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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Taiwan: An unexpected flashpoint between US-China

US President Joe Biden gave a clear-cut statement last month that the US will provide weapon assistance to Taiwan for their defense if China attacked. The statement seemed to contradict US policy on Taiwan relations in 1979 which indicates a possible flashpoint between US and China.

Going back in history, initially, in the 17th-century Hens, settlers moved to Taiwan which is basically an island, and got settled there and started calling themselves Taiwanese. After the Sino-Japan war, Japan handed over Taiwan which was known as the Republic of China (RPC) to China known as the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) governed by separate governments.

In China, there is a one-party system or Communist party system while in Taiwan there’s been a democratic government since 1949. Taiwanese consider them as an independent nation despite the fact that many countries haven’t recognized them. While China claims that Taiwan is a part of China’s territory and they’ll reunify sooner or later, if not in a peaceful manner then by force. Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China and in the last four decades, the tension between China and Taiwan raised at its peak.

Read more: Japan, U.S. could not stand by if China attacked Taiwan: Former Japanese PM Abe Says

Chinese military activities and US response

Recently Chinese warplanes entered the air defense zone of Taiwan on which US president Joe Biden said that they’ll provide the weapon assistance to Taiwan. According to 1979’s US policy of “strategic ambiguity,” the US will facilitate Taiwan with weapons for their defense. China had sent 170 fighter jets to Taiwan’s air defense zone only by this October. Now here arises a flashpoint among US-China as at the one end there is China whose rapid military developments are exceptional while on the other end there’s America whose military is considered as number one. If the US will facilitate Taiwan with weapons then there are lot more chances that a war may erupt between China and US. Recently Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wan had confirmed that US troops are training Taiwanese troops.

Taiwan in all likelihood doesn’t have the competencies to guard against a Chinese invasion in Taiwan without outside support. China’s defense system is at the least fifteen times better than Taiwan. Tsai has emphasized plans for the betterment of their defense system. The United States has tried to hold sensitive stability among assisting Taiwan and stopping a conflict with China via its coverage of strategic ambiguity. The United States has recommended Taiwan to grow its protection spending and often sails ships via the Taiwan Strait to illustrate its navy presence inside the region.

Read more: Ignoring China, Biden invites Taiwan to democracy summit

What is the One China policy?

One-China policy is an official political and diplomatic stance of the PRC (People’s Republic of China). It is a policy that asserts that there’s only one sovereign state by the name of ‘China’ and it categorically rejects the idea of two systems such as PRC and ROC both calling themselves “China”.

On the other hand, the Taiwanese government rejects this concept and follows the One China principle according to which Taiwan claims sovereignty over most of China, meaning Taiwan and mainland China. The importance of the One-China policy can be judged by the reason that it is a requirement for any political entity to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. One-China policy also has an element of strategic ambiguity in its definition.

Taiwan issue and changing regional geopolitics

In addition to China-Taiwan’s potential flashpoint, the regional geopolitical dynamics don’t seem to pave the way for a peaceful resolution. The region has repeatedly seen continuing vicissitudes in the South China Sea which further adds weight to a direct potential flashpoint between US and China.

Such as the formation of AUKUS whose primary purpose to contain Chinese Navel activities in the South China Sea is now evident. The Chinese leadership did not appreciate this Navel pact and in a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry said that “the agreement is extremely irresponsible and seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race”. Experts are also saying that AUKUS will play a significant part in the new “Cold War against China”.

Furthermore, Taiwan’s bilateral dispute with China also interlinks with South China Sea disputes as Taiwan is one of the seven claimants that claims rights over sea area and islands in the South China Sea especially rejecting China’s 9 dash line over most of the sea. The Vietnamese coast, the sea is north of Borneo, sea area north of Natuna islands, the sea is west of Palawan, and Luzon and Luzon straits are the areas where Taiwan disputes with China in the South China Sea. The US seems to play a role of agonizing regional peace and stability by indirectly deterring and diplomatically confronting China at different levels.

Read more: China to punish people supporting Taiwan’s independence?

Pakistan’s perceptive on Taiwan issue:

As far as Pakistan is concerned, it firmly stands with China. China supports Pakistan’s position on Kashmir on international forums thus in result it becomes the core duty of Pakistan to support China in their international disputes. Therefore Pakistani government does not formally recognize the Taiwan regime as a legitimate government.

One thing seems to be clear that as long as the US Taiwan relation act 1979 stands, the US will not be sending troops or military contingents to the island which would result in a direct face to face confrontation between China and US but nonetheless, a potential US-China flashpoint over Taiwan dispute is still a daunting possibility and something that will destabilize the whole Southeast Asian region.


The writer is currently working at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space