Over the past year, China has become increasingly aggressive in the skies over Taiwan.
People’s Liberation Army (PLA) bombers, fighters and surveillance planes have all been dispatched to Taiwan’s “air defense zone” with increasing frequency. Their aim is apparently propagandist. They are supposed to recall the military might of the Chinese Communist Party and, above all, its claims on Taiwan. As for the CCP, Taiwan is a separatist province of the People’s Republic, not an independent state.
And now the CCP has Increased the ante. Over the past weekend and this week, it sent nearly 150 fighter jets and bombers, some with nuclear capability, to the Taiwan air defense zone. This represents the CCP’s largest incursion into Taiwan to date. Coming after the year-long escalation of air and naval maneuvers over and around Taiwan, and in the context of Xi Jinping’s call last year for the PLA to ‘prepare for war‘, some fear the worst. After all, Xi has pledged to bring Taiwan back under Beijing’s control by 2049, in time for the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China.
There is no doubt that China has recently stepped up its campaign against Taiwan. For decades, an ambiguous “One China” agreement – known as the 1992 consensus – has been held between the CCP and successive Taiwanese governments. Much of this was carried out in Taiwan by the Kuomintang Party (KMT), which opposes integration with mainland China but also opposes full independence. This consensus accepted that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait agree that there is only one China”, although they diplomatically disagree on the meaning of “China”. (The official name of Taiwan is the Republic of China.)
But in 2016, Tsai Ing-wen of the Independent Democratic Progressive Party won the presidential election. Since then, relations between Beijing and Taipei have broken down. Tsai’s re-election last year, when she won nearly 60 percent of the vote, only served to heighten growing political antagonism.
But as aggressively as the CCP now behaves towards Taiwan, this is not the only reason for the deterioration of relations. Because what happens in the South and East China Seas is rarely the business of both Chinas. It also involves Japan and other regional powers, as well as China’s main antagonist: the United States.
Because it is America’s increasingly heated rivalry with China that exacerbates tensions between China and Taiwan.
This has not always been the case with Taiwan. After 1979 – when the United States established formal diplomatic relations with the CPC-led People’s Republic and severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan – the main focus of the United States was largely regional stability. He maintained an unofficial relationship with Taiwan and sold it arms, but he never recognized it as an independent nation. This is because the United States has also sought to maintain a peaceful relationship with China.
But over the past decade, after Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” and his estrangement from the CCP, US foreign policy has been increasingly dominated by its political, economic, and now military efforts to contain the surge. from China. As a result, Taiwan is increasingly transformed into a regional pawn of the United States, to be used against China.
The election of Donald Trump, which coincided with the presidency of the independentist Tsai in 2016, brought Taiwan closer to Washington’s sphere of influence. Under Trump, the United States sold more than $ 18 billion in weapons to the Taiwanese military and exposed a $ 250 million complex for what would amount to an unofficial embassy in Taipei. Trump even celebrates talked with Tsai on the phone before his inauguration. This was the highest level contact between Taipei and Washington since 1979 – much to the chagrin of the CCP.
The United States under Joe Biden has continued where Trump and Obama left off, increasingly openly turning Taiwan into an American outpost just off the coast of China. Biden allowed U.S. officials to meet with Taiwanese officials, and he became the first president to invite Taiwanese officials to attend a presidential inauguration.
This is not simply a radical diplomatic change in US relations with Taiwan. Biden also authorized American warships pass near the coast of Taiwan and have boosted arms sales in Taipei. There has even been talk of a resumption of long delayed trade negotiations.
In his pro-Taiwan efforts, Biden has the backing of Democrats and Republicans. Indeed, Washington’s bipartisan animosity towards China is such that Congress has passed tons of pro-Taiwan legislation. So, under the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, the U.S. must help accelerate Taiwan’s acquisition of defense weapons, create a plan for U.S. officials to work in the Taiwanese government, and order the US Secretary of State to defend the Taiwan Strait.
The United States has never been more eager to embrace Taiwan – and Taiwan has never been more willing to reciprocate. For example, Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, praised the recent Aukus security pact, which increases US military involvement in the vicinity of Taiwan. “We are happy to see,” Wu said, “that like-minded Taiwan partners – the US, UK and Australia – are working more closely with each other to acquire items from more advanced defense so that we can defend the Indo-Pacific ‘.
These are revealing words. Taiwan is now positioned as an openly pro-American state just over 100 miles from the Chinese coast. Given all of this, it’s not hard to see why the CCP is now positioning itself in the skies of Taiwan – it is asserting itself in the face of what it sees as US-led belligerence. This is as much about China’s self-defense as it is about the CCP’s dream of a “One China.” Therefore, this week, state-backed China World time attack “The strategic collusion between the United States and Japan and the [Taiwanese government]”, and warned that” the preparation of mainland China to use force against Taiwan’s secessionist forces is much stronger than ever. “
Neither side wants war, of course – despite some of the recent overblown comments. And the USA announcement that a virtual summit between Xi and Biden is scheduled for later this year shows that there is a desire to ease tensions. But in the increasingly drier powder keg of the Indo-Pacific, it might just need a parasitic spark to set off a conflagration.
Tim black is a sharp journalist.