Opinion – The Almighty Squeeze of Taiwan


Taiwan has become one of the most enlightened democracies in Asia. Today’s Taiwanese enjoy an unparalleled level of civil liberties, an unhindered press, responsible governance, judicial justice, as well as the rights of women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ and so many other rights that are the envy of its neighbors. All of this has been achieved amid a unique geopolitical asymmetry that threatens at all times to engulf the Taiwan Strait. Even though Taiwan celebrates the “double ten” (the national day of the Republic of China, marking the uprising of October 10, 1911 against the Imperial Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China on January 1, 1912), the future of the island is threatened. During the Chinese Civil War, the Chinese government lost control of mainland China to the Chinese Communist Party and withdrew to the island of Taiwan in December 1949. This delicate status quo reached in 1949 is under undue threat. previous.

Taiwan’s emergence as a trusted defender of democratic principles and international human rights standards has not been smooth along the way. Taiwan’s political “saints” have proven to be no less susceptible to corruption and human fragility, and the realpolitik Cross-Strait warfare often meant diplomatic compromises that threatened even the most serious political ideals. Now this island state, uniquely protected by the Taiwan Relations Act adopted by the US Congress in 1979, faces squeeze in several directions. The law does not guarantee that the United States will intervene militarily if China attacks or invades Taiwan. However, he is not giving it up either, as his main objective is to ensure that US policy on Taiwan is not unilaterally changed and to ensure that any decision to defend Taiwan will be made with the consent of Congress. The law states that “the United States will make available to Taiwan any services … which may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense capability.” However, the decision regarding the nature and quantity of defense services America will provide to Taiwan must be determined by the President and Congress. US policy has been called “strategic ambiguity,” and it is designed to deter Taiwan from unilaterally declaring independence and China from unilaterally uniting with Taiwan. Nonetheless, the law is one of the United States’ strongest commitments in the defense of another state, and a crucial antidote to “almighty pressure” from China.

In recent years, as China has stepped up military pressure against Taiwan, it is legitimate to wonder how far China is extending the escalating scale of coercion? China has options, a history of calculated risks under Xi Jinping, deep concerns about the future development of US-Taiwan relations, and a lack of realistic soft alternatives to attract Taiwanese leaders given the rejection of “one country, two systems ”in Taiwan. This unique combination of factors makes further escalation likely, but not certain. Nevertheless, Taiwan has maneuver space maintain the status quo if it receives sufficient support from the United States and other international partners.

Since Tsai Ing-wen’s re-election as President of Taiwan in 2020, military pressure has once again taken center stage in the Taiwan Strait. China has put pressure on Taiwan’s air defense system by conducting circumnavigation flights around the island since Tsai first came to power in 2016. All of this makes it imperative that the region be prepared for it. China’s action and that there be renewed communication between Taiwan, Japan and the United States. Taiwan’s renewed communication strategy gave the island a much greater voice on the world stage to fight the Beijing squeeze. However, China is also shrinking Taiwan’s international space, including forcing foreign companies to mark it as part of China on their websites and performing military exercises near the island.

Another part of the pressure on Taiwan is China’s ban on tourist visits to Taiwan, which went into effect in August 2019. China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism cited the current tensions between the strait when the The ban was announced, and the move preceded national elections. In Taiwan. Indeed, it was likely an unsuccessful attempt to change the outcome in favor of China – more specifically, to secure victory for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party.

As might be expected, the pandemic also revealed Taiwan’s exclusion from the global health community. While Taiwan, home to nearly 24 million people, has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, Beijing’s claims to the island have long prevented it from joining United Nations agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). When the WHO released a world map of the pandemic using color coding to indicate risk, Taiwan was given the same tier as China, although Taiwan has a very different (and largely successful) experience with Covid-19.

The real goal of the Beijing government is to force unification through an “anaconda strategy” whereby the victim is in a hurry until she can no longer resist. During the administration of former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou (2008-016), this restriction was achieved through a series of agreements described as economic rather than political and offset by apparent concessions such as the status of Taiwan observer to the World Health Assembly. , which has effectively relegated Taiwan below that of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Slowly, the pace of the anaconda strategy picked up, in all areas that included diplomatic, economic and military efforts as well as attempts to destabilize Taiwanese society from within.

As seen above, one of the first areas to experience compression was tourism. This was followed by pressure on private foreign companies. Airlines were ordered to change their designations from Taipei, Taiwan to Taipei, China, or their landing rights would be canceled – most complied. In July 2018, the East Asian Olympic Committee canceled its allocation to the city of Taichung to host the East Asian Youth Games due to pressure from China, after the city had already spent tens of millions of dollars on preparations. Only weeks earlier, the Taiwanese government discovered a Chinese plan to promote unification in Taoyuan public schools. Conversely, there are rewards for foreign citizens and businesses that declare allegiance to China’s one-China policy.

Although President Xi Jinping, addressing the March 2018 meeting of the National People’s Congress of China, warned that Taiwan would face “history’s punishment” for separatism, kinetic military actions have failed. so far been only intimidating. However, China has used computer media and propaganda to influence Taiwanese society in increasingly creative ways. Chinese surrogate parties have also engaged in protests over issues unrelated to Chinese politics with the apparent intention of discrediting any initiative by the Tsai administration.

While the United States has used limited military force to remind China that it is still present in the Pacific, a Brookings Institute Report 2020 showed that Europe can do more to help Taiwan. Indeed, one of Taiwan’s best opportunities to strengthen its position may be in Europe. Germany, a key player in the EU’s political talks on China, announced its first-ever Indo-Pacific strategy in early September. The strategy reinforces Germany’s decision to pursue an Asian strategy to combat China, rather than a China-centric strategy. At the very least, the denser the network of Taiwanese relations with other countries, the greater the risk and costs that Beijing is likely to face if it ever decides to use non-peaceful means to pursue its goals.

Tsai’s re-election in 2020 with such a resounding vote reflects an unwavering determination on the part of the Taiwanese to resist the “almighty pressure” that China seeks to impose on them across the strait. Reeling from the embarrassment over Afghanistan, the Biden administration is unlikely to consider a decrease in historic Congressional support for Taiwan. Therefore, although mainly due to “strategic ambiguity”, Taiwan will continue to have its powerful supporters, and although it cannot escape, will confidently shirk even the latest “almighty pressure” from China.

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