Taiwan reported the presence of Chinese warplanes and warships near Pingtan Island on Saturday. The recent escalation of military activities in the Taiwan Strait has added a layer of tension to the already complex relationship between Taiwan and China. There have been constant military activities by Beijing, China’s capital. As Taiwan gears up for its presidential and parliamentary polls on January 13, these Chinese warplanes and warships near itself have become a focal point of concern for them.
For the past four years, Taiwan has voiced grievances about routine Chinese military patrols and drills near its borders. The heightened activities come at a critical juncture, with the island amid election campaigning. Taiwan opposes the heightened military activities as it perceives them as a threat to its sovereignty and regional stability. The outcome of these elections holds significant implications for the future direction of Taiwan’s relations with China.
The defence ministry of Taiwan reported a series of incidents, detailing the detection of various Chinese fighter aircraft, including J-10, J-11, and J-16, along with early warning planes operating in different sectors around Taiwan. Of particular note was the breach of the Taiwan Strait median line by ten aircraft, engaged in what the ministry described as “joint combat readiness patrols” in collaboration with Chinese warships. The once-respected median line, which served as an unofficial boundary, is now regularly crossed by Chinese planes.
In response to these provocative actions, Taiwan promptly deployed its forces to monitor the situation. The lack of comment from China regarding these military activities only adds to the uncertainty and raises questions about the motivations behind such manoeuvres. Previously, China has framed its military actions as a preventative measure against “collusion” between Taiwan separatists and the United States, while emphasizing the protection of its territorial integrity.
The Main Crisis
Taiwan’s government, led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has consistently advocated for dialogue with China while firmly rejecting Beijing’s sovereignty claims. The upcoming elections appear to be shaping up as a significant moment, with Lai Ching-te from the DPP emerging as the frontrunner in presidential polls. Notably, Beijing has denounced Lai Ching-te as a separatist, underscoring the ideological and political tensions between the two entities.
On the opposing front, the Kuomintang, Taiwan’s main opposition party, traditionally leans towards fostering close ties with Beijing. Despite this inclination, the party has pledged to reopen dialogue with China if it secures victory in the elections, reiterating the principle that the people of Taiwan should be the ultimate decision-makers regarding their future.
The ongoing tension between China and Taiwan finds its roots in a complex historical context. It is primarily stemming from the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War (1927-1949). The conflict led to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland and the retreat of the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) to Taiwan. The unresolved nature of the civil war has left both sides with competing claims to the entirety of China.
Central to the tension is the One-China policy, a shared principle where both China and Taiwan acknowledge the existence of one China. However, their interpretations diverge significantly. While China considers Taiwan a renegade province that must be reunified with the mainland, Taiwan maintains a separate identity, complete with its government and military, emphasizing its right to self-governance.
The issue of national identity among the Taiwanese population is a central factor in the tension. This divergence in identity, combined with historical grievances, shapes public opinion and adds complexity to the situation.
Impact on Taiwan’s upcoming elections
The upcoming elections in Taiwan carry substantial implications for the island nation, particularly in shaping its relationship with China. If the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) maintains its position in power, it is likely to uphold a stance emphasizing Taiwan’s separate identity and autonomy. Given Beijing’s assertion of sovereignty over Taiwan, this could result in continued tensions with China.
Conversely, a victory for the Kuomintang (KMT) in the elections could usher in a more diplomatic approach towards China. Such an outcome might pave the way for renewed dialogue and cooperation between Taiwan and China, potentially easing regional tensions.
For China, the election results hold implications for its strategy towards Taiwan. A more assertive or conciliatory Taiwanese leadership could influence Beijing’s approach. Continued tensions might prompt China to maintain a robust military posture and assertive policies, while improved relations might open avenues for dialogue and cooperation.
In essence, the outcomes of the elections will shape the geopolitical landscape in East Asia, impacting not only Taiwan and China but also influencing regional stability and the delicate balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region. As the campaign unfolds and these military activities continue, the dynamics between Taiwan and China remain a central and sensitive issue. The international community watches closely, recognizing that the outcome of Taiwan’s elections could have far-reaching implications for the stability of the region.