Cross-strait tensions decreased as Taipei focused on containing COVID-19 outbreak. Taiwanese defence ministry claimed at least 28 Chinese military aircraft entered its Air Defence Identification Zone during month. U.S. guided-missile destroyer Curtis Wilbur 18 May transited through Taiwan Strait; in response, China 19 May accused U.S. of threatening Strait’s peace and stability. Taiwan saw worst COVID-19 outbreak since start of pandemic during May. Chinese officials 17 May offered Chinese vaccines to Taiwan, blaming ruling Taiwanese Democratic Progressive Party for creating “political obstacles” that prevented vaccines from arriving; Taiwan 18 May called offer “false sympathy” and President Tsai Ing-wen 27 May said China interfered with Taiwan’s efforts to procure vaccines from Germany’s BioNTech. Despite growing international support throughout month for Taiwan’s participation in 74th World Health Assembly 24-31 May, Taiwan not invited by end of month; Taipei 24 May criticised alleged “indifference” from World Health Organization. At G7 foreign ministers summit in UK, participants 5 May opposed “any unilateral actions that could escalate tensions” in Taiwan Strait; in response, China next day condemned statement as gross interference in internal affairs. Hong Kong authorities 18 May halted operations at its representative office in 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.
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.