My Taiwanese Neighbor’s Problem Today – Mine Tomorrow

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Learning from Russian incursions and its assertive foreign policy, which has met with limited resistance, could encourage China to achieve national rejuvenation before the 2049 deadline by abandoning the idea of ​​peaceful unification of Taiwan with China.

The 3rd of September 2019 at the Central Party School of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping gave a speech titled “Struggle” (douzheng 斗争), where he spoke about the recent history of China: under Mao, the people Chinese arose (zhan qilai 站 起来), under Deng and his predecessors, the Chinese people got rich (fu qilai 富起来) and under Xi’s reign, the Chinese people will become powerful (qiang qilai 强 起来). Vladimir Putin had already declared in 2011 that “the main struggle is for world leadership, and here Russia is not going to argue with China”.

A major obstacle in China’s path to power is the Taiwan question. Taiwan’s strategic importance to China lies in the ability to uninterrupted access to the Pacific Ocean and thus escape the entanglement of the United States and its allies and break out of the First Island Chain. .1

Xi said in 2013 and 2019 that solving the Taiwan problem cannot be passed on to future generations indefinitely. Speaking on the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi said China is ready to resolutely break any “Taiwan independence” plot to create a bright future for national rejuvenation, which sets the timetable for China. establishment of Chinese rule in Taiwan by 2049. In 2005, China passed an anti-secession law, which creates the legal basis for the use of “non-peaceful means” against Taiwan if it attempts to “secede ” from China.

Sino-Russian defense cooperation

Russia is unlikely to come to the aid of China if a conflict breaks out over Taiwan, but has Sino-Russian cooperation helped or prevented China from achieving its historic goal of national rejuvenation?

The transfer of weapons from S-300 and S-400 batteries and Su-35 fighter jets allowed China to threaten navies and foreign air forces near China, and would seriously hamper state aid -United and their allies in Taiwan. Joint exercises allowed inexperienced Chinese forces to learn from their more experienced Russian counterparts and their operations in Ukraine and Syria. Since 2012, joint naval exercises have covered a great deal of terrain, from the Baltic Sea to the South China Sea and the Sea of ​​Okhotsk, and have increased operational flexibility and deployment readiness. In addition, naval exercises in disputed waters are a sign of support for everyone’s territorial claims.

In addition, China’s military modernization and reform has largely followed Russia’s lead and lessons learned from Chechnya and Georgia. After coming to power, Xi established firm control over the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by reorganizing the command system and force structure, education and training.

Like Russia, attention has shifted from preparing for large-scale attacks to managing regional conflicts. The concept of active defense of the PLA since 2015 includes both de-escalation and taking the initiative in the event of a threat to the Chinese economy or politics. The concept of three wars (public opinion; psychological and legal wars), introduced in 2003 and developed since, leaves room for plausible deniability if the PLA troops, in the form of green men, crossed the Taiwan Strait in civilian ferries to defend the “compatriots” on the other side.

Encouraged by the lack of response

Chinese actions in the Taiwan Strait could be encouraged by the lack of response it has received for building man-made islands in the South China Sea, organizing massive state-run detentions in Xinjiang or the closure of Hong Kong civil society, all in violation of international law. The same could be said of Russia and its forays into Georgia, Ukraine and Syria. If China’s potential foray into Taiwan were offset by a maritime blockade by the United States and its allies, China could still rely on good neighborly relations with Russia to gain access to alternative trade routes along the Belt and Road initiative and access to Russian and Central Asian energy. Resources.

The appeal to Russia in China’s foray into Taiwan would be increased operational space within its sphere of interest due to the US attention and the drastic shift in capabilities to the Asia-Pacific. In addition, in the future, we may also see military transfers from China to Russia, especially with regard to warships. China already has the world’s largest navy. It is obvious that Europe has no way of preventing Russia from buying something similar to the Mistral-class warship from China.

For China, the light of military modernization and reform has so far shone from Russia as the main source of its advanced military equipment and mold for restructuring. Learning from Russian incursions and its assertive foreign policy, which has met with limited resistance, could encourage China to achieve national rejuvenation before the 2049 deadline by abandoning the idea of ​​peaceful unification of Taiwan with China.

The fact that the US is focusing on Asia-Pacific would mean that my neighbor Taiwanese problem today could become an Estonian problem tomorrow – because in an environment of limited capacity there are not enough resources. for the European and Asia-Pacific regions. On the other hand, the same is true for China. Stronger relations between Europe and Taiwan increase the cost of the conflict for China as it does not want to face sanctions from the US and European market at the same time.


1 The first chain of islands refers to the first chain of major archipelagos from the mainland coast of mainland East Asia.

The opinions expressed in ICDS publications are those of the authors.

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