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Taiwan under pressure from Chinese tactics

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The clock is ticking for Taiwan. After defying the odds for over 70 years, the island democracy faces its greatest challenge yet from an increasingly assertive China bent on absorption into its communist system. 

Ever since Chiang Kai-shek’s forces dramatically escaped to Taiwan in 1949, the self-ruled island has resisted all of Beijing’s pressure and intimidation. But China has run out of patience. Under Xi Jinping, it has escalated threats to force Taiwan under its control once and for all. 

The Taiwan Strait has become a powder keg that could blow at any moment. 

As Beijing intensifies military drills and isolation efforts against the defiant island, the world watches with bated breath. 

The fate of Taiwan and the future of US-China relations hang in the balance. The crisis is urgent and escalating. War looms imminent unless cooler heads prevail now over the Taiwan Strait.

For years China and Taiwan conflict has loomed over the world for years, but now, dangerous escalations threaten to change the future of the continent. 

Taiwan’s top security official told parliament on Monday that China runs “joint combat readiness patrols” near the democratic island every 7-10 days on average, saying Chinese forces were trying to “normalize” drills near Taiwan.

China has in recent years stepped up military activities near Taiwan, with almost daily incursions into the island’s air defense identification zones and regular “combat readiness patrols” that included drills by its air and naval forces.

For over 70 years, China has sought to bring the island of Taiwan under its control and reunify it with the mainland. This goal has driven much of Chinese policy toward Taiwan, leading to rising tensions and military pressure.

The split between China and Taiwan dates back to 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan after losing the civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communist army. The Nationalists established their own government in Taipei, while the Communists founded the People’s Republic of China in Beijing. Both sides claimed to represent the legitimate government of all China.

Beijing has never recognized Taiwan’s sovereignty or its right to exist as an independent nation. Chinese leaders insist that Taiwan is a breakaway province that must eventually return to the mainland. Reunification remains a core interest and policy objective for the ruling Communist Party.

Over the decades, China has used a combination of military intimidation, diplomatic isolation and economic engagement to increase pressure on Taiwan. This approach is aimed at deterring the island from formally declaring independence, while also trying to build economic and social ties.

According to Taiwan’s top security official, China has dramatically increased its military activities directed at Taiwan in recent years. The director-general of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau told parliament that China now conducts “joint combat readiness patrols” near Taiwan every 7-10 days on average.

These patrols involve around 10 warplanes and 3-4 naval ships conducting drills near Taiwan’s airspace and waters. The official said China is trying to “normalize” these threatening military operations and make them a regular occurrence applying constant pressure on Taiwan.

Apart from the frequent patrols, China has violated Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on an almost daily basis. This zone extends beyond Taiwan’s territorial airspace and is meant to give the island more time to respond to potential aerial incursions. Chinese military planes often breach the zone as part of Beijing’s efforts to test Taiwan’s defenses.

Beyond the stepped-up military activities, China engages in other forms of coercion against Taiwan. Economic punishments are used to undermine Taiwan’s markets and global trade relations. China has also ramped up misinformation campaigns and cyberattacks aimed at undermining Taiwan’s society and government institutions.

But China’s aggression and coercion aren’t limited to Taiwan – Beijing is flexing its muscles across the South China Sea as well. 

The South China sea is potentially a mega prize for countries without any substantial energy resources. China has claimed a huge part of the sea for itself. 

China’s aggressive claims over disputed territory in the South China Sea are driven in part by the region’s immense resource potential. In a significant development, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation has found a substantial reserve of oil in the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea. The oil field, estimated at 100 million tonnes, is situated in the Pearl River Basin near Guangdong Province, as revealed in a recent press release by the state-owned CNOOC. 

This discovery holds immense strategic importance for China, which is the world’s largest net importer and second-largest consumer of oil. As China aims to enhance its energy independence and assert its influence in the region, the find in the Kaiping South oilfield signifies a substantial step forward.

The oil found in the Kaiping South oilfield is classified as light crude, a highly desirable variant that yields a greater proportion of gasoline and diesel upon refinement.

The newly established well is projected to yield a remarkable daily output of 7,680 barrels of light crude oil alongside 520,000 cubic feet of natural gas, indicating significant potential for resource exploitation.

Such discovery underlines the importance of the South China sea in the conflict between China and Taiwan. In the Taiwan strait, there may be untapped oil fields worth billions, and China won’t let an independent Taiwan to tap all those potential fields without some sort of concessions. 

Taiwan’s security officials say Beijing is pursuing a “multi-front” pressure campaign, leveraging all elements of its power against the island. The goal is to intimidate and demoralize Taiwan over the long-term, while deterring other countries from supporting it.

Despite the provocations, Taiwan insists that the risk of an imminent, full-scale Chinese invasion remains low for now. The patrols and exercises are better understood as psychological warfare, wearing down Taiwan’s population over time. Officials caution, however, that the threat of aggression continues to rise in the long-term.

Taiwan believes China will stick to its carrot and stick strategy in the coming months. This involves offering some economic incentives and benefits to Taiwanese citizens who favor unification with China. At the same time, Beijing will keep up its military intimidation and coercion to increase anxiety among the population.

The goal is to pressure Taiwan into accepting eventual reunification. But Taiwan remains committed to maintaining its de facto independence and resisting Chinese encroachment.

Backed by the United States and other Western democracies, Taiwan continues to strengthen its defenses and military capabilities. Taipei is also building international support to preserve its autonomous status in the face of Chinese aggression.

Taiwan argues that it already functions as a sovereign nation, with its own elected government, military, currency and foreign relations. Surveys show that less than 10% of Taiwanese citizens support unification with China.

Beijing’s crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong has further alienated many Taiwanese from accepting Chinese rule. The younger generations especially strongly support preserving Taiwan’s freedoms and democratic system.

As a result, despite China’s pressure over the past seven decades, reunification remains a distant prospect. Taiwan’s vibrant democracy and sense of distinct national identity continue to serve as strong buffers against integration with authoritarian China.

Short of a full-scale invasion and military conquest, which could spark a major conflict with the United States, China lacks viable options for compelling Taiwan’s obedience. Patient diplomacy and economic engagement remain its best hope for a consensual reunification.

But with Xi Jinping adopting an increasingly assertive foreign policy, the danger of miscalculation remains acute. The Taiwan Strait remains one of the most sensitive flashpoints in the Asia-Pacific. Effective deterrence by Taiwan and its allies will be essential to prevent China from opting for aggression out of frustration with the lack of progress on reunification.

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