border patrols has forced India to deploy armed military and infantry divisions to counter Chinese threats after prolonged negotiations forced China to back off. Its recent ingress inside Uttarakhand region has also been noted by Indian military.
China’s actions have effectively invited new international support for Taiwan. There is no doubt that China anticipated international backlash to its pressure on Taiwan, but growing US commitments and international attention are bound to strengthen Taiwan’s resolve to defend its democracy and identity, not weaken it. The fact that unification with Taiwan is a cornerstone of the Chinese Communist Party’s goal of national rejuvenation has further heightened domestic pressure to deliver. Although Chinese President Xi Jinping’s attempts to intimidate Taiwan may win some short term brownie points at home given the exploding real estate and power outage crisis, his tactics have made the path to unification more difficult and costly. Taiwan’s greatest vulnerability is its international isolation, and rather than exploiting that, Beijing’s conspicuous coercive tactics have helped Taiwan gain more international support than it has seen in decades.
-The author is a graduate student of ‘International Relations and strategic alliances’ course administered by Prof Punit Saurabh as part of her MBA at Nirma University. She can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Co-author is an Assistant Professor, Institute of Management, Nirma University, Ahmedabad. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda.