China Taiwan tensions

China Taiwan tensions


Why in the news?

On Thursday, China intensified its display of military prowess by encircling Taiwan with naval vessels and military aircraft during war games. The rhetoric accompanying these maneuvers was ominously laced with threats of bloodshed against any hint of independence from the self-ruled island.

This brazen show of force, spanning two days, is the latest in a series of escalating acts of intimidation orchestrated by China. Over recent years, Beijing has conducted numerous large-scale military exercises in close proximity to Taiwan, signaling its unwavering stance on the issue.

More about the news

The timing of these drills is noteworthy, coinciding with the inauguration of Taiwan’s new President, Lai Ching-te. His inaugural address, perceived by China as a veiled declaration of independence, has further stoked tensions between the two entities.

In response to Lai’s inauguration speech, China wasted no time in denouncing it as a blatant affirmation of Taiwan’s separatist aspirations. This vehement reaction underscores the deep-seated sensitivity surrounding the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty within the halls of power in Beijing.

The situation in the Taiwan Strait remains volatile, with each military maneuver and diplomatic gesture carrying the potential to escalate into a full-blown crisis. As China continues to assert its dominance in the region, the international community watches with bated breath, acutely aware of the precarious balance of power at play.

China Taiwan conflict

  1. Historical Context: China considers Taiwan a part of its territory and has not renounced the use of force to achieve reunification. The Chinese government views Taiwan’s independence as a red line and has repeatedly stated its commitment to achieving reunification, by peaceful means if possible, but by force if necessary.
  2. Military Capability: China has significantly modernized and expanded its military capabilities in recent years, including its naval and amphibious forces, which are essential for any potential invasion of Taiwan. While Taiwan has invested in its defense and enjoys U.S. support, China’s military strength and resources are formidable.
  3. Political Dynamics: The political climate in both China and Taiwan plays a crucial role in shaping the likelihood of invasion. Changes in leadership, shifts in public opinion, and domestic political considerations can influence decision-making on both sides.
  4. International Response: Any Chinese invasion of Taiwan would likely trigger a strong international response, particularly from the United States, which is committed to Taiwan’s security under the Taiwan Relations Act. The potential for broader regional instability and conflict could lead to diplomatic, economic, and possibly military consequences for China.
  5. Taiwan’s Defense: Taiwan has invested in its defense capabilities, including military modernization, training, and cooperation with allies such as the United States. While Taiwan’s military may not match China’s in terms of size and resources, its geographical advantages and defensive strategies could pose significant challenges to a potential invasion.
  6. Economic Considerations: The economic costs of a military conflict, including potential disruptions to trade and investment, could deter both China and Taiwan from pursuing aggressive actions. Economic interdependence between China, Taiwan, and other countries in the region also factors into decision-making.

How realism dominates in Chinese foreign policy

Realist theory emphasizes the role of power and security dynamics in international relations. From a realist perspective, the conflict between China and Taiwan can be understood as a struggle for power and influence in the Asia-Pacific region. China seeks to assert its dominance and preserve its territorial integrity, while Taiwan aims to maintain its de facto independence and sovereignty. Realists would argue that the potential for conflict arises from the security dilemma, where actions taken by one side to enhance its security are perceived as threats by the other, leading to a spiral of tension and militarization.

  1. Security and Territorial Integrity: Realism emphasizes states’ pursuit of power and security. For China, safeguarding its territorial integrity and sovereignty is paramount. This is evident in China’s assertive stance on issues like Taiwan, the South China Sea, and Tibet, where it seeks to assert its control and prevent perceived threats to its territorial integrity.
  2. Balance of Power: Realists argue that states seek to maintain a balance of power to ensure their security and survival. China’s rise as a major global power has led to a shift in the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region, challenging the dominance of traditional powers like the United States. China’s military modernization and assertive actions in the region can be seen as efforts to establish a favorable balance of power in its favor.
  3. National Interest: Realism posits that states prioritize their national interests, often defined in terms of power, security, and survival. China’s foreign policy decisions are guided by its national interests, which include economic growth, territorial integrity, and maintaining internal stability. Realists argue that China’s pursuit of these interests sometimes leads to competition and conflict with other states, especially in regions where its interests intersect with those of other major powers.
  4. Zero-Sum Thinking: Realism is characterized by zero-sum thinking, where gains for one state are perceived as losses for another. In its interactions with other states, China often adopts a zero-sum approach, seeking to maximize its own benefits and minimize the influence of its rivals. This can be seen in China’s efforts to expand its economic and political influence globally, sometimes at the expense of other countries’ interests.
  5. Military Expansion: Realism suggests that states prioritize military power as a means of ensuring their security and deterring potential adversaries. China’s military modernization efforts, including the development of advanced weapons systems and expansion of its naval capabilities, reflect its realist approach to security. China’s military expansion is seen as a means of projecting power regionally and globally and enhancing its ability to defend its interests against potential threats.


Various policies used by China 

China employs various policies and strategies to assert its dominance regionally and globally. Some key policies include:

  1. Military Modernization: China has significantly modernized its military capabilities, investing heavily in advanced weaponry, cyber capabilities, space technology, and naval expansion. This modernization effort aims to enhance China’s military strength and assert its dominance in regional security affairs, particularly in the South China Sea and East China Sea.
  2. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): Launched in 2013, the BRI is a massive infrastructure development and investment project aimed at expanding China’s influence globally. Through infrastructure projects, trade agreements, and economic investments, China seeks to increase its geopolitical influence and gain access to strategic resources and markets in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
  3. Assertive Diplomacy: China adopts an assertive diplomatic posture to advance its strategic interests and challenge the existing international order. This includes the use of diplomatic pressure, economic coercion, and assertive rhetoric to assert its claims in territorial disputes, such as those in the South China Sea and with Taiwan.
  4. United Front Work: China employs united front tactics to influence and co-opt foreign actors, including overseas Chinese communities, business leaders, academics, and political elites, to advance its interests and suppress dissent. This includes efforts to control narratives, shape public opinion, and promote pro-China agendas abroad.
  5. Technology and Cybersecurity: China leverages technology and cybersecurity as tools for dominance, including through the development of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and 5G networks. China’s cybersecurity policies also involve censorship and surveillance to control information flow and suppress dissent.
  6. Debt Diplomacy: China engages in debt-trap diplomacy by extending loans and infrastructure investments to developing countries, often with opaque terms and high-interest rates. This strategy allows China to gain influence and strategic leverage over debtor nations, potentially compromising their sovereignty and autonomy.
  7. Expansionist Policies: China pursues expansionist policies to assert its territorial claims and maritime interests, particularly in the South China Sea. This includes the construction and militarization of artificial islands, the imposition of fishing restrictions, and the establishment of administrative districts to assert sovereignty over disputed territories.


How it affects India’s national interest 

China’s realist approach to foreign policy can have significant implications for India’s interests in several ways:

  1. Border Disputes: Realist competition between China and India over territorial claims, such as those in the Himalayas (e.g., the Doklam plateau) and along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), can escalate tensions and even lead to military confrontations. Both countries prioritize their territorial integrity and sovereignty, leading to periodic border standoffs and disputes.
  2. Regional Influence: China’s assertive actions in the Indian Ocean region, such as its maritime Silk Road initiative (part of the Belt and Road Initiative) and the development of strategic ports like Gwadar in Pakistan and Hambantota in Sri Lanka, challenge India’s traditional sphere of influence. This competition for regional dominance can undermine India’s efforts to maintain strategic autonomy and regional stability.
  3. Economic Competition: China’s economic rise and its growing presence in South Asia through infrastructure projects, trade agreements, and investments pose challenges to India’s economic interests. Chinese investments in sectors like telecommunications, manufacturing, and infrastructure in South Asia and beyond can potentially undermine India’s economic competitiveness and influence in the region.
  4. Security Dilemma: Realist competition between China and India can lead to a security dilemma, where actions taken by one side to enhance its security are perceived as threats by the other, leading to a spiral of mistrust and militarization. India’s efforts to enhance its military capabilities and strategic partnerships, particularly with the United States and other Indo-Pacific countries, can be seen as responses to China’s assertiveness.
  5. Strategic Alignment: China’s close ties with Pakistan, including military and economic support, create a strategic challenge for India. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, passes through disputed territory claimed by India, further exacerbating tensions. India’s efforts to counterbalance China’s influence by strengthening partnerships with countries like Japan, Australia, and the United States reflect its realist calculations of power politics in the region.


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