China-Taiwan Tussle

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    • Tensions between China and Taiwan have escalated since October 1, when China observes its National Day.
      • 1st October marks 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.
      • It jangled nerves in Taiwan and set off an alarm around the world that it was preparing to take over the island by force.

    PRC (China) and ROC (Taiwan): A Brief History

    • Taiwan: The Republic of China:
      • Location: Taiwan, earlier known as Formosa, a tiny island off the east coast of China.
        • East-China Sea, 
        • Northeast of Hong Kong, 
        • North of the Philippines and South of South Korea, 
        • Southwest of Japan. 
      • Thus, What happens in and around Taiwan is of deep concern to all of East Asia
      • Taiwan is largely unrecognised by other countries as such.
      • Though self-ruled Taiwan sees itself as no less than an independent nation
      • Its leaders, including the fiercely pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen, have vowed to defend its sovereignty against the Chinese goal of “reunification”.
    • 1949: Founding of the PRC
      • Taiwan is the place 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). 
      • October 10 — “double 10”
        • 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,
        • Ultimately overthrowing the Qing dynasty and ending 4,000 years of the monarchy. 
      • The RoC was declared on December 29, 1911, and it found its feet in the 1920s under the leadership of Dr Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Kuomintang (KMT) Party.
      • Sun’s successor  General Chiang Kai-shek, actions against the Chinese communists
        • who were part of an alliance with the KMT, triggered the civil war that ended in victory for the communists 
        • This led to the retreat of Chiang and the KMT to Taiwan.
      • Since its founding in 1949, the PRC has believed that Taiwan must be reunified with the mainland
      • The RoC became the non-communist frontier against China during the Cold War and was the only ‘China’ recognised at the UN until 1971. 
      • That was when the US inaugurated ties with China through the secret diplomacy of Henry Kissinger, national security adviser to President Richard Nixon.

    Formosa Resolution: How is the US involved? 

    • In 1954-55, and in 1958, the PRC bombed the Jinmen, Mazu, and Dachen islands under Taiwan’s control
    • It drew the US. Congress passed the Formosa Resolution authorising President Dwight D Eisenhower to defend RoC territory.
    • In 1955, Premier Zhou En-lai declared at the Bandung Conference that he wanted negotiations with the US. 
      • But civil war broke out in Lebanon in 1958
      • China resumed the bombing, provoking the US to supply Taiwanese outposts on the islands. 
    • The PRC and ROC then arrived at an arrangement to bomb each other’s garrisons on alternate days — this continued until 1971. 
    • The most serious encounter was in 1995-96, when China began testing missiles in the seas around Taiwan, triggering the biggest US mobilisation in the region since the Vietnam War. 
    • The tests led to the re-election in 1996 of President Lee Teng-hui, seen by the Chinese as a pro-independence leader.

     Xi reiterated that Taiwan (map) must reunify with China. (Courtesy: IE)

    Independence Politics

    • In 1975, Chiang Kai-shek died, martial law was lifted, and Taiwan got its first democratic reforms. 
    • Starting from the 1990s, and despite the missile crisis, relations between the PRC and RoC improved, and trade ties were established. 
    • As the British prepared to exit Hong Kong in 1999, the “One China, Two Systems” solution was offered to Taiwan as well, but it was rejected by the Taiwanese.
    • In 2000, Taiwan got its first non-KMT government, when the Taiwanese nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the presidency. 
    • In 2004, China started drafting an anti-secession law aimed at Taiwan; trade and connectivity, however, continued to improve.

    Present relation between Taiwan and China

    • Today, the two big players in Taiwan’s politics are the DPP and KMT. 
    • The 2016 election of President Tsai marked the onset of a sharp pro-independence phase in Taiwan
    • Taiwan has massive economic interests, including investments in China.
    • Pro-independence sections worry that this might come in the way of their goals. 
    • Inversely, the pro-reunification sections, as well as China, hope that 
      • economic dependence and increasing people-to-people contacts will wear out the pro-independence lobbies.

    Current Tensions

    • Last year, amid worsening US-China relations over Covid and trade
      • The US sent its highest-ranking delegation yet to Taipei. 
      • During the visit, the Chinese conducted a military exercise in the Taiwan Strait.
    • In October 2020, President Xi Jinping asked the PLA to prepare for war, triggering an alarm in Taiwan, which read it as an open threat.
    • The US also declared a “rock-solid” commitment to Taiwan.
    • China is assertive about its stand on One China by breaching the air and sea territories of Taiwan since the beginning of this year.

    Challenge for the US

    • Taiwan is entirely dependent on the US for its defence against possible Chinese aggression 
      • Thus, every spike in military tensions between China and Taiwan injects more hostility into the already strained relationship between Washington and Beijing.
    • Amidst the rise in tensions, the world is watching the US
      • It’s status as the world’s pre-eminent power has been dented by the messy exit from Afghanistan. 
    • In East and Southeast Asia, several countries like Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, 
      • Which are sheltered under the protective umbrella of the US, are anticipating their future.
    • The US so far is walking a thin line between pledging support for Taiwan and keeping the lid on tensions with Beijing. 
      • They had agreed to abide by the “Taiwan Agreement”, 
        • Under which US support for the “One China Policy”.

    Initiatives against China

    • The AUKUS pact among the US, UK, and Australia, 
      • Under which Australia will be supplied with nuclear submarines, has imparted a new dimension to the security dynamics of the Indo-Pacific. 
      • Taiwan has welcomed the pact, while China has denounced it as seriously undermining regional peace.

    Implications for India and Way Forward

    India is having border issues with China at the LAC

    • Experts suggest reviewing One China Policy.
      • Though, India uses the policy to make a diplomatic point, 
        • i.e., if India believes in “One China” policy, China should also believe in a “One India” policy.
      • However, India has stopped reiterating this officially since 2010. 
    • Strengthening India and Taiwan relations 
      • Currently maintain “trade and cultural exchange” offices in each other’s capitals. 
      • India has also developed more robust relations with Taiwan to send a message to Beijing.
      • In May 2020, the swearing-in of Tsai was attended virtually by MoS External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi and Rahul Kaswan. 
    • Semiconductor or chip manufacturing plant to India
      • Ongoing talks with Taipei could bring a $7.5-billion semiconductor or chip manufacturing plant to India. 
        • Chips are used in a range of devices from computers to 5G smartphones, to electric cars and medical equipment. 
      • This would give a boost to Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan
      • It would also help to build a safe supply chain for semiconductors.

    Source: IE