China’s stance on Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with Kevin McCarthy

China recently vowed retaliation against Taiwan, after a meeting between US President of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, with China warning that the US is on a wrong and dangerous path.  Accordingly, and with the successive intensity of the US provocations to China regarding Taiwan, China has sought to follow a new strategy aimed at establishing a “new normal” for the Taiwanese island.  China has rushed more than once to cross the middle line in the waters between Taiwan and China, and the number of times its aircraft have reached the Taiwanese air defense zone has increased.  Which falls within the scope of Taiwanese sovereignty, and then China gradually seeks de facto possession of sovereignty over the airspace and territorial waters of Taiwan in light of the state of escalation between the two parties and the intervention of the United States of America on the line of crisis between China and Taiwan by increasing the volume of American arms sales to Taiwan, as well on the multiplicity of visits by US officials to the Taiwanese island, and the invitation of Taiwanese officials and its president, Tsai Ing-wen, to visit Washington.

 This “new normal for Taiwan” from China’s perspective poses several challenges to Taiwan and the United States of America together, in light of the superiority of China’s military power over Taiwan’s air and sea defenses, as well as in light of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s desire to move quickly to prevent the United States of America from entering the island.  Taiwan, and then cut it off from the outside world by sea and air, which is what Taiwan and its military and defense leadership fear.

 China has also confirmed that it will take resolute and strong measures to defend national sovereignty, and there are many expectations about what China can take in the coming period in order to preserve its sovereignty over Taiwan and the principle of one China, “one country, two systems”.  Here was the first Chinese reaction, a day after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a visit to the United States, and to meet US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, was China’s announcement of several naval and military maneuvers near the Taiwan Strait. Because of what Beijing saw as a stern warning against collusion between Taiwanese separatist forces for Taiwan independence and outside powers, and against their provocative activities.  This was confirmed by the Eastern Command of Chinese military operations in the Taiwan Strait, by announcing the conduct of several military and naval maneuvers at the closest point in mainland China to Taiwan, which is Fujian Province in eastern China, as it is the area facing the Taiwanese island. The Chinese military operations began immediately after the meeting between the President of Taiwan and the Speaker of the US House of Representatives.  This was announced by the China Maritime Safety Administration in Fujian Province, China.

 And Beijing threatened to retaliate before it if the meeting took place between President “Tsai” and the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, “McCarthy”, pursuant to the principle of “one China”, which means that official relations cannot be established with Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.  And the Chinese diplomat warned that the meeting between the Taiwanese and the American sides would harm relations between Beijing and Washington.

 The Chinese Ministry of Defense warned that the “People’s Liberation Army” has the desire, confidence and ability to defeat any form of external interference and plans of the separatist Taiwan Independence Forces with the Chinese side’s official affirmation that it will take all necessary measures to resolutely defend China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Especially in light of the provocation of the President of Taiwan “Tsai Ing-wen” the ire of Beijing, considering that Taiwan is a de facto sovereign state, and not as part of the “one China principal” and its strategy and policy advocated by the authorities in Beijing.

  As for Taiwan’s position on this Chinese escalation, and vice versa, that is, China’s reaction towards Taiwan and the American intervention in the affairs of the Taiwanese island.  The confirmation of China and its ruling Communist Party on the Taiwanese-American escalation in its confrontation came with China issuing a white document issued by Beijing in August 2022, in which it stated that Taiwan is part of China, and that the efforts of the Chinese Communist Party to achieve the complete unification of China are firm, and that the complete unification of China is an indispensable process.  It can be stopped in the face of the Taiwanese, warning against the Americans’ interference in Taiwanese affairs and the violation of the principle of one country, two systems that governs relations between China and Taiwan.

 Here came Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s assertion of China’s independence of the Taiwanese decision from the Beijing government and the ruling Communist Party.  It cannot accept to be part of China under the principal of “one country, two systems” for self-rule, thus vehemently rejecting Chinese demands for sovereignty, and opening the door to deterioration in relations with Beijing. China responded by saying that “reunification” is inevitable and that it will never tolerate with the question of Taiwan independence.

The plan of the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense and President “Tsai Ing-wen” against the Chinese escalation came in the face of it, by increasing the budget and allocations for defense spending, and Tsai Ing-wen’s announcement of other alternative military and defense plans related to Taiwanese civilians, including: announcing Taiwan’s support for training civilians in skills  Non-military, such as “Society Defence, First Aid and Information Awareness”.  And given the dependence of the Taiwanese economy heavily on China, Beijing is considered the largest trade and investment destination for Taiwan. Therefore, Taiwanese President “Tsai Ing-wen” announced her plan to diversify the Taiwanese economy to make it less dependent on the Chinese market, including the launch of new trade talks with the United States of America, in addition to the new Taiwanese endeavor towards trade and investment in Southeast Asia. Here, Taiwanese President Tsai established a Ministry of Digital Affairs, and supported cyber defenses to fend off any possible Chinese intrusion. Tsai tried to maneuver with China by using Taiwan’s supremacy in the semiconductor industry and technology. The Taiwanese president has been outspoken about her island’s dominance in the cutting-edge semiconductor industry.  Taiwan produces 90 percent of it, which it calls “Silicone shield”. So came the Taiwanese warning to the Chinese, that any war that could occur, will limit and restrict the semiconductor industry supplies to China.

 As for the worst expected scenarios in the event of escalation between all Chinese, Taiwanese and American parties that support the sovereignty and independence of Taiwan from the motherland in Beijing, here China has never ruled out the use of force to put Taiwan under its control. Especially in light of the Taiwanese provocation of the principle of one China, two systems, which governs the relationship between China and Taipei, especially in light of the Taiwanese insistence by President Tsai Ing-wen that Beijing never ruled the island, and therefore has no right to claim it, and that only its 23 million residents can decide their future, which the Beijing government rejects altogether. 

In the event of any escalation, any Taiwanese war with China will be completely unequal. Therefore, Taiwanese President “Tsai Ing-wen” worked to obtain the approval of the country’s legislature to double the Taiwanese defense budget in 2023, allowing the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense to spend more than $19 billion in the field of defense.  At a time when China spends more than $200 billion on the same defense item annually, this has sparked calls to change Taiwan’s defense priorities.  Instead of building huge conventional equipment (airplanes, tanks, submarines), military experts urged Taiwan to focus on so-called asymmetric capabilities (anti-ship weapons, surface-to-air missiles, small arms stocks and ammunition), which the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense considered would have benefited Ukraine in repelling the invasion.  Russian on it.  The United States of America is trying to provoke China militarily through the Taiwanese paper, with the announcement by the US Department of Defense of a military plan for Taiwan that allows for the mobilization of larger civilian reserve forces, which may raise the costs of any invasion launched by China to a significant increase in Taiwan, according to the American military strategy in support of Taiwan.  This American military strategy to help Taiwan in confronting China among the defense establishments around the world is based on the “salvage strategy” to curb China’s expansion from the side of Taiwan.

 In light of the repeated insistence of Chinese officials on their vision of subordination of the Taiwan Strait entirely to China, and with the continuous continuation of Chinese military maneuvers in the Taiwanese air defense zone and over Taiwanese airspace with the aim of hinting at a possible blockade in the future. This Chinese escalation against Taiwan is not easy for an island that imports almost all of its energy needs from abroad.

  And the last analysis remains in this context, that in the event of an actual war erupting between China and Taiwan, it will have repercussions that will change the world, including limiting the separatist forces in Taiwan, and increasing the influence of the Chinese Communist Party at home. Given Taiwan’s dominance of the semiconductor industry and the turmoil in trade relations between the United States and China, the global economy may suffer a much larger shock than the one caused by the war in Ukraine. Especially in light of the worst possible scenarios, with the United States of America entering into the first direct military conflict with a nuclear-armed superpower like China.

Dr.Nadia Helmy
Dr.Nadia Helmy
Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit