The 1995 announcement of Taiwan to transform its governance from authoritarian rule to a self-governing style of authority was influenced by the discussions with the US. The result of this was the deterioration of the relationship that existed between China and Taiwan to an extent of using military force; this action was also witnessed during the Taiwanese elections of 1996 as china was not comfortable in losing Taiwan as an independent sovereign state. Luckily for Taiwan, The US came to offer protection, more so given that the relationship between China and the US had worsened. Indeed, that marked the beginning of the tension between the two states, which is still witnessed up to today (Copper, p. 3).
The conflict of the china mainland and Taiwan Island may be viewed to have emanated from the confrontations of Mao and Chiang in the 1920s which took control of the mainland and the island respectively. However, they were never satisfied with their territorial control and always fought to attain dominance over both territories. Indeed, Chiang sought to propagate the recognition of the Republic of China (ROC) while Mao aggressively fought to ensure that only the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) was recognized; thus forming what came to be regarded as the Cross-Strait conflict. Indeed, since then, the two states have never had cozy interaction politically, economically, or socially even with the subsequent floating of the idea of One China (Bush, p. 3).
Taiwan Strait conflict
The conflict between China and Taiwan can be related to the conflict between the former German states and the current Korean states, but the difference emerges because Germany and Korea were officially recognized as distinct economies, while Cross-Strait conflict is viewed as an internal conflict between two groups of Chinese inhabiting mainland and island respectively. The problem arises from the fact that either of the two groups has always wanted to take dominance over the other in the unification process. Moreover, socially and culturally, it is difficult to differentiate between the two groups of Chinese people.
For the last decade, tension has been mounting between the two states, primarily emanating from sovereignty. According to Taiwan Strait I (1), Taiwan has been moving away from earlier commitment of One China and seeking independence, a phenomenon that has infuriated China mainland as it feels such independent sovereignty on Taiwan would enhance the latter’s recognition from global economic powerhouses, thus diluting the Chinese position globally. However, there have been efforts from either side to remain globally competitive, with Taiwan companies having had to shift production from the island to the mainland from as early as in the late 1980s, an initiative welcomed by China as it promised economic development and putting Chinese factories on the global supply chain.
The Cross-Strait Knot
There is a deep and broad interaction in the economic and social aspect between China and Taiwan, despite the two having different political ideologies over the years. However, in economic terms, the two states have complemented each other, for instance, Taiwan companies have always relied on the production expertise of the mainland, in the process gaining on improved productivity while mainland gaining on increased employment opportunities from these Taiwan companies. This kind of interaction promotes some joint perceptive amongst certain sectors of the two societies; however, the leaders from both states have never shown any signs of giving in to the elimination of political mistrust between them. Both are always prepared to defend themselves from any imminent attack or change of status quo from the other, with China mainland enjoying a strong military wealth that prevents Taiwan from being a de jure sovereign state while Taiwan enjoying a formidable defense backing to prevent any attack from China (Harding, p. 145).
The lack of direct conversation aggravates their joint mistrust. Either side is aware that any military conflict is more likely to do more harm than good on both; thus, it is important to understand that the trends on financial interdependence will be the prologue to a political resolution. Nevertheless, there are opinions from some citizens about Taiwan’s lack of capacity to defend against a powerful China; thus, Taiwan is supposed to push for the best contract it can, despite this being seen as approximately unattainable.
Understanding China and Taiwan
Currently, the amalgamation or sovereignty question has become a critical issue that tends to inflict tension and continually cause nervousness in the society and across Taiwan Strait. As much as there are people who would be happy to see an independent Taiwan state, others would be impressed by the amalgamation with mainland China. However, quite a several people would be satisfied to remain in the current situation and make a resolution in the future, mainly because they are apprehensive of the outcome or impact of self-government or amalgamation. On the other hand, those Taiwanese who propose for autonomous Taiwan government have the feeling that the main hindrance to their political dream is the rigid culture and history of Chinese people (Taiwan Strait I, 4). Thus, they willingly deform and try to disassociate themselves from the traditions of china, expecting to break through in their quest for independent sovereignty. Indeed, misinformation about conventional China and Chinese current and future trends has significantly influenced the unending Taiwan Strait conflict (Wang, p. 28).
U.S involvement in China-Taiwan relations
The role played by the United States cultivates a probing characteristic of the disagreement in the Taiwan Strait. For many years, the U.S has categorically put the peaceful resolution of disagreements above any other option. However, it has always consolidated its protective position on Taiwan by providing sophisticated weapons for self-defense, and to some extent, objectively implying its intention to directly bail out Taiwan in the event of an attack from China. Indeed, Swaine (4) concurs that US support for Taiwan is based on its global efforts to enhance its credibility, resolve global issues and liberate new democracies from dictatorial governance. However, the US seems reluctant to engage itself in sustainable conflict resolution and prevention of future eruption of war. Indeed, the US has concentrated on containing the condition in the Taiwan Strait, generating a constructive atmosphere in which advancement may arise, but ignores special diplomats, contemplation, and transfer mediation. Moreover, despite the concrete likelihood that the US may find itself being a stakeholder in the China/Taiwan conflict, it has always stood and watched from afar (Taiwan Strait II, p. 29).
Although the plan of the One China policy is meant for ending the Taiwan Strait disagreement, the task is quite a difficult one to pursue given that the situation can be aggravated by instituting a resolution policy without having an adequate understanding of the root cause of the conflict. The important aspect that should be incorporated in the resolution is first understanding the motivating factors in the conflict between the two sides. Either side is afraid of the intentions of the other, and although either side may be willing to give in to the other’s interests, the feeling of being taken advantage of by the other due to its benevolence makes the situation even more complex.
In a significant sense, the predicament that traps China and Taiwan is not the typical militarily enforced or violent one but is based on the perception of insecurity by Beijing that autonomous political recognition of Taiwan will jeopardize China’s influence. In this case, tension is heightened, and to be on guard, china seeks an alliance with Russia while Taiwan seeks support from as far as the US. Indeed, more political tension emerges from the tendency of Taiwan to seek US (a sworn enemy of China) support for both weaponry and direct combat. However, although the US promises such protection on Taiwan, there is no total guarantee that the US will be fully committed given that the former may be reluctant to be drawn into battles against its will (Sheng, p. 32).
Taiwan’s insecurity and dependence on the US, along with its primary distrust of China’s plans implies that China might need to work extra hard to dilute the relationship existing between Taiwan and US. Indeed, this might even be harder given that the US defense support is motivated by the struggle for autonomous Taiwan sovereignty.
Economic cooperation, political deadlock
From 1949 up the to mid-1980s, the Taiwan Strait was a land that belonged to no one; indeed, there was nearly no contact both socially or economically between the mainland and the Island (Bush 27). Despite there being some tension, the KMT ensured that fully blown war did not arise as they remained watchful of the actions of the islanders and always kept them at bay. However, the years succeeding 1980s have witnessed a significant transformation from the past with the territory becoming more advanced in terms of economic and social integration amid political distrust and antagonism (Taiwan Strait III, p. 5).
Three major reasons reinforce the knot and erode the chances for conflict resolution. First, the Taiwan politics of antagonism, tradition, and the current democratic system limit the liberty of leaders to negotiate with Beijing. In general, callous Nationalist Party law after 1949 seemed to influence the Taiwanese to believe that they were not similar to people from the mainland, thus making them start to identify Taiwan as a different country develop a strong dread for foreigners. Their quest for identity and feeling of being marginalized and oppressed by the Nationalist Party’s statutes instigated a progressive force and aspiration autonomous Taiwanese state free from China rule.
Public view in China also influences the treatment of Taiwan strategy as scholars linked to the party-state frequently possess more aggressive and well-liked nationalist opinion becoming more tremendous than the government propaganda, thus influencing the leadership. Although there is a need for cross-strait relations, the supreme leader may find himself in tight situations if his critics use public influence against him (Shirk, p. 77).
China’s and Taiwanese organs of decision-making have also contributed to the weathering of the cross-strait relations, for instance, decision-making on both sides is more or less centralized. Basically, given the importance of the Cross-Strait issue on both Taiwan and China, there is always an element of rigidity on the leaders as they tend to top leaders still tend to take the seriousness of the issue only when tension crops up.
The dilemma of One China Policy
The unification process of China mainland and Taiwan began in 1979 following the realization that any progress by china to emulate the global economic powers would only emanate from economic cooperation and integration with Taiwan to create one China. Moreover, the reunification will, according to Swaine (p.3) not only enhance “Chinese prestige and self-confidence,” but also will ensure political and social stability that would otherwise slip away should Beijing lose Taipei altogether. According to Taiwan Strait I (p. 6), although the two sides agreed on the idea of One China, they had different notions, with Taiwan ROC while China mainland recognized the PRC.
Over the years, China’s strong financial as well as export development have significantly influenced its political liberalization; however, the country still maintains a dictatorial authoritarian government despite the modern world tending towards the full democratic mode of governance with multiparty independence and civil freedom. Moreover, the fact that China is more economically endowed has made it more ruthless against Taiwan to an extent of segregating it globally, threatening it with military action (Chow p. 3).
The United States has sustained its description of the One China Policy with the view that the status quo should be maintained, and any alteration should only be enforced through the consensus of both sides. Moreover, the differences in interpretations among the US, China, and Taiwan have led to an explicit dilemma that has heightened political conflict and opposing strategies, and to some extent, instigated military conflict that has linked both the US and Japan.
The recognition of autonomous Taiwan state has been obstructed by three main factors: 1) The One China Policy has failed to have an explicit acceptance across the international arena, more so when instances of violence are involved; 2) despite Taiwan struggling to seek independent sovereignty, there has never been a formal declaration that the state is autonomy; 3) the international community has failed to take cognizance of the existence of Taiwan as an autonomous state. However, there has been a new identity involving the transition of Taiwan to democratic rule that has influenced the state to resist any attempt that links it to China; indeed, international law has identified Taiwan as an independent sovereignty. In this case, it appears that misinterpretation of the Taiwan route from ancient times to current status is the root cause of the Taiwan Strait (Wang, p. 170).
The stand-off that exists the One China policy may result in a full-blown crisis, more so with the interference of the US, which is believed to be inadequately prepared to provide mediation without issuing preconditions. Primarily, Taiwan intends to be an independent sovereign state, with autonomous self-rule as well as an independent economic and political system without creating any tension or rivalry with China. This is quite different from China’s intentions, given that the latter’s main objective is to accommodate Taiwan in its political system; indeed, the perception of China is that any recognition of Taiwan as an independent state will be a loss that china cannot afford to incur. This difference of ideologies and the rigidity of China to maintain a communist-style of leadership has been the main source of the Taiwan Strait. Moreover, some sources have intimated that the Taiwan Strait is conceived from the intentional actions of the US which have never had a cordial affair with China, thus forcing China to act towards Taiwan (Bush and O’Hanlon, p. 189).
The long-run effect of the US support of Taiwan may degenerate to an unconceivable political conflict in the Chinese region. Although there seems to be some truce in the region, the longer it takes without a conclusive solution the more will be the tension between the mainland and Island Chinese territories. Moreover, given the poor relationship between US and China, with each trying to be the dominant force in the global economy, there is little possibility of China giving in to the pressure of recognizing an autonomous Taiwan state (more so due to Taiwan’s interaction with the US) as doing so will be tantamount to accepting defeat. In this case, the Taiwan Strait may be regarded as a conflict between China and Taiwan, but from an in-depth perspective, the conflict is between the US and China.
On a sober note, given the contemporary trend in the global political arena, Taiwan should not completely abandon the pursuit of a new national identity if it wants to stop the increasing military pressure from China (Taiwan Strait III, ii). However, given the involvement of the US in the Taiwan Strait, American strategic, as well as security interests in the region, will be under threat, more so in the event, the stand-off between the US, China, and Taiwan degenerates to full fledged military combat. Indeed, such a threat will be prevented should the US act swiftly to seek a lasting solution in the region, more so in assisting Taiwan to attain its independence and become a member of the UN. Moreover, the UN is a more conducive arena for the US to exert more influence on the Strait and in the process endeavor her global initiative of democratization.
As cross-Strait relations warm up after the KMT returned to power in 2008, there is the possibility of more truce between the two sides as witnessed in the prevailing economic and logistical interdependence that has influenced both commodity and labor mobility across the greater Chinese region. Indeed, the relationship will be enhanced by continued discourse to alleviate the issues under contention and seek to establish a mutually agreeable explanation and identification of One China.
Finally, a sustainable peaceful resolution in the Cross-Strait will be influenced by both parties recognizing their stake in the Strait as well as internalizing where they have come from and what the future holds for them. In this case, Taiwan has to redefine its political system and recognize its implication on the relationship that will exist between it and China. In addition, the economic interdependence will play a key role to an extent that, Taiwan will have to reevaluate herself as to whether she is capable of going alone or will continue to be reliant on the mainland. Lastly, sustainability of the US involvement in the Cross-Strait will have to be reevaluated and determine whether the status quo should be maintained or not.
- Bush, Richard C. Untying the knot: making peace in the Taiwan Strait. Washington, Brookings Institution Press. 2005. Web.
- Bush, Richard C. and O’Hanlon, Michael E. A war like no other: the truth about China’s challenge to America. New Jersey, John Wiley and Sons. 2007. Web.
- Chow, Peter C. Y. Economic integration, democratization and national security in East Asia: shifting paradigms in US, China and Taiwan relations. Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing. 2007. Web.
- Copper, John F. Playing with fire: the looming war with China over Taiwan. Westport, Greenwood Publishing Group. 2006. Web.
- Harding, Harry. A fragile relationship: the United States and China since 1972 Washington, Brookings Institution Press. 1992. Web.
- Sheng, Lijun. China and Taiwan: cross-strait relations under Chen Shui-bian. London, Zed Books. 2002. Web.
- Shirk, Susan L. China: fragile superpower. New York, Oxford University Press US. 2007. Web.
- Swaine, Michael D. “Trouble in Taiwan.” Foreign Affairs. 2004.
- Taiwan Strait I. “Taiwan Strait I: what’s left of ‘One China’?” ICG Asia Report No. 53. 2003.
- Taiwan Strait II. “Taiwan Strait II: The Risk of War.” ICG Asia Report No. 54. 2003.
- Taiwan Strait III. “Taiwan Strait III: The Chance of peace.” ICG Asia Report No. 55. 2003.
- Wang, Gabe T. China and the Taiwan issue: impending war at Taiwan Strait. Maryland, University Press of America. 2006. Web.