The China-Taiwan issue: What message does China’s belligerence over Taiwan convey?



bbc-BBC Tamil

By BBC News Tamil


Updated: Tuesday, August 9, 2022, 17:41 [IST]

Taiwan - China


Taiwan – China

A recent visit to Taiwan by America’s most senior politician and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has sparked new tensions between the self-governing Taiwan and China. China claims Taiwan as an integral part of its country. BBC reporters assess how both sides view China’s military drills around Taiwan in protest at Nancy Pelosi’s visit.

The new normal

Stephen McDonnell, Beijing

Radical thinkers at the top of the Chinese Communist Party can take great delight in the atmosphere Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has left for them.

Nancy Pelosi opened an opportunity for them, and they took it.

Active military operations around Taiwan have now been pushed into the “acceptable” zone.

Activities including launching missiles into Taiwan have now become “acceptable”. This change is not only because the international community has accepted it, but because China, which has done it, has gotten away with it.

Now the Chinese military (PLA) is flying a large number of warplanes closer to Taiwan every now and then. This has now become the new normal.

More than this, many Chinese people believe that China will attack Taiwan by its own forces.

The situation is seen as a victory for those who wanted it to happen.

Peaceful strategies to achieve what Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has described as Taiwan’s “return to the motherland” are currently neither discussed nor confirmed.

A side effect of this is that such massive military exercises by the Chinese military have fueled global belief that the rise of the Chinese military is unstoppable. This could threaten Southeast Asian neighbors who are competing with China over claims in the South China Sea.

China - Taiwan

Getty Images

China – Taiwan

These large-scale military operations may have been planned in advance. It’s hard to imagine Chinese military generals suddenly acting like this when news leaked that Nancy Pelosi was planning to visit Taiwan.

It is more likely that China planned this in advance and acted when the opportunity presented itself.

“Thank you Comrade Pelosi!” said one nationalist interviewed in Beijing last week. He said with a smile.

Nancy Pelosi - Tsai Ying Wen


Nancy Pelosi – Tsai Ying Wen

It is dangerous for the Chinese government to get caught up in its own belligerent rhetoric that taking over Taiwan is easy, as opposed to a bloody, catastrophic event.

Some analysts also believe that the war games helped the Taiwanese and US militaries prepare defense strategies to prevent any attack on the mainland.

But these war drills are not enough for President Xi Jinping’s government. China on Friday suspended cooperation with the United States on counter-narcotics and cross-border crime prevention, including maritime security. Also, all high-level military talks between the US and China have been suspended.

Also, in this regard, the US media reported that the Chinese side did not answer the phone calls of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chief of Staff General Mark Milley.

In particular, China stopped cooperating with the US on climate change. The world’s two biggest carbon emitters have stopped talking about it.

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has certainly raised tensions. But Xi Jinping’s government seems to like the tension, at least for now.

Xi Jinping

Getty Images

Xi Jinping

War of words

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, Taiwan

Chinese military activities around Taiwan have attracted a lot of attention in the past few days. But equally important are the words emerging from the Chinese side following these actions.

A small group of Taiwanese politicians were identified by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as “Taiwan’s separatist forces”.

The first to be identified as such was Taiwanese President Tsan Ying-wen. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called him an “unworthy descendant of the Chinese nation”. In other words, a traitor.

The aim is to try to separate the majority of Taiwanese, whom China says are not their enemy, from a small “group” that it says is trying to tear Taiwan from the motherland.

The problem here is that China’s view of Taiwan is different from reality. Recent polls show that a majority of Taiwanese oppose any unification with China. They consider themselves “Taiwanese” not “Chinese”.

Wang Ye attributes this to the Tsai Ying-wen government’s “elimination of Chinese cultural elements”. Also, Tsai says he wants to create “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan”.

China - Taiwan


China – Taiwan

The Chinese ambassador to France had said that after Taiwan’s “reunification” with China, Taiwanese people would have to “relearn”. Taiwanese people have been “brainwashed” into believing they are not Chinese, he says.

This is again at odds with reality. The people of Taiwan are a free society who are allowed to read, think and vote as they wish.

The question now is what impact all this will have.

China’s intention is to intimidate the Taiwanese people into voting against President Tsai’s party in the 2024 elections. China wants a China-friendly Kuomintang to come to power.

China poses direct threats to Taiwanese businessmen who have invested heavily in the Chinese mainland. They are told they must “choose the right side”.

China has tried such strategies before, but they have not been successful. Many of Taiwan’s industries have been affected by China’s sanctions, particularly fruit farmers. The tourism industry has already been hit by China’s ban on mainstream tourists to Taiwan.

But evidence from the past few days suggests that Taiwanese attitudes toward China are likely to harden.

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English summary

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