Conflict between US & China: Taiwan Chapter -Md Akij Mahmud


Taiwan is one of the four countries considered as the ‘Asian Tiger’ in terms of rapid economic growth.  The once undeveloped, unplanned island nation prospered largely at the hands of conquering powers.  Although the victorious Japanese colonialists divided Taiwan’s money, the country prospered.  In order to embezzle huge sums of money in a short period of time, the Japanese built various establishments along with the development of production and communication trade.  But with the defeat of Japan in World War II, Taiwan was liberated from nearly five decades of rule.  The Taiwanese were liberated from Japanese aggression but were not recognized as independent states.  When the question of independence comes up, they have to face the most provocative statements from China.  For the past five decades, China has been at war situation with Taiwan over its unification.  The island nation has turned west to escape China’s wrath.  But it is now questionable to what extent Western nations will be able to keep Taiwan’s alliance promises.

To understand the modern Taiwan crisis, we must return to the Sino-Chinese civil war that began in the 1930s.  The nearly two-decade-long civil war ended with the transfer of power to the Chinese communists.  A large number of leaders and activists of the defeated Chinese Nationalist Party and its supporters were deported to Taiwan.  Chiang Kai-shek, the top leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party, seized control of Taiwan’s weak leadership and established himself as its ruler.  In modern Taiwan, therefore, the presence of local Taiwanese people as well as ordinary Chinese is noticeable.  The first challenge of the exiled Chien Kai-shek was to economically revive war-torn Taiwan, and to make Taiwan a prosperous country by ensuring the livelihood of its indigenous followers.  It should be noted that Taiwan was one of the targets of the US alliance in World War II due to its occupation of Japan.  The island became a devastated and fragile economy due to the constant bombardment by the US invasion.  When Chian Kai-shek became the ruler of Taiwan, it was natural that he would have to face the wrath of the Chinese communists because Mao Zedong gave birth to a lot of ruthless revenge after coming to power in China.  He sought to reunite isolated Taiwan with China.  Realizing this, Chian Kai-shek started Western politics.  At a time when Mao Zedong was pursuing a series of retaliatory actions to rebuild an economically broken China, the Kai-shek leadership in Taiwan began to take timely steps to enrich it.

In the post-World War II US-Soviet Cold War, Taiwan reached an advantageous position in global politics. There is a possibility of the spread of communist ideology in the post-war underdeveloped countries. To counter the communist ideology, the western countries started investing in the underdeveloped war-torn countries. As a result, Chien Kai-shek continued to receive various grants and assistance from the West to carry out the economic revolution in Taiwan. The benefits of this international political equation have been well-received by Kai Sheikh’s successors. In this way, Taiwan also stood in a strong economic structure.

While the Chinese leadership has spoken of reunification, Taiwan has not followed suit. China claims that Taiwan is part of the “One China” policy and that Taiwan is an isolated island of China. On the other hand, the island nation is trying to establish itself as an independent and sovereign country. They are also fighting in the international arena for recognition as an independent country without uniting with China. Beijing has sternly warned that Taiwan’s bid for independence will not be successful. In this case, the communist government of China has also warned western countries as to not snooping about Taiwan’s issue. As a result, China’s threat to unify Taiwan is making the whole world excited.

The main reason for the ongoing war situation with Taiwan is the country’s geographical location.  As important as Taiwan’s geographical location was in the US-Soviet Cold War, it is still considered America’s trump card in countering Chinese aggression in East Asia.  Because among the communist countries in the region, Taiwan’s democratic structure can uphold Western interests.  The country has been undergoing a democratic transition since 1996.  Modern Taiwan is also an 85 billion USD trade partner of the United States.  The importance of Taiwan for semiconductors is irresistible in the technology world.  Taiwan is a reliable source of American technology.  Western technology-rich countries are the main buyers of chipsets made in Taiwan.  Outside of trade and strategic relations, Taiwan has been gaining the support of the West for the Chinese Chian Kai-shek’s conversion to Christianity and for his dynasty’s contribution to the spread of Christianity in China and Taiwan.

 But such a shrug of the Taiwan-centric Western power is a source of embarrassment for China.  Not only that but also China’s growing efforts to exert influence in East Asia are likely to be thwarted by the US presence in Taiwan.  Now the question is, why has China, for decades, been confined to threats on the Taiwan issue?  Why can’t they invade Taiwan and implement ‘One China’?

Although Beijing has spoken of peaceful integration, Taiwan has repeatedly denied it.  Moreover, a major obstacle to China’s dream of world victory, the Taiwanese leadership, has allowed the United States to enter its territory.  To challenge China, the Taiwan is building a well-developed defense system with the help of training and equipment of United States.  Beijing alleges the United States is constantly crossing China’s red line.  However, the attitude of the US administration has made it clear that the US is reluctant to give concessions to China easily on the Taiwan issue because if it fails to stop China on the Taiwan issue, America’s interests will be jeopardized by many tested allies in East Asia.

For now, however, international experts see China’s aggressive stance as part of Xi Jinping’s strategy in national politics because the top council of his party will be held this year.  He has repeatedly raised the issue of Taiwan in order to lead some of his worthy followers.  Moreover, handling one undeclared US embargo after another and occupying any territory at this moment in time would also call into question China’s morality internationally.  As a result, China is well aware of the adverse effects that the West will have on the country.  That’s why China will wait a little longer without invading Taiwan, experts say.

Taiwan’s importance in the technology industry and the country’s geographical location are tempting China to become the world’s irresistible economic power.  It goes without saying that in the future China will try to integrate Taiwan with itself at any cost.  It remains to be seen how much the United States and its Western allies will be able to raise China’s confidence in Taiwan, which has become a hotbed for China.  However, we have already seen the United States’ commitment to the Vietnam, Kuwait, and Afghanistan issues being substantially questioned. Will the US pursue that path o Taiwan’s liberation, or will it step down in international politics by recognizing China’s unification?

Md Akij Mahmud, Department of History, University of Chittagong