A very easy guide to China and Taiwan

Warships from China, including an aircraft carrier, have entered the waters near Taiwan.

Following a meeting between Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday in California, Beijing made its most recent display of military power.

China views Taiwan, which is self-governing, as a colony that would one day fall under its sovereignty.

President Xi Jinping of China has said that “reunification” with Taiwan “must be fulfilled” and has left open the possibility of using force to accomplish this.

With its own constitution and democratically elected officials, Taiwan regards itself as different from the Chinese mainland.

Taiwan is where?
A hundred miles or so off the coast of southeast China sits the island of Taiwan.

It is located in the so-called “first island chain,” which is made up of many countries that support the US and are important to US foreign policy.

Some Western analysts claim that if China were to annex Taiwan, it may be freer to project power over the western Pacific and might even pose a danger to US military installations as far away as Guam and Hawaii.

China, meanwhile, adamantly maintains that its goals are simply peaceful.

Has Taiwan always existed independently of China?
According to historical records, the island was first fully governed by China in the 17th century, when the Qing dynasty took it. After losing the first Sino-Japanese war, they later ceded the island to Japan in 1895.

After Japan lost the Second World War, China seized the island once again in 1945.

However, a civil war broke out in mainland China between Mao Zedong’s Communist Party and Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist government forces.

In 1949, the communists triumphed, seizing power in Beijing.

Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang, the remnants of the nationalist party, retreated to Taiwan, where they dominated for the next several decades.

In order to prove that Taiwan was formerly a Chinese province, China cites this history. However, the Taiwanese claim that they were never a part of either the People’s Republic of China, which was founded under Mao in 1949, or the contemporary Chinese state, which was initially constituted after the revolution in 1911.

Since then, the Kuomintang has been one of Taiwan’s leading political parties and has ruled the island for a significant portion of its history.

Only 13 nations at the moment (including the Vatican) recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state.

China puts a lot of diplomatic pressure on other nations to avoid any actions that can be seen as recognition of Taiwan.

Can Taiwan stand its ground?
China may make an effort to achieve “reunification” via non-military methods, such fostering closer economic connections.

The Chinese military, however, would be much superior than Taiwan’s in any military conflict.

China spends more on defense than any other nation outside the US and has access to a wide variety of weapons, including planes, missile technology, aircraft, and cyberattacks.

Although most of China’s military force is concentrated elsewhere, there remains a large disparity between the two sides overall, for instance in terms of active duty men.

Some Western analysts believe that Taiwan may, at most, attempt to delay a Chinese assault, try to block a beach landing by Chinese amphibious troops, and launch guerrilla attacks while awaiting foreign assistance in an open fight.

The US, which supplies armaments to Taiwan, may provide such assistance.

Because of Washington’s “strategic ambiguity” doctrine up to this point, it has been intentionally unclear if or how the US would protect Taiwan in the case of an assault.

In terms of diplomacy, the US still adheres to the “One-China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the sole legitimate home of the Chinese government and favors formal relations with China over Taiwan.

However, US President Joe Biden seemed to tighten Washington’s stance in May of last year.

When asked whether the US would militarily protect Taiwan, Mr. Biden said, “Yes.”

Washington, according to the White House, has not altered its stance.

Is the situation deteriorating?
Following Nancy Pelosi, the then-US House Speaker,’s visit to the island in August 2022, ties between Taiwan and China abruptly worsened.

Ms. Pelosi’s visit was deemed “extremely dangerous” by Beijing.

Three of the six danger zones surrounding Taiwan, which China targeted with a series of military drills that included launching ballistic missiles, crossed over the island’s territorial seas.

Taiwan said the action infringed its sovereignty and amounted to a blockade since it caused ships and aircraft to find other paths through certain regions.

China and Taiwan have already been experiencing rising tensions.

By deploying military aircraft into Taiwan’s self-declared Air Defence Zone in 2021, which allows for the identification, monitoring, and control of foreign aircraft for the sake of national security, China looked to increase pressure.

The number of planes detected reached its pinnacle in October 2021, when 56 intrusions were recorded in a single day. Taiwan’s defense minister said that the situation was at its worst in 40 years.

22 days have passed since then, during which more than 20 invasions have been documented.

In 2020, Taiwan made data on aircraft intrusions accessible.

China’s coast guard asserts that it is legally permitted to halt and examine vessels in the vicinity of Taiwan.

It said on Wednesday that “on-site inspections” of a few boats will start.

Taiwan has protested the action and ordered Taiwanese ships to refuse any requests to board and examine them.

Why does the rest of the world need Taiwan?
The economy of Taiwan is quite significant.

Taiwanese computer chips power a large portion of the world’s common electronic devices, including phones, computers, watches, and gaming consoles.

According to one metric, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, often known as TSMC, controls more than half of the global market.

TSMC is a so-called “foundry,” a business that produces semiconductors with the help of both commercial and governmental clients. It is a sizable sector, expected to generate up to $100 billion (£73 billion) in 2021.

Beijing might gain some influence over one of the most significant sectors in the world if China invades Taiwan.

Are Taiwanese citizens alarmed?
Research indicates that many Taiwanese citizens are not very disturbed about the current tensions between China and Taiwan.

The Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation polled citizens in October 2021 to find out whether they believed that China and Taiwan might one day go to war.

The majority (64.3%) of respondents said no.

Since the early 1990s, surveys by the National Chengchi University have shown a decline in the percentage of individuals who identify as Chinese, or as both Chinese and Taiwanese, and a rise in the number of people who identify as Taiwanese.

In July 2022, this page was updated to include additional historical context about Taiwan’s position.

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