Tensions between China and Taiwan have been growing in recent months following an increase in Chinese military activity. China views Taiwan as a breakaway province, with the belief it will one day rejoin the country – despite the clear sense of separation and independence many Taiwanese feel. Now calls for the US to declare its intentions to defend Taiwan have been quashed by Washington officials.
China has long sought to return Taiwan to its ranks, even pressuring international businesses to list Taiwan as part of China on websites in 2018.
Relations between the two countries have taken a dive, with a “large incursion” of Chinese warplanes reported in Taiwan in January this year.
At the time analysts said the drills over Taiwan were designed to test then newly inaugurated President Joe Biden’s support for Taiwan.
Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister has accused China of “conducting misinformation campaigns, hybrid warfare, and recently they have increased their grey zone activities against Taiwan.”
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In April 2021, the People’s Liberation Army flew 25 military aircraft into the south-western corner of Taiwan’s ADIZ.
This has prompted calls for action, with experts saying the increased warplane activity is aimed at tiring Taiwan’s military fleet.
However, Avril Haines, director of national intelligence said China would class any policy changes as “deeply” destabilising.
She said: “It would solidify Chinese perceptions that the US is bent on constraining China’s rise, including through military force, and would probably cause Beijing to aggressively undermine US interests worldwide.”
If the US doesn’t aid Taiwan, who could?
Only 15 countries regard Taiwan as an independent state, and none of these are in Asia.
In terms of protecting the country from a possible attack by China, potentially Japan, the Philippines, Australia and South Korea could come to Taiwan’s aid.
These countries all have their own concerns about China’s increasing strength.
However, despite the less than positive relationships these countries have with China, they are unlikely to step in come an invasion against Taiwan.
Zack Cooper, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told Business Insider except for the US, “you’re probably talking about Japan by far being the most active potential participant.”
Japan has its own territorial battles with China, and also hosts around 55,000 US soldiers.
And should Taiwan fall under Chinese control, Japan would have several key factors at risk.
Chinese military documents said should Taiwan fall under Chinese control: “Japan’s maritime lines of communication will fall completely within the striking ranges of China’s fighters and bombers.”
This is due to 90 percent of Japanese oil and 99 percent of mineral resources passing through Taiwanese waters, with the documents saying if 30 percent of these imports were stopped: “Japan’s economic and war-making potential will be basically destroyed.”
Whether there have been discussions between the US and Japan in the event of a Chinese takeover of Taiwan is unclear, however, the policy of strategic ambiguity in defending Taiwan is one the US is continuing with for the time being.