A visit by Taiwan’s leader to the U.S. brought swift condemnation from China, which stepped up its military activities in the strait separating the mainland from the island. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Amanda Hsiao looks at what these events might portend.
China maintained aerial and maritime military activity as Taiwan’s VP transited U.S., while Washington, Seoul and Tokyo pledged commitment to strait’s stability.
China held military exercises as Taiwan’s VP transited U.S. As of 28 Aug, Taiwan had detected 351 Chinese military aircraft around Taiwan, of which at least 115 crossed unofficial “median line” or were detected in south-western ADIZ; at sea, Taiwan spotted 183 Chinese navy vessels in surrounding waters. Taiwan’s VP and presidential candidate Lai Ching Te 12 Aug transited New York en route to Paraguay and 15 Aug went through San Francisco during return trip, meeting Taiwanese Americans and representatives of American Institute of Taiwan; upon his return, Lai said Taiwan’s election in 2024 is choice between democracy and autocracy, declaring that China cannot decide outcome. In response, Beijing 18 Aug launched low-key joint air and sea exercise around island. Taiwan’s military 15-17 Aug carried out “precision missile drill” during which air-to-air and anti-ship missiles were fired at decommissioned vessels. China 21 Aug banned import of Taiwan mangoes, citing concern with pests in likely attempt to create political pressures for Taiwan’s ruling party. U.S. 23 Aug approved $500mn sale to Taiwan of F-16 infrared search-and-track systems. Tsai administration 24 Aug proposed 7.7% increase in next year’s defence budget.
U.S., South Korea and Japan voiced support for stability. In historic trilateral meeting between leaders of U.S., Japan and South Korea, trio 18 Aug reaffirmed commitment to peace and stability across Taiwan Strait and called for peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues. President Tsai 11 Aug expressed Taiwan’s interest in participating in NATO’s Center of Excellences in Baltic countries, as she urged parliamentary delegations from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to help deepen defence cooperation.
High-profile Japanese figures visited Taiwan. Former Japanese PM Taro Aso 7 Aug visited Taiwan and delivered keynote address at regional forum in which he urged international community to “wake up” to worsening situation in Taiwan Strait. Nobuyuki Baba, leader of Japanese parliament’s second-largest opposition party, 2 Aug visited capital Taipei, asserting “Taiwan’s peace is Japan’s peace" and calling for more cooperation on deterrence.
Beijing will have to publicly condemn [Taiwan President] Tsai’s visit to the US, their ultimate response will depend on what Tsai says and who she meets with on her trip.
At the moment, we think that China has not fully developed the capability to guarantee a sure victory if it chooses to launch a military option on Taiwan.
[Western politicians] increasingly view a visit to Taiwan as an opportunity to signal their anti-China bona fides for domestic political reasons.
In this video, Crisis Group’s Giustra Fellow for China Ivy Kwek talks about her work monitoring tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
No matter what immediate tit-for-tat reactions there are to the visit, the troubling long-term implication points to the urgent need for the Biden administration and Congress to better coordinate their handling of the Taiwan issue.
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is planning a visit to Taiwan in early August. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Amanda Hsiao identifies steps the U.S. and China can take to keep frictions minimal should her trip proceed.
The number of Chinese military flights near Taiwan has soared in recent days. In this Q&A, our expert Amanda Hsiao says Beijing is not only demonstrating its objections to deepening U.S.-Taiwan ties, but also warning the broader international community against getting closer to Taiwan.
After drifting toward crisis for much of 2004, the outlook for stability across the Taiwan Strait has improved.
Each side’s most preferred solution for resolving the continuing Taiwan Strait issue – in the case of Taipei, widely recognised de jure independence; and in the case of Beijing, reunification of China on the same ‘one country, two systems’ basis as Hong Kong – are both non-starters.
Apparently irreconcilable positions on the ‘one China’ principle have emerged between China and Taiwan over the last decade, with Taiwan for some time now asserting not only that it is a separate political entity but an independent sovereign country.
China's underlying position on its cross-Strait relations, however strong its current commitment to peaceful diplomacy, is that Taiwan must make sustained, visible progress toward a peaceful settlement or risk a resort to armed hostilities.
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