Relationship Between China And Taiwan- Overview

Dr B Thomas (Special Correspondent)

Taiwan is an island that is situated in the western Pacific Ocean.It is at a distance of 100 miles from southeastern China and is considered to be a self-governing island in Asia,with its government the Republic of China seated in Taipei.

The Chinese government not just governs the main island but also controls 64 islands placed in the Penghu archipelago and 22 islands of the Taiwan group.

Taiwan has the East China Sea to its north and northeast.The Ryukyu islands which form Japan’s southernmost part are also situated in the northeast of Taiwan.

Taiwan is separated from the Philippines in the south by the Bashi Channel.The Pacific Ocean surrounds the island of Taiwan to the east and Taiwan is separated from the Chinese mainland in the west by the Taiwan strait or the Formosa strait.

History of Taiwan

The history of Taiwan dates back to 1600 when it was a self-governing island.The Netherlands made Taiwan its colony in the early 17th century and ruled it for about 40 years.

In the late 17th century, China under the Qing dynasty started controlling Taiwan for up to two centuries.Later,in 1895,Taiwan was acquired by Japan after the first Sino-Japanese war.

During World War II,Japan was defeated and China took charge of Taiwan in 1945.But in 1949 a major shift in the ruling happened in mainland China.

A civil war broke out on China’s mainland. The war was between the Communist Party of China led by Mao Zedong and the Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-shek, which the Communist Party won.In 1949,the Communist Party started ruling mainland China.

After the war,Chiang Kai-shek along with the remains of the National Party referred to as Kuomintang fled to Taiwan and established their rule on the island.The current conflict between mainland China and Taiwan dates back to this period.

The Conflict

After the civil war (1946–1949), both the Communist Party and Nationalist Party claimed to be the legitimate governments of entire China.

However,in reality,mainland China is ruled by the Communist party and Nationalist Party continues to rule the island of Taiwan.

Taiwan or the Republic of China (ROC) and mainland China or the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The latter maintains that it has jurisdiction over the former and has proposed a one-China policy. China through its diplomatic pressure nudges countries across the world to not recognise Taiwan as a separate state under its one-China policy.However, this policy is disputed by a few countries in the world.

United Nations Stand

The United Nations has recognised Communist mainland China i.e,the People’s Republic of China.However, there was no mention of Taiwan. The United Nations has not recognised Taiwan as an independent country or state.

But in reality,Taiwan functions as a sovereign state. It has its military and economy in place. The Republic of China rules over 23 million people in Taiwan in a democratic way.

Unlike mainland China, the governing style and principles of the ROC government are quite liberal.The island values liberty.

Taiwan vs.China

There was an agreement made between China and Taiwan in 1992 which stated that both governments believe both are integrated to come under one umbrella term called China and work towards national reunification.

But,under the agreement,there is nothing that makes the Taiwanese government cede its territory to mainland China.Taiwan emphasises the policy of “one China, different interpretations.”

In contrast, Beijing claims that Taiwan is a rogue province and puts forth the policy of “one party two systems”for Taiwan.

But,Taiwan is not interested in such a policy which already exists between China and Hong Kong.

The Taiwanese citizens have their opinion regarding this issue. 26% want to maintain the status quo with China and slowly progress towards becoming an independent nation.

31% of the Taiwanese wanted their government to maintain the status quo and later decide on independence or unification.And another 26% want to maintain the status quo forever.

The two parties of Taiwan,the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have their perspectives on this issue related to Chinese relations.

The DPP on one hand is aiming to maintain the status quo while ultimately aiming for independence. On other hand,the KMT was in support of maintaining closer ties with China. However, now even the KMT is reconsidering its stand.

The present government of Taiwan is led by Tsai Ing-wen who belongs to the DPP.This can hint at present Taiwan’s position in regards to accepting Chinese sovereignty.Tsai Ing-wen’s rule is most inclined toward making Taiwan an independent state.
Chinese Efforts

The Chinese Communist Party is mostly aiming towards bringing Taiwan under its control.It is considering both non-military and military strategies to achieve its goal.

The non-military strategies include strengthening economic relations with the island region.
But recently there has been aggression from China towards Taiwan.The mainland army has conducted several drills on the island.

China is next only to the USA in defence which reflects its outstanding military capacity when compared to Taiwan.

Many experts in international affairs think that Taiwan can only delay the Chinese aggression but there is no way it can win over China.

China has started its military expeditions around Taiwan in 6 different danger zones. Three of these 6 zones are in the territorial waters of the island.

A Chinese military aircraft has invaded the Air Defence zone in Taiwan in 2021.

According to Taiwan’s report of these aircraft incursions, there was a peak in the number of incursions in October of 2021.The report claims that there were 56 incursions on a single day this month.

This strategy of military pressure is not new to China. It frequently organises military drills in the Asia-Pacific region to maintain its control over the region.

But China’s military tactics are condemned by many countries in the region.

US Role in the Conflict

The USA, the major opponent of China, supports Taiwan in this issue.The present government led by Biden recognises the 1982 agreement signed by President Reagan.

The agreement condemns any use of force while settling the dispute. According to the agreement, the USA is free to maintain ties with Taiwan, and the USA has the right to sell defence equipment to Taiwan.

The agreement doesn’t speak anything about America’s stand in case of war between China and Taiwan.

And the agreement accepts the “One China Policy” of which Taiwan is an integral part.
Importance of Taiwan To The World
Taiwan is the leading producer of computer chips.

These chips are used in phones, watches, laptops, etc.There is no exaggeration that the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company caters to half of the world’s market.

So,if China takes over Taiwan, then there could be some changes in the electronic manufacturing sector worldwide.Also,Taiwan has a geographical and strategic role to play in the Asia-Pacific.

Final Thoughts

Chinese aggression toward Taiwan is not new. And most Taiwanese people don’t believe that there could be an eventual war.

Tsai, the Taiwanese head, opined that Taiwan has grown from poverty to prosperity over the past 72 years.

And the country finds strength in its democratic values.So,China’s acquisition of Taiwan may not guarantee any democratic way of living for its people.Also, military aggression by China is condemned by many nations.