Today Ukraine, Tomorrow Taiwan: Seizing A Chance Amidst Rupture
Written by: Katherine Viella
The bon mot of “Today Ukraine, Tomorrow Taiwan” has painted its popularity along with the concern of China’s possible manoeuvre. On the streets, the tattle has whispered that what has been occurring between Russia and Ukraine shall augur the West that they should anticipate China. A few suggestions spoke that, perhaps, an armament for Taiwan must also be pursued. As conveyed by United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Borris Johnson himself, “If Ukraine is endangered, the shock will echo around the world… and those echoes will be heard in East Asia, will be heard in Taiwan. People would draw the conclusion that aggression pays, and that might is right.” (Reuters, 2022) Will it be wise for the West to do so? Will the dictum conveyed by Prime Minister Borris Johnson come to the surface as a brilliant truth?
China has insisted that it is different from Russia and Ukraine in its relationship with Taiwan even though it continuously perceives Taiwan as “a renegade province”. China also persistently considers that the reintegration of Taiwan is an essential component of the national psyche. To China, the Taiwan issue involves nationalism, national security, and territorial integrity (Fu, 1996). On the other side, given the long history of Russia and Ukraine from the ancient Kievan Rus to the present, Russia has confuted the independent statehood of Ukraine. To Russia, it is also not only a matter of territory, but also the perpetuity of Russian imperialism that Putin represents should Ukraine chooses to join Europe (Mearsheimer, 2014).
If what ultimately separated Russia from Ukraine was the dissolution of the Soviet Union, then the Japanese colonisation was believed to be the one distinguishing China and Taiwan from Russia and Ukraine. After all, it was the one that initially drifted them apart from 1895 until 1945. The humiliation imprinted by the antecedent colonisation and the thriving nationalism among the new generation are the x-factors that set the cases of Russia-Ukraine and China-Taiwan apart. For most Chinese, only reunification will restore China’s national honour and any act of formal secession by Taiwan is perceived by the Chinese people as an insult (Fu, 1996). However, before Mao put Taiwan on its political agenda, China’s attitude towards Taiwan was different. Going beyond the history of Japanese colonisation, we can discover the fact that there were narrative attempts to justify an ancient history bond between China and Taiwan. In the myth constructed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Taiwan’s indigenous people, the Austronesians were from China, the Hakka settlers were Han, and Taiwan had been Chinese since the Mongol conquest of China (Friedman, 2007). It implies that China, indeed, has been adamant to emphasise the claim that Taiwan was eternally Chinese.
In principle, it used to seem as though China will exert force only if any of the following three situations were to occur: (1) Taiwan proclaims formal independence; (2) Taiwan is taken by a foreign power; or (3) social chaos erupts in Taiwan (Fu, 1996). During Mao’s and Deng’s administrations, both leaders were narrated to have had spared patience in the issue of Taiwan, firmly believing that the pertaining “reunification” will eventually take place in the hands of the future generation, even though it cannot deny the fact that the People’s Republic China (PRC) military trained in early 1950 to invade Taiwan, defeat Chiang, and end the civil war pitting Mao’s forces against Chiang’s (Tyler, 1999). At present time, with the growing nationalism among Chinese people, a major change has occurred to the point that a fair share of the population has dawned to believe that the de jure independence itself is unacceptable. As Henry Kissinger put it: “Whatever the cost, China will fight rather than give up what it considers Chinese territory.” Even if it is not completely about nationalism, territorial integrity, and ultimately sovereignty, China’s political agenda on Taiwan has been going for so long to ignore that the rising power will carry on postponing the next major decision. It is also worth remembering that during Mao’s reign, he took advantage of the Taiwan issue to pursue a dialogue with USA and used the crisis he created with Taiwan to serve his domestic agenda (Friedman, 2009).
Even though Taiwan has been actively pursuing a beneficial relationship with China, a larger international context filtered through CCP regime traumas turned Taiwan into an enemy and Chinese rulers suddenly interpreted democratic Taiwan as a threat to the survival of the CCP regime (Friedman, 2009). The thriving economic relations are not as promising as they are thought to be. In lieu, an analysis of the current economic relationship between China and Taiwan suggests that they are not now highly interdependent and, therefore, that the foundation for more thoroughgoing (economic) integration has yet to develop (Crane, 1993). This is not yet about USA’s adamant hope to maintain peace across the Taiwan strait and its political agenda to posit Taiwan as a democratic model for China. If somehow, the strategic economic relationship fails to keep the bond between China and Taiwan intact, the next boulder waiting for China would be the West, ultimately the USA. Yet, with the increasing economic and military power, it will be wise to consider that China would still advance nonetheless the hindrance.The juxtaposition between the relationships of China-Taiwan and Russia-Ukraine has seized attention from people around the world. Albeit the repetitive assurance from Beijing that it is different from Russia, voices of concern are still raised. However, with the ongoing situation of Russia-Ukraine, which is not necessarily beneficial to Russia, China is expected to learn its own lessons from the first-strike Russian manoeuvre. Not to mention that the sanctions imposed on Russia are prominently debilitating and China certainly has a history with sanctions after the 4th of June, 1989. Taking into account how China has been persistent about Taiwan and the possible domestic political agenda involved, it might seem as though the fearsome takeover would gain its momentum amidst the Russo-Ukrainian rupture. Measures taken out of caution might be encouraged, but it will also be wise not to antagonise China immediately, as an act of provocation will not serve delight to any party. Should the worst scenario take place, the world better stay alert while avoiding making big noise along the journey.
“Recently Taiwan government has already donated a certain amount of money to help Ukraine. Taiwan even joins the West in imposing international sanctions against Russia over its invasion. These steps could be very risky considering Taiwan and China are still in a conflict. The Chinese government said that Taiwan’s assistance for Ukraine is a move to seek a validation of Taiwan independence. Taiwan’s participation in giving sanctions following the US also provoked anger from the government of China since China stated they don’t tolerate any invasion of US in China-Taiwan relation. Taiwan should be forethoughtful when taking actions to support Ukraine. I think it’s better for Taiwan to not be rash at making moves if they don’t want any explosion of conflict with China. Since the Russia-Ukraine conflict could validate China to invade Taiwan, the Taiwan government better improve their military power, increase its supervision, and handle the misinformation that could lead to misunderstanding.“
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to date has been the subject of discussion by all parties around the world. Many people think that the relationship between these two countries is similar to the relationship between China and Taiwan. However, China has vehemently rejected this view and insisted that although the ruling Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly vowed to “reunite”, they did not have the thought of invading Taiwan, unless it is necessary to do so. Even before Russia launched its unprovoked attack on Ukraine last month, fears had been growing that Beijing could take Taiwan by force. This view continues to “proliferate” throughout Taiwan, and of course Taiwan takes a stand in this regard. Taiwan has responded to this issue by preparing to boost its asymmetric warfare capabilities. However, Taiwan’s focus is divided, they are still taking a risky step by sending aid to the Ukrainian people. This is very risky for Taiwan, because the principle of “One in Policy” imposed by China on Taiwan makes all Taiwan’s internal affairs inseparable from China’s role in it. For now, this step of providing assistance is one of the small risk actions taken by Taiwan. but if in the future, it will be a big risk act for Taiwan if they interfere with the invasion carried out by Russia against Ukraine.”