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This article was first published 2 years ago  » News » Why Taiwan is not Ukraine

Why Taiwan is not Ukraine

February 28, 2022 16:24 IST
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Brinkmanship in the Taiwan Strait will not only be a recipe for disaster to both China and Taiwan, but also to international peace and stability, warns Rup Narayan Das.

IMAGE: A demonstrator holds a placard during a rally against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Taipei, Taiwan, February 25, 2022. Photograph: Annabelle Chih/Reuters

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to speculation whether China will be tempted to do a Ukraine in Taiwan which it treats as a renegade province and vows to unite with the mainland.

The development in Ukraine in fact resonated at the recent Munich security conference in Germany where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remarked that 'If Ukraine is endangered, the shock will echo be heard in East Asia, will be heard in Taiwan. People would draw the conclusion that aggression pays and that might is right.'

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen also articulated that Taiwan would continue ensuring its security while keeping an eye on the situation in Ukraine.

She further said that all government agencies must be on alert to potential influence operations operated by overseas powers and their local partners that might attempt to use the Ukraine crisis to sway public opinion in Taiwan.

There are also views in Taiwanese media that China's 'united front' tactics follow essentially the same strategy adopted by Russia in Ukraine to infiltrate Taiwanese polity, society and economy to create a wedge, and fissures, in Taiwan.


The US military restraint in Ukraine has raised a question mark with regard to its willingness and readiness to come to the defence of its close allies like Taiwan particularly after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Be that as it may, it augurs well that after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, diplomacy is given a chance to restore order in the ravaged country.

In hindsight, it can be said that had the US military intervened in Ukraine, the situation there would have further deteriorated driving the world almost to the brink of a world crisis of alarming proportions.

But comparing the commitment or lack of it of the international community -- particularly the West and the USA in particular -- to the territorial integrity and national security of Ukraine and Taiwan is like comparing an apple with an orange.

Taiwan's strategic maritime location and its seamless connect with the Indo-Pacific makes Taiwan an important stake holder of peace and stability in the region.

It is a bulwark against China's expansionism and in ensuring freedom of navigation and sea lines of communication although the claims of China and Taiwan with regard to the South China Sea overlap with each other.

Taiwan connects the East Asian waterways and also the Chinese continental waterways linking the South China Sea with the East China Sea. These maritime domains are one of the global commons.

All the surrounding powers such as the US, Russia, China, Japan etc, have interests and stakes in these sea lines of communications.

As such, Taiwan is an important stake holder in facilitating peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and upholding freedom of navigation.

None of these countries would like to be dominated by any one power, let alone China.

It is worth a while to put in perspective how the USA has stepped in to come to Taiwan's defence and its allies.

The USA, which has been historically the vanguard of Taiwan's identity and independence, of late has been recalibrating its strategic ambiguity couched in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 to strategic clarity.

The Taiwan Relations Act and the 'six assurances' continue to be anchors of a 'one China' policy adopted by the USA since it established diplomatic relation with China in 1979.

Subsequent years have witnessed further strengthening of relations between the USA and Taiwan adding meat to the Taiwan Relations Act.

In 2012, the Taiwan became the only nation included in the USA Visa Waiver Program that does not maintain diplomatic relations with the United States.

In 2018, the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act reiterated the US commitment to Taiwan and to counter efforts to change the status quo and support the peaceful resolution acceptable to both sides.

It also envisaged that the American president should conduct regular transfer of defence articles to Taiwan that are tailored to meet the existing and likely future threats from China including supporting efforts of Taiwan to develop and integrate asymmetric capabilities as appropriate.

It further provides that the US president should encourage the travel of high level US officials to Taiwan.

The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act, 2019 passed by the US Congress during President Donald J Trump's term, is aimed at supporting Taiwan's participation as an observer in international organisations and preventing poaching by China to wean away Taiwan's diplomatic allies.

Brinkmanship in the Taiwan Strait will not only be a recipe for disaster to both China and Taiwan, but also to international peace and stability.

Any threat to Taiwan from China will be inimical to the interests of China itself considering the seamless connect between the mainland and Taiwan.

Any disruption of the supply chain including that of the semiconductor industry of which Taiwan is the lead producer will be disastrous.

Thus, the world at large has a stake and responsibility in the peace and stability and security of Taiwan.

China's abstention from voting on Friday's United Nations resolution on Ukraine, along with India and the UAE, are suggestive of China's restraint and also China's thinking on Taiwan.

There is, however, considerable difference in the thrust and emphasis between India's and Chinese approaches to the UNSC resolution in respect to Ukraine.

Dr Rup Narayan Das, a China scholar, is currently a senior fellow at the Indian Council of Social Science Research at the Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi. The views expressed in this column are personal.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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