China and Taiwan have shared strained relations since 1949. During the last few years, Taiwan has become the high-tech powerhouse of the great powers because of its keen focus on the economy and advanced technology. However, despite repeated Chinese warnings, the US assured Taiwan of its support and cooperation in other sectors such as trade, digital commerce, and anti-corruption. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan has raised concerns about US-Taiwan friendship. On the one hand, the US has been deepening its relations with Taiwan. However, on the other hand, this visit has created tensions the US-China relations.
As we look back in history, in 1949, Taiwan separated from China and began to function independently. Taiwan began its journey to self-glory 72 years ago and has become Washington’s leading supplier of high-tech equipment. Beijing has not welcomed these developments as it claims Taiwan as a part of its territory. Moreover, the island is 100 miles off the coast of the South China Sea.
China’s long-term plan seems to be to take back its lost islands. The modern conflict between China and Taiwan has its roots in the past. With Taipei becoming Washington’s key ally in the region, the rift between Beijing-Taipei and Beijing-Washington has also grown. The US has also assured Taiwan of collective defence under a Mutual Defense Treaty, which has further alarmed and instigated the regional security architecture of Southeast Asia.
Taiwan as an independent Island
Taiwan has become exceptionally strong in terms of economy and technology. In recent years, its economy has outgrown all the world’s advanced economies. Its fast-growing semiconductor economy has become the centre of attention. The country has fulfilled global demands for semiconductors
, high-tech computer chips, and critical parts for dual-use technologies. Since Taiwan is entirely dependent on its semiconductor companies, any crash in the said market would affect its overall economic outlook. However, there is no alternative to Taiwanese production meeting the global demands in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, it has become evident that Taiwan must advance its other sectors, such as agriculture, for reliable trade.
Taiwan Defensive Capabilities
Additionally, Taiwan is increasing its defence infrastructure to deal with potential regional attacks. China expects the US not to interfere with its stance to take Taiwan back to its fold. However, Taiwan will undoubtedly use its strength to defend against any invasion. Taiwan’s current investments show that the island is now less dependent on China to emerge as a self-reliant global economy. However, the threat from China near the Taiwan Strait is increasing, and China restricts Taiwan’s autonomy, making it vulnerable to external challenges.
The US interest in Taiwan
In 2020, the US and Taiwan trade was worth around $106 billion. In addition, Taiwan has cooperated with Washington in several areas. This coordination calls for security and protection for Taiwan. US military bases in the South China Sea thus ensure protection against invasion.
Additionally, economic and military cooperation between Taiwan and the US has strengthened as both shares a common global agenda. The two states recently announced joint and increased trade at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the United States this year. Further, the two states share robust dialogue in several aspects of trade and commerce, including agriculture and environmental trade. The US also ensures Taiwan’s international space uphold.
China’s Response to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan
China bellicosely reacted to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, stating that it violated the “One China” policy. The Chinese officials also planned to protest against the visit. The recent dispute between China and Taiwan has disrupted the global supply chain. The Chinese Ministry of Defense has started military exercises around the Taiwan Strait. The drills started in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, ultimately defying Beijing’s warnings. These drills have blocked and cancelled shipments in the South China Sea.
Amid threats from the US, China continues its blockade of Taiwan. Being close to China, Taiwan’s geography makes it vulnerable to Chinese military operations. The Chinese military is capable of using ships, submarines and missiles to cause a blockade. It could disrupt trade routes to the Western Islands. Moreover, China has acquired enough advanced military technology to challenge US supremacy. In addition, China has also formed the People’s Liberation Army to counter Taiwan.
China blockade Taiwan
The recent blockade will cut off Taiwan from the rest of the world. Since China still cannot invade Taiwan, a blockade would be the best option in that case. More, China and Japan have conducted several military operations near Taiwan in the past few years. Another reason for the blockade is the repulsion of US forces from Taiwan. In addition, Taiwan is an economically strong state, and its recent computer chip advancement has gained global attention. In addition, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has 65 per cent of the market share globally.
Furthermore, AI and computer chip advancements have made Taiwan a top priority for the world’s superpowers. China’s dream of restoring the country’s power status by 2049 makes Taiwan more prone to invasion. Chinese air bases and naval bases have advanced near Taiwan. However, advancing the blockades could result in a high conflict between China and Taiwan. Acquiring Taiwan would give China a defensive presence in the South China Sea against the US and its allies.
The US-backed Taiwan
With a robust tech-equipment supply chain, Taiwan has supported the US by becoming its crucial partner and contributor. Both states share profound commercial and economic ties. In response to China’s growing competitiveness, the US is making allies across the globe. At the same time, the US justified the visit by stating that both US and Taiwan have made a long-term commitment. Moreover, the US showed its infuriation by sending an aircraft to respond to Beijing’s missile attacks on the Taiwan Strait.
Moreover, the US also expressed its continuous support for Taiwan. In comparison, China’s modern military would be enough to invade Taiwan. US involvement in Taiwan further complicates achieving this Chinese agenda. Thus, US support for Taiwan reflects its credibility in the region.
The Future of the Conflict
The conflict will likely intensify in the future as both China and the US find their mutual interests in Taiwan. This makes Taiwan a centre of devotion for both states, as China has already started “grey zone warfare” against Taiwan for not agreeing to negotiate. Even this war could involve seizing the islands of Taiwan near China. However, there are several scenarios for China and Taiwan to guard themselves against the attack. Taiwan has close geographical proximity with China making Taiwan more vulnerable to Chinese invasion due to China’s growing pressure in the region. Moreover, the conflict seems will disrupt the trade channels in the sea, causing a security impasse. This will not only create a pressure on the world trade but also on the regional straits, choke points and SLOCs. In the longer term, if the crisis transforms into a military conflict, it can push the world into an economic recession.