China stepped up intrusions of Taiwan’s aerial zone after relative decline in recent months, while COVID-19 crisis fuelled domestic and cross-strait tensions. Taiwanese defence ministry 15 June reported 28 Chinese military aircraft entering into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), marking sudden spike after numbers of aircraft had dipped between late April and early June. As of 28 June, total 43 Chinese aircraft had entered Taiwan’s ADIZ during month. Three U.S. senators 6 June briefly visited Taiwan’s capital Taipei by military plane; China 8 June called visit “very vicious political provocation”. At summit in UK, G7 leaders 13 June noted importance of peace and stability across Taiwan Strait for first time. Amid worsening outbreak of COVID-19, Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) faced widespread criticism for not securing enough vaccines, especially from opposition party Kuomintang (KMT). Japan 4 June donated 2.1 mn vaccines to Taiwan, while U.S. 20 June donated 2.5 mn; Chinese foreign ministry 21 June called on U.S. not to use vaccination programme support for “political manoeuvre or interference in China’s internal affairs” and Beijing continued to accuse DPP of politicising vaccine procurement by creating barriers to Chinese vaccines. Macau 16 June suspended operations of its representative office in Taiwan, as did Hong Kong in May without providing explanations. Staff working at Taiwan’s representative office in Hong Kong 20 June returned to Taiwan after city govt demanded representatives sign document recognising “One China” principle or leave country.
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.
In the last decade, Taiwan has moved slowly but surely away from its commitment to the idea of ‘one China’, the proposition, long agreed on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, that Taiwan and the mainland are parts of one country.