By Girish Linganna
Since the beginning of the Ukraine war, the People’s Republic of China, known as Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China, commonly known as China, have been vigilant. Beijing is not only upset with Taiwan, but also with the United States.
As Vladimir Putin’s aggression and destruction began in Ukraine in February, speculation began about China’s possible design in Taiwan, a small East Asian country bordering China. Taiwan, in its geopolitical position, is the sandwich between the two most powerful countries in the world – China and the United States. Both have historical reasons for their design in Taiwan, a technology-driven country with a much higher per capita GDP than China.
Taiwan is probably not the title in the first week of May but for the US. On May 5, the United States made a major change to its fact sheet on Taiwan, annoying and angering Beijing. The U.S. State Department has removed the reference to the island nation of Taiwan as part of China. The revised content refers to Taiwan as a “leading democracy and technological power”. It further said that Taiwan is an important US partner in the Indo-Pacific. Both countries share the same values, deep trade and economic ties and strong bonds between peoples. According to the website, Taiwan is an important partner of the United States in semiconductors and other important supply chains.
The department also recalls six security assurances given to Taiwan by Ronald Reagan during his tenure, which the United States released two years ago. According to the 1982 assurance, the United States has not set a deadline for arms sales to Taiwan. It also did not agree with Beijing on prior consultations on such sales. The department said the United States has a long-standing one-China policy, governed by Taiwan relations law, three US-China joint communications and six assurances.
It also says that while the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, we have a strong informal relationship with the Taiwan Straits, in addition to maintaining peace and stability. In compliance with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), the United States provides the necessary defense articles and services to enable Taiwan to maintain adequate self-defense capabilities. It reads: “The United States continues to promote the peaceful resolution of inter-system differences in accordance with the will and best interests of the people of Taiwan.”
The department, in an earlier edition published in 2018, said it did not support Taiwan’s independence.
In its immediate response, Beijing accused Washington of engaging in political maneuvering and attempts to change the status quo in the Taiwanese way, which would be counterproductive and would burn the United States itself.
Fighting between China-US and China-Taiwan is not new. However, some recent developments have caught the attention of the world, mainly due to the war in Ukraine. China has not relinquished its sovereignty over Taiwan. At the end of World War II in 1945, the Japanese ruled China and Taiwan surrendered to the Republic of China. In the 1949 Chinese Civil War, the Republic of China (ROC) lost control of China’s maintenance to the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and took control of all of mainland China. Only Taiwan was under ROC. Both the ROC and the PRC have claimed to represent the whole of China. In a consensus reached in 1992, both governments agreed that there was only “one China” and each claimed to represent that China. Although the PRC’s policy is to unite Taiwan with mainland China, Taiwan has political divisions over whether to become an independent state or reunite.
Taiwan is important to the United States
Since the 18th century, the United States has had good relations with the ROC. Now under Taiwan relations law it is informal and informal. Taiwan is playing an important role in the US economy. It is a small island of just 14,000 square miles with a population of 23.5 million. Unlike China, the island nation pursues the idea of a free market and a free society. It is helping the United States compete in the high-tech industry. The United States never hesitates to acknowledge the important role of Taiwan in semiconductor design. Taiwan accounts for 45% of US exports of semiconductor manufacturing equipment.
The United States often makes it clear to China that Taiwan is very important to it, not only from an economic point of view, but also from a geo-strategic point of view. If Taiwan is handed over to China, US Silicon Valley semiconductor companies will lose billions of dollars in revenue. According to a survey published by Boston Consulting Group in April 2021, one-year disruptions could mean $ 80 billion in revenue and $ 500 billion in losses for electronic device manufacturers worldwide.
The world’s most advanced semiconductor production capacity – at nodes below 10 nanometers – is currently located in South Korea (8%) and Taiwan (92%), the report said. It further noted that in December 2020, Taiwan’s memory fabrication plant faced an hourly power shortage. This results in a 10% disruption to the supply of Global Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) chips.
Taiwan is America’s 10th largest commodity trading partner and 13th largest commodity export destination. It is the 22nd largest economy in the world. The island nation supplies semi-finished goods, parts and capital goods to the United States. In addition to ICT products, other sectors in the United States, such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, machinery, etc., are partly taken care of by Taiwan.
Despite all these advantages, Taiwan is not recognized as a country, including the United States. There is no American embassy or consulate in Taiwan. The American Institute in Taiwan is a research center that doubles as an unofficial embassy. Seventeen countries in the world recognize Taiwan’s democratic government, but the United Nations recognizes only China and Taiwan.
However, the welfare of Taiwan is most important to America. If Beijing occupies Taiwan, China will be stronger in the Pacific. The top technological industry will be in the hands of China. It could block oil shipments to both Japan and South Korea. China may be able to create a situation where the United States would have to withdraw its military bases from Japan and South Korea. However, the United States has military bases in less than 70 countries.
Beijing, if it uses military force, could soon pose a threat to Taiwan’s coastline. Long before the Ukraine war, there was talk of a military threat against the island nation. Taiwan is less than 100 miles off the Chinese coast. Taiwan’s topography could slow down the advance of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Even Taiwan’s military, although much smaller in size than the PLA, is better trained. The United States has stockpiled its defensive weapons in Taiwan. Taiwan’s armed forces, with 163,000 active service members, are well-trained, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. But the strength of the PLA is 2,035,000 active workers. Both sides could engage in cyber warfare on an equal footing, it is said.
There is no war according to the opinion of experts or the determination of politicians. China is now seeing how weak or strong the US and international peacekeepers are in the ongoing war in Ukraine. At the moment, Taiwan may seem strong because of its geographical advantage and military might. However, no one can underestimate China’s authoritarian behavior and its ambition to teach the United States a lesson, as well as its ambition to achieve one of China’s goals. In 2021, China tried to put pressure on Taiwan by sending military aircraft to Taiwan’s air defense zone. In one day, 56 planes were said to have been infiltrated by China. The U.S. Navy’s guided-missile fleet flew around the Taiwan Strait through international waters on May 10.
Besides, why would China destroy and occupy a technology-rich, rich country like Taiwan? This could lead to pressure in a number of ways, such as further divisiveness among Taiwanese who want to be part of China. Also, much depends on China’s pressure and Taiwan’s political intelligence to thwart America’s infiltrating nature. So far, Taiwan has shown no scale-up initiative to deal with China and join.
(The author is a space and defense analyst and director, ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt. Ltd. The published opinions do not reflect the official position or policy of Personal and Financial Express Online.