What’s going on between China's mainland and Taiwan, and why the U.S. would like to support Taiwan?

On 23rd May, at a press conference in Japan, Joe Biden, the president of the USA, said that the U.S. would intervene militarily if China (China's mainland) invaded Taiwan. China then responded immediately “This is purely China’s internal affair, which won’t stand for any foreign interference. There is no room for compromise or concession for the sovereignty and territorial integrity.” In the following paragraph, I will briefly explain the history of Taiwan. Then, I will present the reasons behind the internal conflict between China's mainland and Taiwan. And what are the similarities and differences between Ukraine and Russia? Moreover, there will be a short discussion about why some countries would intervene in these internal conflicts. Finally, there will be a summary of this article.

A Brief History of Taiwan

Taiwan was connected to China's mainland during the Paleolithic area, which is 450,000 years ago, it is located between southern Japan and Southeast Asia, and it is a good place for trading. Therefore, Taiwan played an important role in the economy. However, by the middle of the 17th century (around 1650), the Dutch and the Spanish came to Taiwan and made it their colony. Then, Zheng Cheng-gong drive out the Dutch from Taiwan and establish authority over the island in 1662. While in 1683, the Qing dynasty was forced to take control of Taiwan’s western and northern coastal areas. However, following defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), the Qing government signs the ‘Treaty of Shimonoseki’. So, Japan ruled the island until 1945. Then, Japan and the Republic of China (ROC) both signed the treaty of Peace. It then went to the end of this war and Taiwan rejoined the ROC.

The Reason Behind the Internal Conflict Between China Mainland and Taiwan

But as we could see, there is still a serious conflict between Taiwan and China's mainland. What are some reasons behind this?


History Reasons:

  • Taiwan has belonged to Japan for nearly 50 years. Many residents are still not familiar with Chinese culture and they are hard to accept new cultures.


Parties:

  • Relations between mainland China and Taiwan began to improve in the 1980s. Mainland China introduced the “one country, two systems” approach, saying that Taiwan would be granted a high degree of autonomy if it accepted cross-strait reunification.


  • However, the leaders in Taiwan adhere to a different party from the mainland. In 2000, Chen Shui-bian who was elected as the president of the Taiwan region, he is a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and was an open supporter of “Taiwan independence”. He served as president continuously until 2008. In 2016, Taiwan’s current president Tsai lng-wen was elected to power. She leads the DPP which also supports the formal independence of Taiwan. The relationship became tense after Tsai lng-wen came to power.


Foreign Intervention

One of the major external power is the USA. Actually, in 1979, the USA formally severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan. While in 2016, after Donald Trump became the president, Tsai Ing-wen spoke to him on the phone. Although there are still no formal diplomatic relations, the US has an agreement to provide defensive weapons to Taiwan and has also stressed that any form of attack by China is a cause for ‘intense concern’. The current president of the USA, Biden, also supports Taiwan and even provides military power to them.


What are The Similarities and Differences Between Ukraine and Russia?

Many people see the conflict between Taiwan and China's mainland as parallel to Ukraine and Russia. Because they both lived in conflict with a more powerful and authoritarian neighbour. However, it is also necessary to point out the major difference which is the USA is directly involved in this conflict. Taiwan is not at war at the moment, but when it happens, it could pit the two largest militaries in the world against one another.


Why does the USA Intervene in These Internal Conflicts?

First, the U.S. and Taiwan share similar values and deep commercial and economic links. Taiwan plays a significant role in advancing democratic values, trade, health, semiconductors, investment screening, and science and technology in the U.S. U.S. trade with Taiwan is eighth largest, while Taiwan trades with the United States second largest. Approximately 188,000 American jobs were supported by U.S. exports to Taiwan in 2019, according to statistics. In 2020, Taiwan's cumulative investment in the United States was nearly $137 billion. Manufacturing, wholesale trade, and depository institutions account for most of Taiwan's direct investments in the United States. A total of 21,000 jobs are directly supported by these investments, and U.S. exports total $1.5 billion.


Moreover, travel from Taiwan to the United States for both business and pleasure has increased by 70 percent since Taiwan joined the U.S. Visa Waiver Program in November 2012. During the three decades leading up to the pandemic, Taiwan was the seventh-largest source of international students in the United States, sending more than 20,000 students.


We can see that China is determined to deal with this issue, but there are many factors that make this conflict difficult to resolve.

 

References/Wider reading

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-taiwan-relations-tensions-explained-11653322751

[2] https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-says-u-s-would-intervene-militarily-if-china-invaded-taiwan-11653286228

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/23/us-would-defend-taiwan-if-attacked-by-china-says-joe-biden?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

[4] https://www.taiwan.gov.tw/content_3.php

[5] https://www.bbc.com/zhongwen/simp/chinese-news-56760009

[6] https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-taiwan/


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