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Taiwan: Beijing’s Pressure and Washington’s Support

Taiwan: Beijing's Pressure and Washington's Support

Dr. Muhammad Akram Zaheer

Taiwan is an island that sits apart from China, with the Taiwan Strait between them. China thinks of Taiwan as a new part of their land and wants to bring Taiwan and China together. But Taiwan has its own elected government and about two million people living there. The leaders in politics have different thoughts about how Taiwan should be related to China. The situation has gotten more tense since Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwan’s President. She doesn’t agree with the ideas of the previous leader, Ma Ying-jeou, on how Taiwan and China should cooperate. China has been more aggressive, even sending fighter planes close to Taiwan. Some experts worry that if China attacks Taiwan, the United States might get involved. China says there is only one China and that Taiwan belongs to it. China sees itself as the main government of China, and they want Taiwan to be a part of that. China believes in this idea called the One China principle. They also say Taiwan agreed to a deal in 1992, but Taiwan doesn’t agree on what that deal really means. The two sides don’t agree about whether Taiwan is its own country or not. This deal was never meant to solve the question of what Taiwan’s status is. China says the deal means both sides should work together as part of one China. Taiwan’s side thinks it means “One China, Different Ideas.”

Taiwan’s rules recognize China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Tibet, and the South China Sea as part of Taiwan. The people in the main political group, KMT, don’t want Taiwan to be separate from China. They want to have good relations with China forever. But some leaders in KMT have been talking about changing their ideas from the 1992 deal. The other big political group, DPP, doesn’t like the 1992 deal from the start. Tsai Ing-wen, who is the President and leads DPP, really doesn’t like that deal. She’s been trying to find a way that both Taiwan and China can agree on. In 2016, she said she’s the President because of Taiwan’s own rules, which talk about one China. She also said she will follow Taiwan’s rules when it comes to dealing with China. But China didn’t like this and stopped official relations with Taiwan.

China’s leader, Xi, said in 2019 that he wants Taiwan to be part of China, using a plan called ‘one country, two systems.’ This plan was also used for Hong Kong, where they kept their own rules and had some freedom. But people in Taiwan don’t like this idea. China’s actions in Hong Kong made Taiwan’s leaders say no to that plan. China doesn’t want Taiwan to join big groups like the UN. Taiwan complains about this. The US supports Taiwan in these groups. The US also sells weapons to Taiwan and lets its officials meet with Taiwan’s officials. Even the President of Taiwan was invited to a special event by the US President. The US also trains and talks about the military with Taiwan. Taiwan has lots of support in the US Congress. They want Taiwan to be part of the world and have a good relationship with the US. China’s military is getting ready to bring Taiwan under its control, even if other countries try to help. But experts don’t agree on when this might happen. Some think 2049 could be a key year, as China’s leader Xi says he really wants Taiwan back by then. China tries to attack Taiwan’s computer systems every day. This has been happening more in recent years. In 2020, Taiwan said China tried to get into its government data and personal info. China has also done things to make life harder for Taiwan, like stopping official talks in 2016 and reducing tourism.

China has threatened other countries that have connections with Taiwan. For instance, in 2021, China stopped trading with Lithuania because they opened an office representing Taiwan in their capital. China has also tried to influence Taiwan’s elections by spreading false information on social media and controlling Taiwanese media more. Even with these threats from China, Taiwan has managed to keep its democratic way of governing. In 2020, a group called the Economist Democracy Index said Taiwan was a “full democracy” for the first time. In 2021, Taiwan was ranked the eighth most democratic country in the world. This was higher than its Asian neighbors South Korea and Japan, and even higher than the United States. Most people in Taiwan want things to stay the same, and only a few want Taiwan to be independent right away or join with China.

But the way they trade and do business together has been having problems recently. Part of the reason is that China is putting pressure on Taiwan, and Taiwan’s leaders are worried about relying too much on trading with China. From 2008 to 2016, the president at the time, President Ma, made it easier to trade between Taiwan and China. They even opened direct paths for ships, airplanes, and mail to go back and forth between the two places. They also allowed banks, insurance companies, and other financial businesses to work in each other’s countries. But when President Tsai took over, she and her Democratic Progressive Party tried to make deals with more countries, not just China. They had some success. Their plan to focus more on countries in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific helped Taiwan trade more with eighteen places. Over five years, they traded over $50 billion, and Taiwan invested more money in these countries too.

In 2021, Taiwan sold a lot of things to China, even though China tried to stop other countries from making trade agreements with Taiwan. Some countries, like New Zealand and Singapore, still made those agreements. China also tried to keep Taiwan out of big trade groups like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. But Taiwan isn’t part of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework led by the Biden administration either. Taiwan is really good at making computer chips. These chips are super important for lots of electronic things like phones, computers, cars, and even smart weapons. In 2020, companies in Taiwan made more than 60% of the money that all the world’s chip makers earned. One of the biggest reasons for this success is a company called Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. They make more chips than anyone else and give them to big companies like Apple in the U.S. There are only two companies in the world that can make the most advanced, tiny chips, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is one of them. They make over 90% of these chips. Some experts think that the U.S. wants to protect Taiwan from China because it needs these chips so much. President Biden wants to make the chip industry in the U.S. stronger. In 2022, the people in charge passed a law that gives $280 billion to help with this. China also needs Taiwan’s chips, but not as much as the United States does.

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