China’s warning and US’s new mistake on Taiwan

Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, just returned from a 10-day trip to Central America. On his trip to and from, he made two stops in the United States. Prior to his visit, the United States had been warned by China about his bilateral talks with some of the responsible leaders of the US government during the stoppage of travel that China would react strongly if something like this happened. In reality, China’s warning was disregarded, and a bilateral meeting took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, under the leadership of a 17-person group led by US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

China and the US have been at odds over the island of Taiwan for a number of years. On the one hand, the United States considers Taiwan an integral part of China, while on the other hand, it has been sending armaments to the island under the pretext of Taiwan’s right to self-defense. China launched missiles and performed a number of naval drills near Taiwan last year. A war-war mentality has worked over the past year. China views these US efforts as being disproportionate, notwithstanding the fact that Taiwan is not recognized as an independent state. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last year revealed a kind of incoherence in US domestic policy.

In the meantime, Taiwan has been asked by China to give up its independence and join the mainland, but it refuses to do so. The Democratic Progressive Party, which is currently in power, and President Tsai Ing-wen, who was elected from this party, are in favor of Taiwan’s independence and are seeking the support of the Western world in this endeavor. However, Taiwan itself is rather divided. The Kuomintang (KMT), which once broke away from China and established a Chinese government in Taiwan in their own language, has not explicitly relinquished its claim to independence over time, but instead wants to continue working as a partner with China without asserting any claims to it.

In addition, Taiwan’s economy is highly dependent on China, and since their international relations are not independently developed in that sense, they do not want to go to the ultimate deterioration of relations with China. From that point of view, the instigation of the Western world, especially the United States, is responsible for the current unrest over Taiwan.

The current administration of Taiwan, heavily Western-backed, embraces the ideals of nationalism and has engaged in conflict with China in an effort to maintain its hold on power, realizing that their demands for independence are in reality not being met. Control over the disputed South China Sea is crucial to Western interests in this situation. And the incorrect calculations here is intended to provoke Taiwan. It should be noted here that although the United States is not a geographical partner in the region, it cannot accept the authority of China, which claims control of nearly 80 percent of the South China Sea. Because more than half of global trade is conducted through the South China Sea, equivalent to five trillion dollars.

Meanwhile, China has resumed its previously announced military exercises around Taiwan. On April 7, when Tsai was meeting with the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, a small plane flew over Taiwan and a banner was hanging from the plane, which read, “China is one and Taiwan is part of China.” China has resumed military exercises and warships are circling the island of Taiwan. Taiwan’s President Tsai, in a meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, called for US help against China. The United States has also pledged help for Taiwan’s self-defense. However, it is unclear how and to what extent the United States will assist Taiwan, ignoring China’s warning.

French President Emmanuel Macron is visiting Beijing at the same time Taiwan President Tsai is in the US. Around the visit of President Macron, the United States called on him to ask for China’s help in deterring Russia from invading Ukraine. The US knows very well that China is a major force for Russia in the Ukraine war and has no moral standing to engage in diplomatic efforts with China. However, Beijing would certainly not want to consider such an offer from the side of the United States as an indirect offer from the United States. At a time when the Western world, including the United States, is struggling to provide arms and money for the Ukraine war, the gradual rise of China’s economic power indicates its potential in future world politics. At such a time, new US overreach towards Taiwan would be counterproductive for both the US and Taiwan and would legitimize any attempt by China to defend itself.

Dr. Sabera Chowdhury
Dr. Sabera Chowdhury
Senior researcher at South Asian Studies, University of Toronto, Canada.