Table of Contents
The island of Taiwan is separated from mainland China by the Strait of Taiwan. The island has been independently governed since the year 1949 after the communists took over Beijing and formed the People’s Republic of China (PRC) (Robert Paul Weller, 2019). According to the PRC, Taiwan is a renegade province of China that will one day be unified with mainland China. Most people in Taiwan, however, view the island as an independent country and have no desire to reunite with China. Since the election of the current Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen in the year 2016, tensions between Taiwan and China have increased tremendously (Lawson, 2018). An escalation between the two countries could draw in major powers such as the US and the situation could escalate to a global catastrophe. This paper examines the current relationship between Taiwan and China and the role played by the US in escalating tensions between the two nations.
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One China Principle
According to Beijing, there is only one China, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the legitimate government (Bullard, 2021). Taiwan’s constitution, on the other hand, states that China and Taiwan are one country but the legitimate government is in Taipei. The CCP has on several occasions proposed that Taiwan be incorporated into China under the one country, two systems formula. China uses the same formula for Hong Kong which is meant to preserve Hong Kong’s economic and political systems. However, due to Beijing’s recent crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, this system is extremely unpopular with the citizens of Taiwan. As a permanent member of the United Nations, the PRC has continued to block the recognition of Taiwan as a member of the UN and other international bodies such as the World Health Organization. The relationship between Taiwan and China had been gradually improving since the 1980s but the election of President Tsai in 2016 has soured relations between the two nations.
The role played by the United States in the Relationship between Taiwan and China
While the US established formal relations with the People’s Republic of China in the year 1979, it has maintained a strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan (Dittmer, 2017). Despite Beijing’s protests, The United States continues to sell modern weapons to Taiwan. The US rejects the use of force to resolve the dispute between China and Taiwan. Furthermore, through the policy of strategic ambiguity, the US may or may not come to Taiwan’s defense should China resort to forceful means of reuniting the two nations. President Joe Biden, however, has taken a tough stance against the PRC regarding Taiwan. He has vowed to defend the island in case of a Chinese attack. Trade between Taiwan and the US has been growing gradually over the years with members of congress proposing measures to boost trade relations even further. The US has also been supporting Taiwan’s participation in global organizations such as NATO.
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China’s Intimidation Tactics
Since the year 2016 when President Tsai was elected in Taiwan, China has employed several intimidation tactics meant to wear down the Islands population. China hopes to convince Taiwan that unification is the only way to cease hostilities (Flower, 2017). China has increased the scale and frequency of patrols by surveillance aircraft as well as fighter jets. Chinese aircraft carriers and warships have increased drastically in the Taiwan Strait in displays of force. China also employs cyberattacks to target Taiwanese government agencies daily. Cyberattacks from China have gotten worse in the last few years (Bullard, 2021). In the year 2020, Chinese groups were responsible for hacking into ten government agencies in Taiwan to access classified government data.
Beijing has also stepped up the use of nonmilitary tactics to intimidate Taiwan. In the year 2016, China put a halt to communication between the mainland and the Taiwan liaison office (Bullard, 2021). Furthermore, China restricted tourism between Taiwan and China which led to a sharp fall in the number of visitors from the mainland to Taiwan. China also continues to intimidate any country that creates ties with Taiwan.
Despite the recent disruptions, China continues to be Taiwan’s biggest trade partner (Bullard, 2021). Taiwan has become so reliant on trade with China in the last few years that some Taiwanese citizens have expressed concern. President Tsai has been trying to diversify Taiwan’s trading options. The results have been mixed with new trade deals with Southeast Asia countries. Tsai has also been attempting to incentivize Taiwanese manufacturers who had set up shop in China to move back to the Island. Since China continues to pressure other countries not to sign trade deals with Taiwan, the PRC remains Twain’s biggest trading partner (Abidde et al., 2022). Taiwan is the world’s biggest semiconductor manufacturer and so China relies on chips made in Taiwan for its industries (Goldstein, 2015). China has recently been working to reduce this reliance by boosting semiconductor manufacture within the mainland.
In summary, China and Taiwan have strong historical and political ties despite their current differences. Global powers such as the US have a hand to play in the relationship between the two nations, however, only time will tell whether they will reunite.
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