Beijing and the Taiwan Crisis. Is there only one China or two? –

from Federico Rambini

America’s historical position and unstable equilibrium. Taiwan was conditioned by the founding law of 1949 that no government dared to pursue independence. For Beijing, that act is a red line that should not be crossed

For Xi Jinping, reunification is necessary, even necessary, inevitable. Taiwan is considered a rebel provinceChiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces were defeated on the ground by Mao Zedong’s Communists. At the end of the civil war (1945-1949) he took refuge on the island. Historical validity is questionable. Taiwan was not always an appendage of China as Xi would have us believe. The island’s oldest inhabitants are an indigenous ethnic group, the result of migration from the Asian continent between 30,000 and 6,000 years ago. But today the tribal community has reduced to 2% of the population.
Taiwan was periodically invaded by tribes from mainland China Like the Hakkas who came to see themselves as tribal; by the Portuguese, who baptized it Formosa; by the Dutch; by the French
. Since the end of the nineteenth century, it has long been a colony of Japan. Although the last imperial dynasty (Qing) did everything to assert its sovereignty, its history as a territory connected to mainland China is very recent and discontinuous.

Beijing Edition

The geopolitical significance of its status is magnified by the fact that the Chinese Nationalists were defeated by Mao in their last invasion in 1949. from Beijing has always maintained that Taiwan is a province occupied by illegal separatist forces. Taiwan’s governments, even if democratically elected, are wary of taking any steps that could lead to a declaration of independence.. Beijing pressures all other states to block recognition of Taiwan. The People’s Republic calls the international community back into sync. Foreign Minister Wang Yi compared it to Catalonia, recalls what happened when Barcelona tried to declare itself independent: the Madrid government ignored the local referendum and the Catalan legislature’s response; Former Autonomy Ministers Arrested; Others were exiled. EU, US, Madrid support.

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For Xi Jinping, whatever method he uses to annex the island, including military occupation, is all his legitimacy. An internal matter. To help him, at least, are two other actors in the play who have ambiguous behaviors: Taiwan and the United States.

History messed things up as early as 1949. Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Nationalists, had dreams of revenge. He prepared to return to the mainland and wanted to defeat the Communists and replace them with the Beijing government. For him, Taipei was a temporary seat, and he considered himself the sole legitimate leader of China. The two adversaries, Mao and Chiang, shared the view that there was only one China: that there could be two Chinese states, and each considered himself the legitimate leader.. The one-China policy has long been supported by Taiwanese politicians. Over time it became fantasy. Chiang’s nationalism imposed martial law (theoretically aimed at military retaliation) and an authoritarian right-wing regime on Taiwan. Since the late 1980s, Chiang’s successors have steered the island toward a pluralistic democracy. Freedom blossomed in Taipei, just as the Communist regime stained itself with the crime against its own people by crushing the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing (1989) in blood. Taiwan’s elections allowed for a change in government and often rewarded the Democratic Party, Very independentCurrent President Tsai Ing-wen is the first woman to hold this position. The new generation on the island feels less Chinese and more Taiwanese, thanks to the flourishing of a highly creative cultural life, from literature to cinema, from painting to pop music. As for Taiwan, it is conditioned by its founding law of 1949, and no government dares to openly pursue independence. Because there are clear signals from Beijing: that action If the red line is not crossed, the consequences will be dire.

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Prisoners of history

America is also a prisoner of history. In 1945-49 they supported Chiang Kai-shek in the civil war. They continued to help the Nationalist leader even after he fled to Taipei. All US presidents, Republican and Democrat, have held onto the One China fantasy; In the first decades of the post-war period, they recognized the legitimacy of having (temporary) headquarters on the island. Initially, due to the support of the United States, Taiwan occupied the Chinese seat in the United Nations. Taipei received economic and military aid from Washington and for many years had a formal agreement whereby the Americans guaranteed its defense in case of aggression. Then the turning point: the surprise summit between President Richard Nixon and Mao in Beijing in 1972; A thaw between a Western superpower and an Asian giant. Finally, diplomatic recognition between Washington and Beijing on January 1, 1979, during the presidency of Jimmy Carter and Deng Xiaoping.

Washington continued to adhere to the One China Policy and moved to seek recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Relations with Taiwan were informally very close: There is no actual US embassy in Taipei, nor a Taiwanese equivalent in Washington. With regard to China, for half a century, US presidents have been content to defend an ambiguous and therefore precarious position. In exchange for recognition of the People’s Republic, the United States has always asked for — and in the past received — a promise that Beijing will not use force to reunify with Taiwan. US administrations themselves claimed they were defending Taipei from invasion; Even without renewing the formal contract. Today there is no such binding as NATO’s Article 5, which requires intervention in defense of an ally under attack. The US has helped Taiwan defend itself with tens of billions in arms sales. The United States accepts the principle of one China, but does everything in its power to ensure that in reality there are two.

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An unstable equilibrium

This precarious balance has now been compromised. In the days of Mao and Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese armed forces were formidable but backward; US arms sales gave Taiwan a technological superiority that was sufficient to offset numerical inferiority. Skirmishes were touched off on a few occasions, but only the ships of the US Seventh Fleet appeared in the straits, and the deterrent effect on the Chinese was effective. All this is a thing of the past. China’s astonishing progress in weapons brings it on par with the United States. In terms of the number of ships, the Chinese navy already exceeds the size of the American one. If you add the geographical advantage, the ease of crossing the strait, the military conflict is more favorable to the Chinese. The most optimistic scenarios in Washington point to Taiwan’s ability to resist the invader in a matter of weeks, giving time for US reinforcements to arrive.. But military doctrine makes this almost a desperate act. In war games, simulations of various conflict scenarios run at the Pentagon, the US-China conflict over Taiwan is always won by the Chinese.

August 6, 2022 (Alternative August 6, 2022 | 07:29)

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