China’s increased aggressiveness pushes Taiwan away and prompts strong but confusing response from US

By Michael Cleverly

In recent years, the US and other countries raised concerns over China invading Taiwan. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s reaction to Nancy Pelosi’s visit heightened these concerns.

Concerns rose because China’s rhetoric grew stronger than normal and their military response was larger than previous visits. One reason China is comfortable projecting its position is because their military is stronger than before. Another reason is because Nancy Pelosi’s visit holds a symbolic significance as the second person in line to the presidency.

China views this kind of diplomatic visit as too much recognition, and her visit was seen as controversial by more than just China. In the U.S. politicians held differing opinions on whether the visit was a good idea. Some viewed the visit as unnecessary provocation while others thought it was a good gesture.

According to an anonymous Taiwanese citizen, similar controversy was sparked in Taiwan. Some felt it showed America would help defend China if it attacked. Others worried the visit itself might result in conflict.

The current stance of the US can seem murky. One day the U.S. government may say they’re willing to defend Taiwan militarily if invaded. Later they say they’re committed to the one China policy, but that they will not tolerate a Chinese invasion. According to Dr. Christine Kim, Assistant Professor of International Studies, this is because of the complex relationship it has with both China and Taiwan.

America supported the nationalist forces, who later fled to Taiwan, during the Chinese Civil War. The US continued to support them after communist China was founded until 1979 when America normalized relations with communist China.

“So, the UN kicked out Taiwan, and accepted Communist China as a member,” Dr. Kim said. “Since the late 1990s, the US government wanted to include China into the global economy so the US and the West can benefit.”

The US kept, and continues to keep, its political ties to Taiwan through the Taiwan Relations Act, which says it’s US policy to preserve their relations with Taiwan. Later America realized how powerful China had grown and decided to switch its stance, viewing China as a threat more than a business partner. Taiwan is important to the US because of semiconductor production and doesn’t want China to control that. But the US still benefits from trade with China as well.

“But if China invaded Taiwan in the near future, although the US says ‘we will retaliate with the same kind,’ the US will have to calculate whether to do so, depending on do we gain more than losing,” Dr. Kim said.

Taiwan is also economically linked to China and relations between the two haven’t always been this low. According to Dr. Phoebe Tsai, Associate Professor of Information Technology Management, back when she was in college they used to get a lot of tourists and entertainment from China. The major factor that impacted Taiwanese sentiment to be more pro-independence was the Hong Kong crackdown.

Taiwanese people have lived under a democratic government for a while and don’t like the idea of oppressive police tactics. But, there are some people who are pro-China and see the economic benefits of reuniting. Although relations between the two countries are low, their economies are still closely linked.

“Farmers suffer greatly when China doesn’t buy our bananas, pineapples, produce or fish,” Dr. Tsai said. “In globalization, it’s really tough not to do business with China.”

Dr. Kim said she believes this economic interconnectedness is the key for China, if they want to takeTaiwan without bloodshed. According to Dr. Kim, their best option would be to convince Taiwan that it’s better to unite with China than remain independent.

No one wants a war right now because that would involve much bloodshed. Also, China probably learned from their experience with Hong Kong that people used to democracy don’t like their leadership style. Even if they took over Taiwan, resistance afterwards would be strong.

The invasion of Ukraine created concern that China might invade because Russia got away with it’s invasion. But Russia’s war against Ukraine also isn’t over yet and the Ukrainians have shown strong resistance. Also, China desires the benefit of semiconductor production from Taiwan and an invasion would probably involve damaging that infrastructure. According to Dr. Kim, China is watching to see how the international community responds to this behavior and if Russia will actually succeed.

“So, I think the Chinese government is observing how the situation unfolds,” Dr. Kim said. “I don’t think that China will take a cue directly from what’s happening. China is not that reckless. As part of the international community and a leader in this world today, China will not, I believe, act recklessly.”

The above image is from Wikimedia Commons

Michael Cleverley is a senior journalism major with minors in Asian studies and intercultural communication and a writer for Cedars. When not studying or working on a story for Cedars he likes to write, knit, play video games and hang out with friends.

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