Why is Taiwan a Focal Point in U.S.-China Tensions?

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Both strategically and economically, the island is vital to its ambitions. Let’s take a look at the past, present and future of the differences over its status

Why is tension rising between China and Taiwan?
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China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, has been sending planes around Taiwan since September 2020. The number of flights exploded in the first week of October, when the PLA sent 150 fighters, bombers and spy planes to the island’s air-defense detection zone. . China says the flights are meant as a warning to supporters of Taiwan’s independence. At the time of the October Blitz, two US carrier strike groups were conducting joint exercises off the coast of Okinawa, off Taiwan, with ships from the UK, Japan and other allies.

Does the US recognize Taiwan as a country?
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In 1979 the US changed diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Since then, the US has maintained a “one-China policy”, which recognizes Beijing as China’s legal government and accepts—but does not support—the Beijing view that Taiwan is a part of China.

What is America’s relationship with Taiwan?

The US and Taiwan maintain what the State Department describes as “a strong informal relationship.” Both the Trump and Biden administrations have moved to further strengthen ties. Mr Trump arranged more than $20 billion in arms sales to Taiwan, part of a US commitment to providing equipment and other aid to Taiwan to maintain its ability to defend itself. The US has also deployed a small group of Special Forces soldiers and Marines to Taiwan to help train the island’s troops. Shortly after taking office, President Biden sent an informal delegation to meet with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. He has also stepped up trade and investment talks aimed at bolstering economic ties with Taiwan, the world’s largest producer of advanced semiconductors.

What is the history behind stress?
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Tensions date back to 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek’s US-backed Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, fled to Taiwan after being expelled from the mainland by Mao Zedong’s communist forces. Tensions often escalated in the following decades. China shelled Taiwan-occupied offshore islands in the 1950s, and the Kuomintang harbored ambitions to recapture the mainland from the Communists for many years.

In the early 1980s, China cultivated close economic ties with Taiwan, in hopes of eventually uniting with the island under the same “One Country, Two Systems” framework used to control Hong Kong. Was. Recently, however, Taiwan has become more distant from China, with a growing number of Taiwanese youth saying they do not consider themselves Chinese – a trend that followed China’s crushing of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement in 2020. has accelerated.

Can China take control of Taiwan?

China’s military can dwarf Taiwan. Defense and political analysts generally agree that the PLA can take control of Taiwan, especially if the US and other powers do not intervene, although there is debate about whether Chinese leader Xi Jinping is willing to pay the cost of an invasion. Huh. Taiwan’s geography makes invasion difficult, and the PLA has not been tested, which has not fought a war since a border skirmish with Vietnam in 1979. US officials have urged Taiwan to do more to invest in asymmetric warfare capabilities that would make its military more agile and resilient. attack incident. Taiwan has moved forward to increase military spending. Responding to questions from lawmakers about a special military-spend package, Taiwan’s defense minister warned that the PLA would be able to launch a full-scale attack on Taiwan in 2025 “with minimal damage”.

What does this mean for the region?

Although Xi has called for a “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan, both Taipei and Washington have expressed concern over the PLA’s performance of force, saying the Taiwan Strait risks destabilizing it. Other countries in the region have become concerned about the prospect of military action. Officials in Tokyo, usually concerned about offending Beijing, have begun to speak openly about preparing for the crisis and supporting Taiwan. Like the Middle East’s oil dominance of the island’s dominance in semiconductors, any concerns about volatility eventually resonate in countries around the world outside the region.

This article may be updated.

Josh Chin at [email protected]

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