US-China Tensions over Taiwan

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    In News :

    Recently United States House Speaker and senior Democratic Party politician Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. 

    More In News 

    • The United Nations does not recognise Taiwan as a separate country; in fact, only 13 countries around the world — mainly in South America, the Caribbean, Oceania, and the Vatican — do.
      • The US has maintained a ‘One China’ policy since the 1970s, under which it recognises Taiwan as a part of China. 
      • But it has unofficial ties with Taiwan as well — a strategy that is known as strategic or deliberate ambiguity. 

    China’s Concerns and Response on Visit 

    • For China, the presence of a senior American figure in Taiwan would indicate some kind of US support for Taiwan’s independence
    • The visit would “severely undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, gravely impact the foundation of China-US relations .
    • Response 
      • The most significant response so far has been the holding of unprecedented live-firing military drills in six regions surrounding Taiwan. 

    The visit’s impact on China-U.S. relations

    • China announced it will cancel or suspend eight key dialogue mechanisms with the U.S. With the cancellation of three key bilateral military dialogue mechanisms — a Theatre Commanders meet, Defence Policy Coordination Talks, and talks under the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) — observers fear growing military tensions, particularly with China’s new exercises taking place closer to Taiwan. 
    • China has also suspended bilateral talks on climate change, repatriation of illegal immigrants, legal assistance in criminal matters, transnational crimes, and counter-narcotics. 
      • An extended period of tense relations is in store both between China and the U.S. and across the Taiwan Strait.

    Long history to China-Taiwan tensions

    • Taiwan, earlier known as Formosa, a tiny island off the east coast of China.
    • It was administered by the imperial Qing dynasty, but its control passed to the Japanese in 1895. 
      • After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the island passed back into Chinese hands.
    • 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). 
    • China has never recognised the existence of Taiwan as an independent political entity, arguing that it was always a Chinese province

    Taiwan’s stand 

    • Taiwan sees itself as a de jure sovereign state but it is largely unrecognised by other countries
      • Taiwan says that the modern Chinese state was only formed after the revolution of 1911, and it was not a part of that state or of the People’s Republic of China that was established after the communist revolution.

    Ties 

    • While the political tensions have continued, China and Taiwan have had economic ties. Many migrants from Taiwan work in China, and China has investments in Taiwan.
      • Mainland China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner, and China has an annual trade deficit of around $80 billion to $130 billion with Taiwan.

    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.

    Indian Stand 

    • While India has followed the one China policy since 1949, indicating it does not recognise any government other than the PRC in Beijing, and only conducts trade and cultural ties with Taiwan.
    • India seeks to avoid controversy on a sensitive issue between the U.S. and China, and also given that India, unlike other countries in the region, has not referenced the “One China” policy since at least 2010.
    • India chose to maintain a “studied silence” on the unfolding situation, omitting any mention of it 

    Future prospects 

    • The US, Australia and Japan urge China to cease military exercises around Taiwan 
    • The growing economic and trading relationship between India and China is reason enough to ensure that tensions between the two sides do not escalate, and that the two sides must find ways of coexisting peacefully.
    • With India facing its own problems with China on the LAC, there have been suggestions that it should review its One China Policy.
    • 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.

    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.

     

     

    Mains Practice Question

    [Q] Taiwan is facing a threat from China. In the light of this statement, examine India’s position in China-Taiwan tensions.