Superpowers jumped in each other’s throats over a small archipelago – Why is it so important to the world?

Superpowers jumped in each other’s throats over a small archipelago – Why is it so important to the world?
Superpowers jumped in each other’s throats over a small archipelago – Why is it so important to the world?

Republic of China v People ‘s Republic of China

Taiwan – the official name of the Republic of China – an archipelago of 23 million inhabitants, covering an area of ​​approximately 35 000 square kilometers in size in the Netherlands.

The archipelago is not officially an independent country but part of China, only 15 countries treat it as a sovereign state. It is not just that the Beijing-based People’s Republic of China considers Taiwan to be its own territory, but Nor has Taiwan ever officially declared its secession from China.

Nevertheless, Taiwan has an independent political system, forces, diplomacy, economy, so function as a virtually independent country, even though it is not officially. Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party do not currently have any authority over the area. For a long time, by the way, Taiwan called itself the “real” China, but today the leaders of the archipelago talk more about peaceful coexistence with the People’s Republic of China.

The rift between Taipei and Beijing was the result of the Chinese Civil War from 1927 to 1949. After World War II, soldiers of the Communist Party of China led by Mao Zedong achieved significant success on the battlefield against nationalists led by Chang Kai-shek, and in the fall of 1949, much of mainland China fell into the hands of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island of Taiwan with about two million soldiers and civilians and then “relocated” the Chinese capital from Taipei to Nanjing (meanwhile the CCP declared Beijing as its capital).

Small and large clashes continued between the Kumointang and the Communists, resulting in the PLA occupying a number of smaller islands (e.g., Susan, Vansan, Hainan) from the nationalists, but the island of Taiwan itself and some smaller archipelagos like Penghu to this day. they could get it. No real attempt has been made to do so, mainly because the United States began to provide military support to Taiwan after the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950.

Terrain map of Taiwan. Image: Getty Images

Despite U.S. military support, the Republic of China has steadily lost its geopolitical room for maneuver as the CCP consolidated its power over China, and in 1971 they were fired from the UN General Assembly and admitted to the People’s Republic of China. This was partly due to the fact that the countries of the world in turn began to sever diplomatic relations with the Republic of China and instead recognized the People’s Republic of China.

Nevertheless nearly 60 countries currently have unofficial ties with Taiwan, this differs from the formal diplomatic relationship in many cases only in that “economic and cultural offices” and “representatives” are responsible for liaison instead of ambassadors and affiliates.

Tech superpower

Despite its relatively small size and diplomatic difficulties

Taiwan has grown into an influential player in the international market over the decades, and they are downright unavoidable in the tech sector.

Taiwan’s role has become particularly prominent in the context of the global chip deficit since early 2020, as the archipelago is currently the world’s largest chip and semiconductor manufacturer.

Two of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturers, a TSMC and UMC also operate in Taiwan. With a global market share of nearly 24%, Taiwan lags far behind China with an 11% share and the United States with a 6% share.

Some countries and Taiwan’s share of the global market for semiconductor manufacturers. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In addition, two of the world’s six largest computer manufacturers – the Acer and Asus – A Taiwanese company, together they account for about 12% of global personal computer sales.

It is also an indispensable player in the IT market a Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturing company (EMS), which primarily manufactures technologies that it sells under its own brand on behalf of other IT companies, so we don’t come across the name of this company as often as, say, Asus.

Nonetheless, Foxconn holds about half of the EMS sector, so Taiwan has absolute dominance in this area as well. In addition to manufacturing traditional IT tools, the company is also a major player in the development of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Incidentally, in terms of nominal GDP, Taiwan is the 21st largest economy in the world, at 17th in purchasing power parity. Taiwan’s GDP is expected to reach $ 690 billion this year. The archipelago per capita in terms of GDP 31. Taiwan is a developed economy and the population of the archipelago is mostly affluent.

What do the superpowers want from Taiwan?

Over the decades, China’s leaders have regularly signaled to Taiwan that their intention is to “reunite” the country, both through threats and promises of military action.

Xixing also offered the archipelago the opportunity to operate with an independent political system under the auspices of “one country, two systems” if they fled the flag of the People’s Republic of China.

Taiwan’s leadership rejected this offer primarily because do not trust the CCP to really leave the archipelago to operate with an independent political system. As is well known, Hong Kong officially follows the “one country, two systems” system, but in recent years it has essentially plowed the democratic legislative system and imprisoned the opposition as part of a series of official and political action coordinated by Beijing.

Despite opposition from the islanders, it is not Beijing’s mind to give up Taiwan;

the CCP’s leadership regularly indicates that, if not peacefully, “reunification” will be achieved by military means.

In addition to the spicy statements, it is also apparent that PLA aircraft have regularly flown into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in recent months, in increasing numbers and frequency. In addition, Chinese Marines and sailors are constantly practicing landing operations against Taiwan:

Why China refuses to “let go” of Taiwan can be traced to the following reasons:

  1. Taiwan is an unavoidable player in the tech sector. China has very serious ambitions in this market, with the incorporation of Taiwan crippling a tech-overweight economy with a GDP of nearly $ 700 billion, not to mention eliminating one of the main competitors for Chinese companies.
  2. Taiwan has an increasingly close relationship with China’s main geopolitical rival, the United States. It is inconvenient that the rival superpower is increasingly using the archipelago as an outpost.
  3. China will soon become the world’s largest economy and have growing cultural, political and military influence in the world. Simply it gives a bad image if a country that is (one of) the world’s dominant superpowers does not have full control over its own territory.

The United States, meanwhile, is increasingly proactive in supporting Taiwan, despite the fact that the archipelago is not even officially recognized as an independent country.

The Taiwan Relations Act, in force since 1979, states that the United States must ensure that Taiwan has adequate defense capabilities.

The treaty does not state that this must be done through armed intervention, but it does not rule out the possibility of doing so, so America can provide any military assistance to Taiwan at any time, citing the agreement.

President Joe Biden even promised a few weeks ago that America would protect Taiwan from a possible Chinese invasion, although it is still unclear whether this would mean a direct military action against China.

In any case, the interests of the United States in relation to Taiwan can be summarized as follows:

  1. Washington it does not want to bring the archipelago under its direct control, they are also satisfied that Taiwan is independent, Remains an American-friendly area and has not been included in Beijing’s immediate area of ​​influence.
  2. Taiwan is a kind of symbolic “outpost” against China’s geopolitical ambitions, many see Beijing as having to assimilate the archipelago in the first round in order to expand into other areas. If this milestone is reached, many analysts and politicians say China could single out other countries and territories in the region. U.S. political leaders fear, in particular, that China, encouraged by the success of a campaign against Taiwan, could be dangerous for Japan, South Korea and Guam.
  3. America is pumping guns into Taiwan, but it doesn’t make sense to give them away for free. To counter the Chinese threat, the archipelago government spends billions of dollars on U.S. weapons each year, with Taiwan being one of the largest buyers of U.S. weapons worldwide in recent years. In this respect, America’s threat to the PLA, which does not cross the horizon, is absolutely rewarding.

We have dissected in these articles whether there could be a realistic military conflict between Taiwan and China and, if appropriate, the United States in the coming years.

Cover image: Getty Images

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