By: Hsiao-Chen LIN
Last Updated: August 28, 2022, 15:29 IST
The American and Taiwanese delegations click a selfie with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (Image: Twitter/@iingwen)
The US House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan earlier this month. Expectedly, China responded aggressively to the visit. To justify its position, it stated that the United States and Taiwan are changing the status quo through regular political exchanges and that the United States is interfering in China’s internal matters. Therefore, as Pelosi was visiting Taiwan, China announced that it will conduct large-scale live-fire drills to blockade Taiwan.
Military activities by China and the possibility of an accident or a miscalculation have been alarming for the global community. In a meeting with United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Luxembourg in June, senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi reiterated that “the Taiwan issue concerns the political foundation of China-US relations which, unless handled properly, will have a subversive impact”. However, it is China that is not paying attention to Taiwanese people’s sensitivities and their will.
Pelosi’s visit was well received in Taiwan and has accrued benefits for the country amid China’s attempts to isolate Taiwan and the growing security threat.
It is important to note that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was also useful for both the United States and China: Pelosi’s Taiwan visit demonstrates the successful implementation of the Taiwan Travel Act, and Pelosi became the highest US official to visit Taiwan in decades. It will normalise Taiwan’s semi-political dialogue and interactions with the United States. It will further motivate the United States’ allies to send regular delegations to Taiwan. As far as China is concerned, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) used Pelosi’s visit to change the status quo and normalise its military actions in the Taiwan Strait.
Since 2020, China has been using aggression to deal with Taiwan and India. The two countries are facing similar challenges in the Taiwan Strait and Line of Actual Control (LAC). Taiwan is a victim of China’s encroachment into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and now, China is establishing a new normal by crossing into the median line. The intensity of military intimidation, economic coercion, and psychological warfare is only increasing.
In 2020, China initiated incursions at the Galwan Valley killing 20 Indian soldiers. It was around the same time when China began to increase its air encroachments into Taiwan’s (ADIZ). China is not just ratcheting up tensions at the LAC, India is concerned about China’s activities in its immediate neighbourhood. Two such examples are of Nepal and Sri Lanka. In order to give a boost to its much-controversial Belt and Road Initiative, China announced that it will launch a study for a cross-border railway with Nepal. More alarming for India was the docking of Yuan Wang-5, a Chinese spy ship, at the Hambantota Port that is leased to China for 99 years. China took advantage of Sri Lanka’s financial crisis to send monitoring ships to Hambantota Port so that Chinese warships can be stationed in the future- again a new normal in India’s neighbourhood. China has been increasing its footprint in India’s neighbourhood demonstrating China’s ambition to contain India in the region.
India’s traditional view of Taiwan is through the geopolitical lens and considers it a sensitive issue. Over the decades, Taiwan’s stature has increased. Taiwan is at the forefront of the democratic chip supply chain resilience. India is looking to strengthen chip cooperation with Taiwan. It is India’s opportunity to court Taiwanese semiconductor companies and shift bases from China to India.
United States-Taiwan trade pact negotiations have already begun. Pelosi’s visit and now the trade pact demonstrates that the United States considers Taiwan an important part of its Indo-Pacific strategy. This is also an economic opportunity for India. Taiwanese companies are trying to shift bases from China, and India is a potential market for Taiwan. Given India-China dialogue is not moving in a positive direction, India should be more forthcoming toward Taiwan and find more avenues to engage Taiwan. One way could be to have more discussion within the Quad where all other three countries are concerned about the instability in the Taiwan Strait.
It is time for both India and Taiwan to scale up cooperation, and be more ambitious with their engagement. The situation in the Taiwan Strait cannot be allowed to be in China’s favour. Otherwise, the CCP will regard this situation as an achievement and a failure of Indo-Pacific countries. President Tsai Ing-wen stated, “Taiwan is willing and able to strengthen cooperation with democratic partners in building sustainable supply chains for democracy chips.”
It’s time for liberal democracies to step up cooperation for mutual benefit and address the China threat.
Dr Hsiao-Chen LIN is an assistant professor at National Defense University, Taiwan. She received her PhD degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal.
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