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The Taiwan Conundrum

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Geography plays an important role in the faith of nation then comes the leadership which steers that faith and great powers are those who have both. Great powers of today’s world were empires of the past. Many proceeded into becoming global hegemons and rests were laid in the ranks of those upon which great power competition is being played.  Taiwan is one such piece of land, blessed with geography, bloomed under an empire, shined under a nation state and now a captive of great power competition. While one claims it to be its integral part, other exploits it to settle its global political feuds.

For many the strategic brawl over Taiwan is a matter of recent times however, it dates backs 20th century when at the end of decades long cold war, Communists won in China and US backed nationalists fled to Taiwan forming an independent government. Washington signed a security pact with Taiwan in 1950 with an objective of backing nationalists and refused to acknowledge the People’s Republic of China (PRC). However, in 1972, US played a diplomatic card by recognizing Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan as an integral part of PRC ending its official relations with Taiwan but at the same time it introduced Taiwan relations act to continue its relations with Taiwan at the same time. Since then, Washington played a significantly played a passive role by economic and arms assistance to Taiwan through mutual trade.

The economic importance of Taiwan can also not to be neglected between Washington and Beijing perhaps it remains one of main contentious element in this strategic brawl between the two powers. US was having its tech revolution in late 1970-80s and hence required electronics and IT manufacturing equipment which is Taiwan’s jewel in the crown. The trade volume between the two has increased since then making US Taiwan’s biggest importer of chips and electronic material. Taiwan’s export to US were around $16billion in 1985 which skyrocketed to $77billion in 2021. Taiwan is China’s 6th and US’ 10th largest trade partner however; this trade stats is more invariably dependent on the chip mine Taiwan is sitting on henceforth none can give up on Taiwan for both strategic and economic reasons.

The recent geo-political events have made Taiwan a hot bed for next geopolitical fracas between Washington and Beijing. The camps were set when presidents of both countries resorted to aggressive statements regarding Taiwan. Both countries have their own vested interests in Taiwan however China’s legal claims over Taiwan have historical ground which confines this issue as China’s internal battle, whereas Washington finds it as an opportunity to militarily and diplomatically noose around Beijing.

The recent three-hour long meeting between supremos of Washington and Beijing in Bali remains of key importance as it might have been a positive step towards mending bridges. But Taiwan would remain a key hindrance between the two because of the contrary approaches of both the countries towards Taiwan. A possibility of use of kinetic means to reclaim Taiwan could have been ruled out if president Xi would not have hinted towards it, after being re-elected in 20th CPC conference. Reclaiming Taiwan through armed aggression is a difficult choice for mainland China to make and handle one. The outcome of armed approach towards reclaiming Taiwan would engulf world into serious global crisis and may put it into conflict. Apart from economic loss, human cost of the conflict, depending upon the intensity, would be disastrous.

The risk of harm would increase if the conflict spread, and the U.S. or other countries joined. Beijing’s kinetic steps towards will be met with collaborative response from U.S., and its allies in Asia pacific including Japan, Australia, India. The geographical location of Taiwan would pull response from other countries as well. Japan may respond if a violent attack result effecting Japan’s exclusive economic zone and its territorial sovereignty. There are nations in the area that are at odds with China who would become part of the conflict making it global.

It is time that U.S. reconsiders its global strategic attitude and its policy of unnecessary interventionism which had always put global peace at stake. Moreover, it needs to revisit its Asia pacific policy because the existing one is taking the world on a collusion course. Washington’s unwanted presence in Asia is hindering the region’s growth creating economic and structural fissures.  U.S. needs to reassess its diplomatic orientation or may shift it to collaboration rather containment for global peace to prevail.