Taiwan to counter Chinese infiltration

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen convened national security agencies to counter China’s infiltration. Will Taiwan, a US ally succeed?

Background 

Taiwan is a self-ruling state which China claims as a part of its territory under ‘One China’ policy.  The China – Taiwan relationship is complex and controversial due to the dispute on the political status of Taiwan after its administration was transferred from Japan at the end of World War II in 1945. 

As a result of the Chinese civil war, China was split into two in 1949. Since then, two countries with the name "China"  exist, namely the Republic of China (ROC, founded 1912 and now commonly known as "Taiwan") and the People's Republic of China (PRC, founded 1949 and now commonly known as "China", and "the China").

These political entities are separated by a 110 mile wide Taiwan Strait in the western Pacific Ocean. The strait constitutes international waters & China is thought to be very sensitive about the presence of US military forces there. 

The United States did not challenge the position of ‘One China’ policy which was first stated in 1972 until December 6, 2017, when President Trump said that the US is not necessarily bound by the policy. 

Analysis

China is increasing its options for a possible future invasion of Taiwan, with investments in multi-domain military capabilities offering a range of options to defeat the self-governing island, according to a Pentagon report.

After the national security meeting, pro-independence President Tsai Ing-Wen said China’s hybrid warfare included attempts to interfere with elections with fake news campaigns. Taiwan holds presidential elections next January. Tsai noted that Taiwan would deter military aggression in the Taiwan Strait, vowing to boost its defence capabilities, including upgrading military equipment and a recently launched programme to build submarines.

“The Chinese Communist Party continues to demonstrate provocative actions in the Taiwan Strait, destroying the status quo across the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai said. Last month, China’s military staged extensive drills with warships, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft around the island. 

Wang Yang, the Communist Party’s fourth-ranked leader, said there was no future for Taiwan independence attempts and no point trying to rely on “foreign powers”. In January, President Xi Jinping said that China reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but will strive to achieve peaceful reunification with the island that has a bright future under Chinese rule. 

China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen, from the pro-independence ruling party, took office in 2016. It has regularly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills. Beijing sent several bombers and aircraft through the Bashi Channel, which separates Taiwan from the Philippines, Taiwan's defence ministry said in a separate statement. "If someone tries to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will do whatever it takes to safeguard national reunification, national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Gen. Li Zuocheng, a member of China's Central Military Commission. Meanwhile, Tsai has vowed to defend the island's democracy and called for international support to protect Taiwan's way of life. Trump recently signed into law the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act reaffirming the U.S. commitment to Taiwan, including arms sales. Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help it defend itself and is its main source of arms.

China has purchased 34 powerful Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 fighters in recent years. The Su-35s are key PLA assets, providing China with strong, multi-layered capabilities for defending its South China Sea claims and successfully deterring international intervention if Beijing chooses to start a conflict with neighbouring countries, or launches an aerial offensive against Taiwan. According to Defense Intelligence Agency’s report, Taiwan is also boosting its military capacity but it is not enough to compensate for Chinese strength.

Assessment 

Our assessment is that China has made several efforts to invade Taiwan in the last two decades.

We feel that an attempt to invade Taiwan will invite international intervention and an important part of the calculation is likely the US reaction. Taiwan relies on America for much of its defense needs. The US has reaffirmed its support for Taiwan with the resolution approved by a vote of 414- 0 confirming its commitment to the island and to the implementation of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). The second is a  bill backed by unanimous voice vote, the Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019 (TAA). It can be noted that Taiwan is likely to deepen engagements with Japan, Australia, Philippines and India lessening its economic reliance on the mainland.

We feel that the role of Taishang should not be underestimated. Taishang, the Taiwanese who operate businesses in China and who played a crucial role in helping develop the Chinese economy over the decades could also threaten to cease their operations or pull out altogether if the PLA were activated in the Strait.

China is likely to use disinformation and fake news techniques as it had done previously. It can be noted that China is quite proximal to Taiwan culturally and linguistically due to which it is easier to disseminate fabricated news.