Hemant Adlakha, a professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, has played down the possibility of China moving soon to re-annex Taiwan by force. During the ruling party’s 20th congress in October, when the party’s general secretary, Xi Jinping, reiterated that China “will not give up the use of force” to unite Taiwan with the People’s Republic of China, he received a standing ovation from 2,300 delegates. “The complete reunification of our country must and can, without a doubt, be achieved,” Xi said.
Xi would prefer a quick war at a cheap price; It may not be within his capabilities
The European Union is China’s largest trading partner. Confrontation with him, as with the United States and Japan, could be dangerous for a president who knows that he must raise living standards at home
Seven months earlier, in early March 2022, Adlakha wrote in The Diplomat, Taiwan was only mentioned briefly in terms of the “One China” policy during the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the National People’s Political Consultative Conference. chinese. In both the government work report submitted by outgoing Chairman of the State Council Li Keqiang to the National People’s Congress on March 5, and the work report of the CPPCC National Committee submitted by its chairman Wang Yang, the importance of the Taiwan issue, including the issue of unification, was downplayed. In a surprisingly unusual way.
A few days after the launch of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, many international media and analysts began to say that Taiwan would be next after Ukraine. But analysts in Taiwan did not agree. They were realistic in interpreting the discourse of the two sessions.
“At a time when China is under severe economic pressure and growth is slowing sharply, this is the last thing[the Chinese Communist Party]needs,” observed the respected professor of international relations Koichi Hamada who once served as an advisor to the late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
According to a member of the China Institute for Reform and Development Professor Ding Yuwen, rather than launching an invasion, “China will choose to put pressure on Taiwan using a mixture of methods to promote unification… It may launch more preferential policies and try to initiate discussion of the ‘one country, two systems’ framework with the parties.” ruling and opposition in Taiwan.
Adlakha proposed ten practical constraints that make it highly likely that China will not resort to the use of force soon against Taiwan.
First, wars are no longer easy
A war between even a small country and a large power today is not only costly, but also no easy walk for the larger side, as Russian President Vladimir Putin is discovering. After the war in Ukraine approached the end of its first year, it can be noted how Ukraine managed to sustain itself despite having a national product and an army much smaller than that of Russia and its army.
Second, the economy
With the export markets drying up in Europe and the United States and with the Chinese real estate crisis deepening further, and with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund forecasting dismal economic growth of 1.7 and 2.7 percent, the immediate priority of the Chinese leadership remains to boost the economy rather than use force in the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese economy is suffering amid an American pressure campaign. At the same time, the Chinese economy is slowing down strongly under the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially after Beijing reversed its zero Covid policy. In such circumstances, it would be reckless for the CCP to strain the national economy by incurring huge expenses for the war.
Third, other internal goals
Aside from the fact that Xi secured a third five-year term, his goal of consolidating the power base within the party remains far from realised. The fear of not being able to sustain forced unification as a short-term act could be a powerful deterrent to Xi—especially since Putin paid a heavy political price for the war in Ukraine.
Fourth, common phrase
Xi would prefer a quick war at a cheap price; It may not be within his capabilities. There is always a danger that the conflict could escalate into “total war” a phrase that has become commonplace to describe the situation in World War II, with each side using all possible resources to destroy its opponent.
Fifth, there is no military comparison between them
Taiwan and Ukraine cannot be compared in terms of military power. Taiwan is heavily armed. Unlike the plains and plateaus of Ukraine, Taiwan is made up of more than 100 islands. Rockets, projectiles and artillery are abundant on the outer islands. In addition, the granite hills in Taiwan contain tunnels and bunkers.
Sixth, ask Biden
There is a possibility that the United States will get involved in the war. While Washington officially maintains “strategic ambiguity” on the question of whether it will defend Taiwan militarily if necessary, US President Joe Biden himself has repeatedly answered this question in the affirmative. Amid the Sino-American rivalry, it seems more likely that Washington cannot afford to give Beijing a free hand in any military campaign against Taiwan.
Seventh, the Japanese dimension
The current Japanese government led by Fumio Kishida continued to send the signals sent by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Tokyo would help defend Taiwan. Abe once said: “An emergency in Taiwan is an emergency for Japan.” It is believed that the Kishida government’s push for a more robust defense role in the region was partly motivated by the prospect of an emergency in Taiwan.
Eighth, do not discount Europe
According to a Hong Kong-based China expert, Xi will be very familiar with the West’s solidarity in the Ukraine crisis. The European Union is China’s largest trading partner. Confrontation with him, as with the United States and Japan, could be dangerous for a president who knows that he must raise living standards at home.
Ninth, it is not just America and Japan
Taiwan may not have participated in a series of pluralistic US initiatives at the security and commercial levels in the Indo-Pacific region, but the island is seen as an integral part of regional and international defense mechanisms such as the Quads, Ocos and others. Thus, not only Japan will come to the rescue, but India and Australia could also join. In such a scenario, China may not want to risk confronting three major military powers at once.
Last but not least is the ASEAN factor
ASEAN has emerged as China’s largest trading partner with their bilateral trade expected to reach the $1 trillion target within two years. However, the concerns of Southeast Asian governments are growing. During a recent speech, former Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo said, “No country in ASEAN would reject opportunities from China, but every country worries that too much dependence on China will restrict our independence of action.” It is highly unlikely that Beijing will resort to a move that will force countries in Southeast Asia to view China as an enemy.
Adlakha added that claims that “Xi wants to complete the job during his term in office” may be true. But there is no doubt that all of Xi’s predecessors wanted to complete unification and all decided that the internal and external conditions were not suitable. Xi has come to the same conclusion so far, according to evidence.
In conclusion, the author reiterated that arguing in favor of the idea that Xi will not use force against Taiwan in the near future does not mean that it will never happen. According to Ding Yuwen of the China Institute for Reform and Development, one thing was very clear in Xi’s speech on January 2, 2019 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “Message to the Compatriots of Taiwan”: The cross-strait separation must be ended by China’s centenary in 2049. Xi pledged that “Both sides must and will unite for sure.”