China-Taiwan Relations


    In News

    • Recently, the US House Speaker arrived in Taiwan upsetting China while India was keenly watching the developments.
      • This visit has raised tension between US and China.

    How did the current round of tensions come about?

    • The current round of tensions between China and Taiwan began in 2021 when China observed its National Day to mark the birth of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
      • Coinciding with the 72nd anniversary celebrations, China flew over 100 fighter jets into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, jangling nerves in Taiwan and setting off alarm around the world that it was preparing to take over the island by force. 
    • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and China’ steadfast support of Russia in the face of global criticism has heightened these fears.
    • US-China angle:
      • In 2020, amid worsening US-China relations over Covid and trade, the State Department sent its highest-ranking delegation till then to Taipei. 
        • During the visit, the Chinese conducted a military exercise in the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from mainland China.

    Where does Taiwan stand in relation to China and the world?

    • Taiwan, earlier known as Formosa, a tiny island off the east coast of China.
    • It is where Chinese republicans of the Kuomintang government retreated after the 1949 victory of the communists — and it has since continued as the Republic of China (ROC). 
    • Location: 
      • The island is located in the East China Sea, to the northeast of Hong Kong, north of the Philippines and south of South Korea, and southwest of Japan
        • Thus, what happens in and around Taiwan is of deep concern to all of East Asia.
    • Recognition:  Taiwan sees itself as a de jure sovereign state but it is largely unrecognised by other countries
      • Just 15 countries around the world recognise Taiwan. Most are very small, many are remote island nations.
    • National DayL
      • Taiwan observes October 10 — “double 10” — as its national day; it was on this day in 1911 that sections of the Manchu army rose in rebellion, leading ultimately to the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and the end of 4,000 years of the monarchy. 

    Indian Policy towards Taiwan

    • One-China policy: India does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan yet, as it follows the One-China policy.
      • After China and Taiwan split in 1949, the One-China policy only recognised China and not the existence of Taiwan. 
      • However, the US, which also follows One-China policy like India, says it takes no position on the status of Taiwan and China and wants them to resolve their disputes.
      • While following the One-China policy, India has an office in Taipei for diplomatic functions.
      • India-Taipei Association (ITA) is headed by a senior diplomat. 
      • Taiwan has the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center (TECC) in New Delhi. 
      • Both were established in 1995.
    • 2010: During the Chinese premier visit to India in 2010, India did not mention support for the One-China policy in the joint communiqué.
    • 2014: Indian Prime Minister came to power; he invited Taiwan’s Ambassador along with the president of the Central Tibetan Administration to his swearing-in.
    • 2017: Parliamentary delegation visits and legislature-level dialogues have stopped since 2017, around the time the India-China border standoff happened in Doklam.
    • 2020: In 2020 after the Galwan clashes India handpicked a diplomat in the Ministry of External Affairs to become its envoy in Taipei.
      • Later in that year, the BJP asked two of its MPs to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen through virtual mode.
      • Lee Teng-hui: condoling the death of former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui, India described him as “Mr Democracy”.

    What is the ‘One China’ principle?

    • The principle affirms Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan and is the cornerstone of bilateral diplomatic relations between the US and China.
    • Any country that wants to establish political and diplomatic relations with China must agree to adhere to this principle and not recognise Taiwan as an independent country.
    • Currently, 21 states recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country.
    • In practice, the ‘One China’ principle is a stabilisation mechanism that preserves the status quo over Taiwan’s political status while allowing it to function as an independent economic, civic and administrative entity.
    • Since 1979, Taiwan has had to negotiate its ‘international living space’ but it has largely honoured the ‘One China’ principle.

    India–Taiwan relations

    • Bilateral relations
      • The bilateral relations between India and Taiwan have improved since the 1990s, despite both nations not maintaining official diplomatic relations.
    •  Commercial ties
      • Both governments have launched efforts to significantly expand bilateral trade and investment, especially in the fields of information technology (IT), energy, telecommunications and electronics.
    •  Cultural exchanges
      • Buddhism is the most widely practiced religion in Taiwan, usually alongside elements of Daoism, and Bollywood films have in recent years gained a reasonably popular following, along with other aspects of Indian culture such as yoga, cuisine and Indian dance.
    • Trade
      • Taiwan’s relations with India have increased in breadth spanning trade, research and academia, as well as depth trade ties, which amounted to $7.5 billion in 2019, up from $1 billion in 2000. 
    • Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India (TECC)
      • The Taiwanese government has a representative office namely the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India (TECC) which oversees the collaboration on different fronts like education, tourism, culture, the media, and economic development. 
      • Taiwan’s increased investments have occurred in the face of cultural challenges, bureaucratic hurdles, and pressure on India from domestic producers.
    • Free trade Agreement
      • India has suggested the possibility of a free trade agreement with Taiwan although this decision is not without precedent as Taiwan maintains economic cooperation agreements (ECAs) with New Zealand and Singapore, both unofficial relationships.

    Implications of the rising tensions for India

    • With India facing its own problems with China on the LAC, there have been suggestions that it should review its One China Policy.
      •  It has in any case long stopped reiterating this officially — and use not just the Tibet card, but also develops more robust relations with Taiwan to send a message to China.
    • India and Taiwan currently maintain “trade and cultural exchange” offices in each other’s capitals. 
    • New Southbound Policy (NSP): Often lauded as the Tsai administration’s flagship foreign policy initiative, the NSP expands the scope of countries covered in the Go South Policy.
      • Through the policy, Taiwan has extended engagement with Australia, New Zealand, India, and its five South Asian neighbours

    Way Forward

    • Long-term approach: Given that India-China relations are not likely to witness a return to normalcy in the near future, India should consider adopting a bold, comprehensive and long-term approach to engage Taiwan.
    • QUAD provides a platform for India along with other members to talk about Taiwan.
    • Any eventuality in the Cross-Strait will have an impact on India as well. 
      • India should separate bilateral equations from regional issues.

    Source: IE