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What are the chances that the conflict between China and Taiwan will follow the course of the Russian war in Ukraine?

"The ROC regards Taiwan as an inseparable part of the nation, where Taiwan has become a strategic hinge between the East and South China seas."

In the XNUMXst century, to the surprise of many, there has been a resurgence of armed conflicts between developed countries that has not occurred since the Second World War, in particular the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Let us remember the situation in Taiwan:

China's territorial claim to the island of Taiwan dates back to the Chinese civil war of the 40s, when the communist forces of Mao Zedong defeated the nationalist forces of Chiang Kai Shek. The rest of the defeated forces withdrew to the island of Taiwan, where they formed an independent country with strong support from the United States on December 10, 1949. Taiwan's political evolution has advanced from the strict principles of its founder to a democratic system with regular elections that have made it a modern and developed country. Taiwan now dominates the world's foundry or semiconductor manufacturing market, vital elements for new technologies.

If we look at Russia, the causes argued by the Kremlin for the invasion of Ukraine (artificial constructions of «Nazism» aside) they were rooted in the distancing of the Ukrainian government from Russia, when the latter tried to condition gas prices, bringing the Ukrainian government closer to the West – or vice versa. After the hybrid conflict in the Ukrainian Donbas in 2014, in 2019, the Ukrainian Parliament made the appropriate legislative changes to introduce in its constitution the objective of joining NATO and the EU

Similarly, Taiwan adopted legislative and economic measures aimed at closing ranks with the United States without taking into account the limitations of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. This approach is critical because only 14 countries officially recognize the government of Taiwan. In addition, it must be added that US President Biden has been increasing arms sales to the island, which has created more susceptibilities in the Chinese government since 2004. It would be in 2005 when China enacted the so-called anti-secession law, which establishes China's right to use "non-peaceful measures" if Taiwan adopts any means to secede from mainland China. However, Beijing's comments remain committed to the annexation of Taiwan by China by 2049 and that "it will do so peacefully".

In 2016, Tsai Ing-wen, president of Taiwan, whose party opts for independence from China, was elected. Since that date, violations of Taiwanese airspace have been numerous by Chinese aviation. Last July, in the telephone conversations between President Biden and Xi Jinping, the latter did not admit the new historical interpretations of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which cast doubt on whether control of Taiwan had reverted to China in 1895 after the First Sino-Japanese War.

We can see that there are both analogies and differences in the casos chinese and russian

So we can see that there are both analogies and differences in the casos Chinese and Russian: Between the similarities, the «aggressor» countries are authoritarian regimes with little democratic solvency. On the other hand, the victim states are "democratic" countries with a specific weight in the world economy; therefore, in addition to the ancestral questions, as in any war, the economic motive is vital here. (Note: Before the war, labeling Ukraine a «democracy» is still a daring exercise, given the magnificent manipulative power of the oligarchies, changing sides based on interests, or the weight of religion in a kind of very convenient catalytic fatalism; but I oversimplify it here for readability).

Anyway, China and Russia have an expansionist policy towards their immediate environmentWhile Ukraine and Taiwan prefer to move in the "Western" orbit. The Russian and Chinese armies are self-sufficient, unlike the Ukrainian and Taiwanese, which depend on foreign aid. However, this supposed Russian self-sufficiency is now exposed and seriously compromised, something that Beijing is taking good note of.

A (distant) Russian victory would be an element of contention, a geopolitical crisis and an economic war with the West for the coming decades, which would give Moscow a kind of "pariah" status on the international scene. On the other hand, the ROC regards Taiwan as an inseparable part of the nation, where Taiwan has become a strategic hinge between the East and South China seas. This claim is as natural to Beijing as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico are to the US. But, furthermore, if these claims were to materialize, they would give China a dominant capability, something the US fears and Washington will never tolerate.

Russia has invaded Ukraine mainly by land, and Taiwan's insularity would dictate a maritime invasion. In other words, the starting points of a hypothetical Chinese cargo would require the use of more expensive means than those used by Russia in Ukraine.

It is also interesting that in the military exercises prior to the invasion of Ukraine, between January and April 2021, Russia began to transfer military troops to the pro-Russian regions of Ukraine, while financing pro-Russian groups that would act as a fifth column . For its part, China has carried out military drills in six different areas around the island and has invaded its territorial waters in three. These exercises included live fire and the use of missiles, five of which hit Japanese territorial waters. Keep in mind that Taiwan can shut down trade flows to Chinese ports, and for nearly a decade, Taiwan has been improving its defenses against Chinese blockade and invasion. All of this erodes the potential Chinese advantage, and the recent exercises were intended to demonstrate Chinese capabilities (albeit as Moscow learned the hard way, that training is not combat).

It is also worth mentioning the triggering element of the war. In the caso Russia, on January 19, the Secretary of State of the United States, Antony Blinken, visited Ukraine to confirm his support for the Ukrainian government and later to Berlin to obtain the same from the governments of France and Germany. Days later, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, visited Poland, the main support for his aspirations to join NATO and the EU At the same time, Great Britain sent anti-tank missiles to the Ukrainian government, which the Russian government interpreted as a tacit maneuver to recapture Donbas from the control of pro-Russian militias. The Russian reaction was immediate and scheduled military maneuvers on the border between Belarus and Ukraine on February 20, in which some 100.000 Russian soldiers participated, as the initial step for the invasion. Then in the caso Taiwan, the visit of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, provoked the Chinese military maneuvers.

These apparent similarities between the two casos also have essential inconsistencies: Russia pursues its geopolitical imperatives out of a sense of alleged grievances and historical resentment towards the West, which plunges the country's leaders into darkness (however, there are also numerous geopolitical elements behind the scenes). Beijing is not Moscow: In the Chinese Communist Party, the leading figure, Xi Jinping, is surrounded by a correlative balance of power that includes both hard-line elements and more moderate members. However, Putin appears isolated, fearful, suspicious of loyalties and betrayals, artificially surrounded by a radical guard manufactured over decades. In China, even hardliners in Beijing, know that the country's economy depends heavily on exports, with the United States being its main client at a time when the Chinese financial system is under intense pressure.

Therefore, we can speculate that if the US government does not show greater support for Taiwan independence, China will adopt a wait-and-see attitude. If, on the contrary, Washington determines some measures that could be interpreted as a stimulus towards Taiwan's independence, We cannot exclude that the Chinese Communist Party may employ some form of coercion and even the use of armed force. At this moment, the United States has the last word in the midst of a tense calm. On at least two occasions, President Biden assured that, in caso if necessary, it would defend Taiwan with possible military intervention; And they are not empty words, since the US Department of Defense has been preparing for this eventuality for some time. The truth is that these statements have worried the Chinese president, considering that in his next congress they may increase the positions they demand comprehensive preparation for an armed intervention in Taiwan, once the lukewarm international reactions in the caso from Ukraine.

The Chinese Communist Party knows that planning is important, but adaptability is essential. Putin seems not to be very familiar with ancient Chinese literature, but a Chinese proverb states that "A moment of patience can avert a great disaster, and a moment of impatience can ruin a lifetime."

Jose Parejo

Geopolitical Analysis and Intelligence.

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