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Dragging Taiwan into a war means another Cold War. By Kashif Mirza


Nov 5, 2021

The writer is an

economist, anchor,

analyst and the

President of all

 Pakistan Private

Schools’ Federation


US President Joe Biden has said the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense if the island were attacked by China, though the White House said later there was no change in policy towards the island. The US is very concerned by China’s actions after Taiwan claimed some 93 Chinese military planes had flown into its air defense zone. The US state department called the actions destabilizing and reiterated its rock-solid commitment to Taiwan. On the other side, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summits, Blinken made it crystal clear that Washington opposes any unilateral changes by Beijing to the status quo there. Antony Blinken also called on countries to support Taiwan’s participation in the United Nations. The self-governed island has not been a member of the body since October 1971, when the UN gave Beijing a seat at the table and removed Taiwan. Taiwan’s participation in the UN system is not only a political issue, but also a pragmatic one. 

China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province, but Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign state. While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of strategic ambiguity on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Blinken’s comments seriously violate the agreements that underpin China-US relations and America’s commitments. The to-and-fro is the latest in a string of episodes of US-China tensions that have cast a spotlight on America’s Taiwan policy. China expressed its displeasure anyway, and Beijing has no room for concessions on its core interests. China urges the United States, not to send the wrong signals to the forces of Taiwan independence, to avoid seriously harming Sino-US ties and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Whereas, Taiwan’s presidential office said its position remained the same, which is that it will neither give in to pressure nor rashly advance when it gets support. Taiwan will show a firm determination to defend itself.

The US should be cautious with its words and actions on the Taiwan issue, and not send any wrong signals to the separatist forces of Taiwan independence, so as not to seriously damage China-U.S. relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. With no assurance of US help fending off Chinese troops, the costs are potentially higher.

The Biden administration’s continued concrete actions show its rock-solid support for Taiwan, although it was patently not true that Washington commits to defending Taiwan, which is a deliberate effort to send unclear signals, that make no sense. A confused US policy weakens deterrence is noting that Biden’s Asia policy needs strategic clarity over Taiwan. For 30 years after the Communist Party seized power in mainland China after a civil war with its rival Nationalist Party, Washington did not recognize it as the rightful government of China. Instead, the US had an embassy in Taipei, where the remnants of the Nationalist-run Republic of China (ROC) had set up shop after fleeing to Taiwan in 1949. 

China and Taiwan were divided during a civil war in the 1940s, but China claimed the island. Taiwan has its constitution, democratically elected leaders, and about 300,000 active troops in its armed forces. There are only a few countries that recognize Taiwan, most recognize the Chinese government in Beijing instead. The US has no official ties with Taiwan but does have a law that requires it to provide the island with the means to defend itself. In the 1970s, as geopolitical winds shifted, Washington and Beijing laid the groundwork for rapprochement to counterbalance the Soviet Union. And at the start of 1979, the US gave formal diplomatic recognition to the communist-run People’s Republic of China, cutting ties with Taipei. In doing so, Washington recognized the PRC as the sole legal government of China. It also acknowledged Beijing’s position that there is only one China and that Taiwan is a part of it. But the US  has never supported the Communist Party’s claim that the People’s Republic of China has sovereignty over Taiwan. This is known as the One China policy.

Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. The Taiwan issue is purely an internal affair of China that allows no foreign intervention. When it comes to issues related to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and other core interests, no one should underestimate the strong determination, firm will, and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Chains reasserted its longstanding claim that the island is its territory. China has been stepping up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan.  Beijing considers the island of nearly 24 million people a wayward province to be brought back into the fold, preferably peacefully; by force, if necessary. After the U.S. cut off formal relations with Taipei, Congress passed, and President Jimmy Carter signed, legislation known as the Taiwan Relations Act. It has underpinned US ties toward the island ever since. The Taiwan Relations Act did two main things. First, it enshrined as U.S. policy the promotion of robust informal relations with Taiwan and established a de facto embassy in Taipei called the American Institute in Taiwan. Second, it declared that diplomatic recognition of Beijing rests on the expectation that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means. Anything less would be of grave concern to the US. The United States will make such defense articles and defense services available to Taiwan in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability. 

Military tensions between Taiwan and China are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said that China will be capable of mounting a full-scale invasion by 2025. Whereas, China says Taiwan is the most sensitive and important issue in its ties with the United States and has denounced what it calls collusion between Washington and Taipei. Although China was pursuing peaceful reunification with Taiwan and responding to separatist attempts by its ruling Democratic Progressive Party. China has also recently held beach landing exercises on its side of the roughly 160-kilometer (100-mile) -wide Taiwan Strait that, like the aircraft incursions, it described as a warning to Tsai’s administration.  China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan in recent months and sent dozens of its aircraft into the islands’ air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in a series of sorties that started on October 1, China’s National Day. China, which has been modernizing its armed forces and developing advanced weaponry, has denounced what it calls collusion between Washington and Taipei. In the meanwhile, China has tested two hypersonic missiles – in a move that had stunned the US. The United States and Russia are also developing hypersonic weapons, which are more difficult to defend against than existing ballistic missiles. 

How, exactly, the U.S. would help in Taiwan’s self-defense was left unspecified in the 1979 legislation. The nature and quantity of defense articles and defense services went unstated — intentionally. That is the cornerstone of a policy known as strategic ambiguity. The US has sold Taiwan advanced weapons and helped train its soldiers. But for 42 years, successive US administrations have stood by strategic ambiguity. The reason is twofold. First, the possibility of U.S. intervention has been enough to give Chinese military planners pause. Strategic ambiguity has forced Beijing to assume the US would get involved. Even though the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait is shifting in China’s favor, it is believed that it is still years away from being able to successfully seize Taiwan. Second, ambiguity is a deterrent against those in Taiwan who might be tempted to declare independence. Taiwan may be self-governed, but a formal declaration of independence would almost certainly trigger a crisis. 

The US is taking dangerous actions, leading the situation in Taiwan Strait in a dangerous direction. At the moment the United States is to stop such practice. Dragging Taiwan into a war is in nobody’s interest, and certainly, the United States will not gain anything from that. Meanwhile, Beijing warned that Biden’s comments risked damaging Sino-US relations, to act and speak cautiously on the Taiwan issue. The US should not underestimate China’s staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend against what it sees as threats to its sovereignty. Whether the US would be able to keep up with China’s rapid military development? The US should be cautious with its words and actions on the Taiwan issue, and not send any wrong signals to the separatist forces of Taiwan independence, so as not to seriously damage China-U.S. relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. With no assurance of US help fending off Chinese troops, the costs are potentially higher. Although China, Russia, and the rest of the world know that the US is the most powerful military in the history of the world, to worry about is whether or not they’re going to engage in activities that would put them in a position where they may make a serious mistake, which means another Cold War.

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