Tensions between China and Taiwan: China’s leaders may be following events in Europe closely
Tensions between China and Taiwan: China’s leaders may be following events in Europe closely

Tensions between China and Taiwan: China’s leaders may be following events in Europe closely

On the surface, there may be parallels: both Taiwan and Ukraine are Western-friendly democracies whose status quo can be changed by powerful autocracies.

In Taiwan’s case, China’s Communist Party may be seeking “reunion“with the island, it claims to be its territory despite the fact that it has never ruled it – and has not ruled out doing so by force. For Ukraine, that threat is unfolding: Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he considers Russians and Ukrainians as “a people,” and it is still unclear how far he will go to realize this claim – on Monday, he declared two breakaway, Moscow-backed areas of Ukraine as independent republics.

World leaders themselves have suggested links between the fates of Ukraine and Taiwan in recent weeks.

Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, has said Taiwan could “feel” with Ukraine’s situation given its experience of “military threats and intimidation from China.”

In the West, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that “echoes” of what is happening in Ukraine “will be heard in Taiwan”, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a trip to Australia earlier this month slanted “others are watching “the Western answer to Russia,” even though it’s half a world away in Europe. ”

Concerns have been mounting in recent years that a confident China under leader Xi Jinping could take a bold step to take control of Taiwan, and Beijing is likely to closely monitor the situation in Ukraine for signs of how the Western powers are reacting – and how seriously . the answers are.

The United States, Britain, the EU, Canada, Australia and Japan have all announced economic sanctions to punish Moscow following Putin’s actions earlier this week.

But there are limits to the parallels, and to how much Beijing could take out of the spiraling crisis in Ukraine when it comes to future actions vis-à-vis Taiwan.

“How the US responds to Ukraine will not be the same as Taiwan’s because the way the US has built its relationship with Taiwan over decades is different from its responsibilities to Ukraine, the EU or NATO,” said Lev Nachman, a postdoc researcher at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.

“Although (Beijing) will still follow closely to see how the world responds to invasion and a potential redrawing of borders, which is likely to be part of Beijing’s own geopolitical calculation, it is highly unlikely that Beijing will change its strategy drastically towards Taiwan over Ukraine, “said Nachman, who focuses on Taiwan’s policies.

Similarly, experts have pushed back on the notion that the U.S. focus on Europe could provide a potential opening for China to take steps toward Taiwan. This fear is apparently reinforced by Moscow’s ever closer ties with Beijing.

“I do not think the Chinese would use force against Taiwan this year … (Xi) do not really want to take any risk,” said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London, pointing to the Communist Party National Congress to held in October, when Xi is expected to secure a historic third term in power.

“A military adventure that is not successful will not do his third term very well, and a failure could potentially derail it,” Tsang added.

The unique dynamics between the United States and China also complicate any attempt at comparison between Ukraine and Taiwan. China is the United States’ most formidable long-term rival and the only country that can challenge American interests across domains and around the world, said David Sacks, a researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

“If China were to gain control of Taiwan, this would more than anything else help it establish regional hegemony. Chinese leaders understand that for the United States, the effort is different and its response would probably be very different,” he said.

‘People’s Republics’

China is also in one uncomfortable position Following Russia’s recognition on Monday of two outbreaks, Moscow-backed territories in Ukraine as independent states, the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk.

The movement was heavily criticized by the UN and other world leaders as a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, with Putin firing that the situation “is different” than with other former Soviet states, when Ukraine was “used” by foreign nations to threaten Russia.

China has been sympathetic to Russian concerns about the security threat from NATO – as both countries have presented an increasingly united front to what they see as Western interference in their internal affairs and threats to their security. That partnership was very publicly supported just weeks ago at a Xi-Putin summit.
As the West condemns Russia over Ukraine, Beijing strikes a different tone

But China has long based its foreign policy on persistently defending state sovereignty and condemning what it considers external interference within its own borders. Beijing has also taken drastic steps, including those condemned by the international community as major human rights violations, to combat what they see as separatist threats – be it in Hong Kong, Xinjiang or Tibet.

Hua Chunying, China’s deputy foreign minister, denied on Wednesday that Beijing had taken a stance on Ukraine that was contrary to the country’s principle of respecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Any such allegation had “an afterthought or (was) deliberate distortion of cases,” she said at a regular press briefing.

In comments the day before, the ministry was quick to distinguish between the situation in Ukraine and Taiwan when asked if there were any parallels.

“I would like to emphasize that there is only one China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. This is an indisputable historical and legal fact. The one-China principle is a universally recognized norm that governs international relations.” spokesman Wang Wenbin said, citing Beijing’s principle that there is only one China on each side of the Taiwan Strait.

Mainland China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since the end of the Chinese Civil War more than 70 years ago, when the defeated nationalists withdrew to the island.

Beijing has so far called for restraint and called for dialogue in response to developments in Ukraine this week. With its own agendas and current relations with Russia, China’s response to Ukraine will be a difficult balancing act, and one where its leaders are likely to tread cautiously, Harvard’s Nachman said.

“China is doing its best not to take a firm stance in support of Russia, while at the same time pushing for peace and diplomacy (in Ukraine),” he said. This tells us that China is not going to match Russia’s level of aggression (in Taiwan) – at least right now. “

CNN’s Eric Cheung and the Beijing Bureau contributed reporting.

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