14/12/2021

Geopolitics

An explosive flashpoint in US–China relations: Taiwan

The long-standing conflict between China and Taiwan takes place with varying degrees of intensity. Taiwan since 1971 is no longer recognised as an independent sovereign state by the UN, and the country is significantly dependent on the United States. Moreover, the latter has strategic interests in Taiwan, in addition to the important economic ties it has with the People’s Republic of China. Taking into consideration that both of the great powers have different interests and goals to be achieved in connection to the island, it can serve as an explosive flashpoint in the US – China relations.

The long-standing conflict between China and Taiwan takes place with varying degrees of intensity. Taiwan since 1971 is no longer recognised as an independent sovereign state by the UN, and the country is significantly dependent on the United States. Moreover, the latter has strategic interests in Taiwan, in addition to the important economic ties it has with the People’s Republic of China. Taking into consideration that both of the great powers have different interests and goals to be achieved in connection to the island, it can serve as an explosive flashpoint in the US – China relations.

 

The creation of the AUKUS (Australia–UK–US) agreement and the intensification of Chinese military mobilisation, have brought into focus the armament of Asian countries with the People’s Republic of China at the centre. The country, which has the third largest military power in the world, has recently acted ominously by ramping up its military pressure on Taiwan with the possibility of invading the island. However, in the changing environment of the international alliance system, the role of Taiwan has evolved and through the US–Taiwan defence cooperation it can be a source of conflict between the US and China. Although the US provides Taiwan with defensive weapons only, the question of an actual defence in the case of a military attack against the island remains unanswered.

 

Historical overview

To understand Taiwan–China–US relations today and their positions in the international alliance system, some historical turning points must be explained. Since 1949, as the consequence of the Chinese Civil War, there are two governments, both claiming to be the only legitimate representative of China, namely the government of the Republic of China (ROC) ruling the island of Taiwan and the government formed by the Communist Party in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the Chinese mainland. In 1971, the United Nations voted to recognise the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China and consequently more and more governments switched from diplomatic recognition of Taipei to that of Beijing but continued to maintain “unofficial” relations with Taiwan, especially the United States, which provides Taiwan with defensive weapons. Today only a few countries, the ones subsidised by Taiwan, recognise the ROC as the legitimate government of China.[i]...

 

[i] YEUNG, Jessie: China celebrates 50 years of being in the UN – and it’s determined to keep Taiwan out. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/25/china/taiwan-un-anniversary-mic-intl-hnk/index.html (2021. 10. 27.)

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