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When might happen next for China and Taiwan

13 October 2021 7:15 PM
Digital technology
business unusual

Is Taiwan part of China or an independent country? Officially it is part of China, but it is a lot more complex.

The United Nations (UN) counts 193 nations as member states, it does not everyone like Taiwan and a dozen or so other nations, so should you try determine how many countries there are in the world the answer will not be easy to find.

Equally complex, is the situation that China and Taiwan are trying to address. Are they one country or two? There is an argument to be made for both cases.

What makes a country has more to do with its standing in the world and neighbours than the view of the residents of the nation. Real Life Lore explains

A brief history

Below are just the key developments that relate to who was in control of Taiwan and China

  • Taiwan has been populated for thousands of years but modern development started in the 17th century with a Dutch settlement
  • It was then first run by China after the Qing Dynasty took power in 1683
  • Japan invaded and controlled Taiwan from 1895 till it had to give up its territories after the World War 2
  • It was returned to the Republic of China, the predecessor of the current Chinese state
  • The Republic of China was ousted by the Communist Party of China in 1949 with the 2 million exiles of the Republic of China fleeing to Taiwan
  • China was prevented from pursuing Taiwan after intervention from the United States
  • China gained acceptance from the UN that it was the rightful ruler of Taiwan in the 70s with most nations accepting a two nations one country view
  • Taiwan rejected the one party rule of the Republic of China in the 90s and saw a period of democratic reforms and economic growth
  • China followed in the 2000s and both nations prospered
  • In 2013 Xi Jinping became China's President and committed to reunification
  • In recent years negotiations for a possible solution have improved till 2015 and since began to look less likely in the wake of the transfer of Hong Kong and Macau and the ruling government in Taiwan who favour independence with good relations over reunification

What sparked current tensions

There are many factors that have contributed to increased tension. Some are direct like Taiwan's government stance on independence and less direct factors like the centenary of the Communist Party conflicts elsewhere that have been more pressing for the UN, Europe and the US who have typically been the ones become involved.

Here are some scenarios that could take place.

The most optimistic

  • Global support and fair terms allow China to negotiate an accepted reunification with Taiwan
  • China is persuaded that two nations can work just as well as one

More likely

  • China pushes Taiwan to accept terms to avoid a conflict with the support of the international community
  • China maintains pressure and Taiwan remains resolute with the international community pressuring both to maintain the status quo

Hopefully avoided

  • Small clashes in outer lying islands start a low level ongoing conflict similar to what occurs with China and India
  • China escalates incursions until Taiwan retaliates and conflict is declared
  • China launches a significant offensive with the international community not intervening if the strikes are only targeted at military targets to force Taiwan to look for a settlement

Possible, but unlikely

  • Concerns about potential conflict within the Chinese Communist Party may see a revolt against Xi Jinping in favour of a more moderate approach to drive mainland China's development rather than seek to make Taiwan part of China at all costs
  • Challenges facing China and the Communist party from environmental impact, a slowing economy, internal corruption and a faltering property and tech sector could force the Communist Party to shift focus back to economic issues

Worse case

  • Conflict breaks out with the international community taking sides resulting in a regional conflict and massive economic and social disruption
  • China and the US engaging in open conflict drawing the allies for both sides into a global conflict
  • In an attempt to prevent a global conflict occurring one side being prepared to use nuclear weapons to end the conflict

Hopefully cool heads will prevail and the status quo can be maintained while negotiations continue to find a practical and acceptable solution.

But unless more attention is paid to the sometimes subtle or seemingly minor shifts, those small developments could lead to a situation that is much more difficult to avoid.

Now is the time for efforts to be focused on preventing an escalation because despite the global impact of the pandemic, this hundred-year-old issue of who owns Taiwan could eclipse the damage and set the world back decades in a time when we are already under significant pressure to work together to address the impact of global warming.

13 October 2021 7:15 PM
Digital technology
business unusual

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