Taiwan: The Potential Flashpoint for Conflict between China and the US

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Dr. Muhammad Akram Zaheer

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there were concerns in western capitals over whether China might take similar action in Taiwan. Against this backdrop, Speaker Pelosis’ visit to Taiwan has prompted some security scholars to predict a fourth cross-strait crisis.China will likely ensure that it punishes Taiwan enough to prevent future visits like Pelosis’s. This may include economic action, limited military signaling and selective diplomatic action in bilateral and multilateral fora, and aggressive cyber repression.In response, Taiwan and the United States are likely to continue building deterrent defense capabilities to deter Chinese aggression. The US may continue to signal its increased presence and commitment to the region through freedom of shipping operations in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea, while keeping lines of communication open to avoid unintended tensions with Beijing.

China and Russia believe the United States is playing the role of an arrogant player. This thinking has emerged in many parts of the world, including China. The People’s Republic of China places all responsibility for the violence and destruction in Europe on Washington. Russia supports Chinese principle and affirms that Taiwan is a part of China and opposes any form of Taiwan’s independence.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has shown that the world should take seriously what Xi and Putin are saying, especially when they speak in their own language. Both countries are determined to destroy the US alliance by force whenever it would be possible. Xi and Putin means that the US alliance has been formed over their opposition and they will oppose it. Statements by top Chinese diplomats should not be dismissed as mere propaganda. This is a clear warning to Washington to abandon its strategy in the Indo-Pacific, and Beijing reserves the option of resistance. From this point of view, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sets an example. Beijing has also warned small countries such as Ukraine to stay away from US plots. According to Beijing, sympathy for Ukraine is good but it is not good to be used as a pawn in Washington’s efforts to maintain geopolitical dominance. These messages are also being heard in those countries that remain neutral in international politics. Russia and China continue to oppose any attempt by foreign powers to undermine security and stability in their respective territories. That why China and Russia also oppose further NATO expansion and have called on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to abandon Cold War ideological methods. China and Russia also oppose the formation of a bloc in the Asia-Pacific region and remain wary of the negative effects of the US Indo-Pacific strategy on peace and stability in the region. The two countries also express deep concern over the trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, which provides deep cooperation between its members in the areas of strategic stability, especially in the nuclear field.

Both Beijing and Moscow believe that such measures contradict the security and sustainable development goals of the Asia-Pacific region and it will increase the risk of an arms race in the region, which also poses a serious threat to nuclear non-proliferation. Opposition to President Xi and Putin’s Biden administration’s new Australia-British-US (AUKUS) initiative has led to violations of non-proliferation treaties. This opposition is also echoing in the West. On the other hand, Australia, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are committed to supporting Ukraine. Most Southeast Asian nations have supported NATO, Ukraine and the United States. The Philippines and Indonesia also voted in favor of condemning Russia but India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam did not.

Indo-Pacific countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have also not backed coalition efforts against Russia. Such neutrality and indifference is a growing problem in international affairs and undermines counter-terrorism efforts. There is a growing sense in the West that a new Cold War is going to be start but most of the world does not see things that way.

China is a bigger threat to Asian countries than Russia, but in the absence of a comprehensive US-led diplomatic campaign, Washington cannot support Taiwan in the Taiwan crisis. Many analysts believe that if China invades the Democratic Republic of Taiwan, many countries will remain on the coast. Such a campaign by Beijing to tarnish Taiwan’s international image could be dangerous as if a dispute and erupts, it may signal Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation that Taiwan is the only province China will bring back.China also has strong economic ties with every country. The United States will need to defend Taiwan, and it often uses its diplomatic and other tactics to keep it at bay. Many countries and US allies do not necessarily agree with all Chinese statements about Taiwan and justify their neutrality. US diplomacy should highlight that China is backtracking on its commitment to peace and endangering the stability of law and order in the region while it is committed to maintaining peace under the Taiwan Relations Act.

 Washington needs to make sure that it does not distance itself from countries or regions that oppose China and Russia. However, the United States has also given China and Russia the opportunity to wield considerable influence in key regions such as the Persian Gulf. The lack of a US trade vision for Southeast Asia and the lack of a security system are obstacles to form a bloc. But Washington only sees how quickly military aid can be delivered and how quickly the right weapons system can get into the right hands in a crisis. Washington does not need to provoke China, but the two states must make promises and work for peace. There are lessons to be learned from Ukraine’s failed deterrence efforts. It should be noted that the prevention of war in Ukraine has failed. The United States has no military ties with Ukraine, so it could not help Ukraine directly except through rhetoric. Although the United States has armed Ukraine with disproportionate weapons that could destroy Russia’s major weapons system but it has not been able to stop Putin from going to war. On the other hand, Taiwan is also under threat from China and a similar approach will not work to stop China because the United States is not militarily engaged with the island. The United States must build Taiwan’s military so that it can work together as an ally to counter the various threats of repression. But that requires careful coalition management, as Washington has been practicing with other potential coalition partners. China relies on global markets for everything from technology and energy to food and agriculture, major metals, minerals and capital. In fact, China’s dependency on the global economy did not stop it from trading with Russia. Washington will have to maintain strong ties with all major suppliers in China.

In short, President Xi is using the war in Russia and Ukraine to forge a “new era” that will either destroy or weaken the US alliance. Putin has taught the world that the aggressive statements and threats can wreak havoc. Washington must also review itsstrategyand highlight the growing threats posed by Beijing to peace and security in Asia in order to protect thousands innocent people from the effects of war. It will take time for these two countries to come down from the mountain of arrogance to stand side by side. Though it is difficult to do so but they have to doto protect Asia from war and its consequences.