Thursday, February 22, 2024

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Bolsters Chinese Plans of Invading Taiwan

Washington, DC – The entire world is watching the situation developing on the Russia-Ukraine border closely and cautiously as the Russian invasion of its former soviet satellite will be horrific and result in significant casualties. Amid this commotion, there is another such disaster in waiting. The recent cases of large-scale incursion by Chinese fighters jets in Taiwan’s airspace and Beijing’s open warning to the US of a military conflict indicate that China is gearing up for the forced takeover of the tiny island nation. It is just watching the world’s reaction to the Russia- Ukraine crisis and how major military powers would intervene if Russia invades. These developments appear to be deciding the future discourse of China’s expansionist plan. China considers Taiwan an integral part of China and has never minced words about its intention to annex it in whichever way possible. A Chinese invasion of Taiwan will be more severe than the current Ukraine crisis, and it will not remain just a regional conflict but may flare up into a major armed conflict involving the major western nations.

China has been taking strong exceptions to different countries trying to forge ties with Taiwan. Slovenia is the latest country that received barbs from Beijing as it decided to set up its representative office in Taiwan. Beijing called it “dangerous” and warned Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa of not underestimating China’s “strong resolution, will, and capability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” of which Taiwan is an “inalienable part.” “If Taiwanese people want to live independently, we are here to support also this position. And I think this is the main issue,” Jansa had said.

In November 2021, another European country Lithuania had allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy under the name ‘Taiwan.’ It had irked Beijing as it saw the move challenging the very concept of One China Policy. China imposed economic sanctions against Lithuania and stopped all imports from the European nation. The message was clear that any country trying to build ties with Taiwan would be met with economic coercion. European Union (EU) had to pitch in as any inaction would mean further pressure from China. The EU underlined its commitment to the One China Policy but maintained that it would pursue cooperation and exchanges with Taiwan in areas of common interest. Yet, China ignored it and continued with the coercion of Lithuania, which led the EU to launch a WTO case against China.

In his daily press briefing on February 8, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “China always follows WTO rules. The so-called “coercion” of China against Lithuania is purely made out of thin air. China urges Lithuania to face up to the objective facts, mend its ways, and come back to the right track of adhering to the one-China principle. It should stop confounding right with wrong and maliciously hyping things up, let alone trying to rope other countries into ganging up on China.”  

There have always been concerns about China taking military action and annexing Taiwan to the mainland. In the backdrop of rising economic and military might and the current President Xi Jinping doubling down on an ultra-nationalist agenda, the chances of invasion of Taiwan looks quite realistic. China recently sent 52 warplanes into the Taiwan defense zone, the most significant incursion since October 2021 and the second-largest on record. In the first batch, 39 planes– 34 fighter jets, four electronic warfare planes, and a bomber– entered Taiwanese airspace. This was followed by another fleet of 13 warplanes — 10 J-16 fighter jets, two H-6 bombers, and a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft. In 2021, Taiwan recorded 969 incursions into its airspace by Chinese fighter planes. China is sending a message to the US and Japan, which have been carrying out naval activities in the region. The US criticized China for intimidating Taiwan, which it called was “destabilizing, risks miscalculation, and undermines regional peace and stability.” The US Department of State said it stood behind Taiwan and would ensure peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. “We will continue to stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values. We will continue to deepen our ties with democratic Taiwan,” it said.

Responding to a question on the US approval of a $100 million missile defense sale to Taiwan, Lijian accused the US of violating the one-China principle and the stipulations of the three China-US joint communiqués, especially the August 17 Communiqué. He urged the US to abide by the one-China principle and the stipulations of the three China-US joint communiqués, immediately revoke the arms sales plan, and stop arms sales to and military ties with Taiwan. Lijiang warned that “China will take legitimate and strong measures to resolutely defend its sovereignty and security interests.”

China has warned the US of dire consequences if it encourages Taiwan’s independence. “It most likely will involve China and the United States, the two big countries, in a military conflict,” retorted Beijing’s ambassador to Washington Qin Gang. China has been aware all along of disastrous results if it invades Taiwan, which would invite the US. Sino- US relations have stooped to an unprecedented level now. China’s military and economic superiority have grown manifold, and Beijing intends to replace the US as the world’s biggest superpower. In such a scenario, China may proceed to deploy force against Taiwan. It has become likely, feel global observers. Lee Hsi-Min, a retired admiral of Taiwan, said China was watching Russia- Ukraine crisis very closely. “If they (China) find out that this salami-slice tactic [of seizing Ukraine territory] works for Russia, they may try to take one of Taiwan’s offshore islands,” he said.

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