A ‘renegade province’ or the ‘real China’? How little Taiwan came to the fore

Why is Taiwan called a ‘renegade province’ by China?

To fully understand the current relationship between China and Taiwan, we would have to dig very deep into the history books, but we only need to go to 1949 to get the gist. That year ended a decades-long civil war between Chinese nationalists and communists. The nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, fled to the island of Taiwan and built their state there as the Republic of China. The communists, led by Mao Zedong, proclaimed themselves the People’s Republic of China on the mainland. Both see themselves as the real China ever since.

At the time, Taiwan had only just been recaptured by the Chinese after the Japanese colonizer withdrew at the end of the World War. The nationalists from the mainland subsequently took the island with a heavy hand, says researcher Steven Langendonk (KU Leuven): “In a short time, and in a quite brutal way, the Chinese nationalists built Taiwan into a military state. That hard nationalist line lasted, to a decreasing extent, until the democratization of Taiwan in the 1970s and 1980s.” Langendonk therefore emphasizes that it is a misconception that this has always been a struggle between democracy and communism.

But the mainland still sees the island (and the people) as part of China. The Taiwanese argue that they were never part of the People’s Republic of China. And that brings us to the One China policy.

What is the One China Policy?

Since the 1970s, the US has adopted a One China policy in its relationship with the two states. That means that the US recognizes the People’s Republic of China, led by the Communist Party, as the sole legal representative of China and that the People’s Republic of Taiwan is part of China.

Partly as a result of that policy, the pressure on Taiwan was increased to surrender its UN seat to the People’s Republic. In the meantime, only a few (small) countries still maintain official diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Nancy Pelosi and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei.Image AP

“Taiwan has been in an ambiguous zone since the One China policy,” says Langendonk. “Mainly due to the Chinese pressure, there are fewer countries that recognize Taiwan, but at the same time the large Western countries have always maintained their relationship with Taiwan.” It is striking, for example, that the US maintains closer ties with Taiwan as its relationship with China deteriorates.

The KUL researcher compares it to an unofficial recognition and explains that this is precisely the reason why China takes it so seriously when an important politician visits, and thus gives diplomatic recognition to Taiwan. “After all, China does not assume a One China policy, but a One China principle – that there really is only one China and that this is the basic norm in international politics.”

Can Taiwan defend itself if the situation escalates?

“Today’s Taiwan, even with US arms supplies, is incapable of defending itself,” Langendonk said. “Although China does benefit from putting an escalation on hold. Because the more China is able to expand their fleet and war capabilities, the stronger their position becomes.”

The underlying question is mainly: how difficult can Taiwan make it for them? After all, China has a lot to lose, and a slow offensive would have reputational damage and political implications. “If it were only about Taiwan, China could get the job done within a few weeks,” estimates the KUL researcher. “But in a real conflict, there is a good chance that there will be support from the US, and that is how the conflict could become serious.”

However, that support is not guaranteed. Because despite the controversial support visit to Taiwan by top American politician Nancy Pelosi, the US is not obliged to intervene. “Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the Americans are only ready to defend Taiwan.” Basically that means that the White House will only make the decision at the moment itself. An attitude the US took at the time partly so that Taiwan would not make rash decisions and thus force them into action. That way Beijing doesn’t know exactly what to expect in Taiwan.

Will an escalation in Taiwan also impact us?

Human suffering obviously remains the greatest risk in such conflicts, but from an economic point of view Taiwan is also very important to the rest of the world. After all, no country in the world produces more chips than Taiwan. For example, the company TSMC is in itself already responsible for half of the worldwide production of semiconductors.

One could draw a parallel here with the grain industry of Ukraine, but according to the China expert, we should not get into a frenzy: “Because China has little benefit from disrupting the global chip industry in such a way.”

A ‘renegade province’ or the ‘real China’? How little Taiwan came to the fore
Source link A ‘renegade province’ or the ‘real China’? How little Taiwan came to the fore

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