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China Reaffirms its Determination to Reclaim Taiwan

China Reaffirms its Determination to Reclaim Taiwan

Monday, 24 October, 2022 - 15:30

President Xi Jinping is on a mission to make China the greatest. The country is home to one-fifth of the world's population with 1.4 billion people. It accounts for 18 percent share of the global economy and is the world's second-largest. It aims to overtake the US as the world's largest economy.

The fact that China is growing and taking over is a concern for many. President Donald Trump launched a trade war with China in 2018. Maybe with a different attitude and style, but President Joe Biden is following the same line.

China is now an issue for NATO. It declared during the most recent NATO Strategic Concept (2022) that “China’s stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge interests, security and values (of NATO countries).”

Among China’s many issues, the most important is security and what it regards as threats to its national unity. Taiwan stands at the forefront of this concept with other specifics including Xinjiang Uighur, Tibet and Hong Kong.

At the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Taiwan was one of the issues which Xi addressed in his opening speech.

He reiterated that “resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese, a matter that must be resolved by the Chinese.”

He stated that China will continue to strive for peaceful reunification but will never promise to renounce the use of force.

He said China reserves the option of taking all necessary measures, but he also drew the distinction between “Taiwan compatriots” and the enemy camp consisting of “outside forces” and “the few separatists seeking Taiwan independence”.

In fact, this is not the first time that China warned of the possibility of using force.

The anti-secession law of 2005 refers to the reunification process at any time of China’s choosing by peaceful means or by force.

Article 8 of this law reads as follows: “In the event that the Taiwan independence secessionist forces should act under any name or by any means to cause Taiwan’s secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan’s secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

In August 2022, a couple of months before the 20th Congress, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and the State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China published a White Paper titled “The Taiwan Question and China's Reunification in the New Era.”

The essence of the white paper is that Taiwan is part of China and it is strongly committed to reunification.

In the White Paper it is said that:

- Recognition of mainland and Taiwan having their own distinct social systems and ideologies and, in that regard, the “one country, two systems” principle is the most inclusive solution to this problem.

- The differences in social systems are neither an obstacle to reunification nor a justification for secession.

- Even though everything possible will be done for peaceful reunification, China will not renounce the use of force as it reserves the option to take all necessary measures against external interference and separatist activities.

These statements are clear enough. How, when and if they will be implemented is another question. The other question is, if China makes its move, whether the US and its allies will stand by Taiwan or not.

At the beginning point of US-China diplomatic relations there is the Shanghai Communique of 1972 where China and the US make their positions on various issues clear.

The Chinese side’s position was that Taiwan is a province of China and the liberation of Taiwan is China’s internal affair in which no other country has the right to interfere.

The American position was the acknowledgement of one China with Taiwan a part of it. The US stated it does not challenge that position and reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves.

This document has been the guideline on Taiwan. Now, China claims that the US has breached the agreement. Some in the US agree with that, at least in terms of the spirit of the document.

The visit of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, further heated the debate. The speaker is the third highest ranking official in the US administration after the President and Vice President.

A visit at that level may be taken as recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign state or a challenge to the status quo. In either case, it was a strong message to China.

On another interesting note, on October 12, just a few days before the 20th CPC National Congress, the new National Security Strategy of the US was released.

The Strategy document refers to China as the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it.

The main elements of the document regarding Taiwan are:

- Peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait are critical to regional and global security and are a matter for international concern and attention.

- The US opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side and does not support Taiwan’s independence.

- It remains committed to one China policy, which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances.

- The US, under the Taiwan Relations Act, is committed to supporting Taiwan’s self-defense and will resist the use of force or coercion against it.

Taiwan has always been an element in China-US relations and despite periodic tensions the status quo has been maintained. Now Taiwan is more in the picture as an important component of the global strategic competition between China and the US.

There is also a very important economic dimension. For instance, Taiwan produces 62 percent of the total microchips in the world and the American defense industry is among the main beneficiaries. So is China, whose trade volume with Taiwan was 328 billion US dollars in 2021. Around 250 billion of this figure represents Taiwan’ exports to China, while Taiwan’s trade surplus stands at 171.6 billion dollars.

The Indo-Pacific region has become a major theater of global geopolitics. And in this theater, military, political and economic strategy revolve around Taiwan, which increasingly finds itself in the middle of two elephants clashing. I doubt the Taiwanese are content with this.

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