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The Game Field of the USA-China Rivalry: Taiwan

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Recently, it is seen that there is a Taiwan-based tension due to China’s activities in the Asia-Pacific region. One of the parties of the conflict in the region is the United States of America (USA). The fact that China sees Taiwan as a part of its territory and this fact causes an increase in tension between the USA and China. Washington gives all sorts of support to Taiwan against Beijing, which is persistently increasing its military capacity to achieve its goals towards Taiwan.

In this context, Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) presents to your attention the opinions received from leading experts and academics in the field in order to asses the possible impacts of the ongoing US-China tension over Taiwan.

Dr. Emre OZAN (ANKASAM Turkish Foreign Policy Advisor)

Firstly, referring to the Asian policies of the USA, Dr. Instructor Member Emre Ozan said, that “Since the period of Former President Barack Obama, the USA has given priority to Asia in foreign policy. The intention to balance the rise of China is the most important reason for this effort. However, the Beijing administration has recently started to implement a more assertive foreign policy. Therefore, the US-China rivalry has created a process in which the rivalry between the great powers and the balance of power gain importance in the international system.

Stating that the US is trying to balance China and prevent it from turning into a dangerous enemy, even though it cannot prevent the rise of China, Ozan said, “China, on the other hand, sees the US rhetoric based on the claim of global leadership and military superiority as a threat. It is very unlikely that the rivalry between the two great powers will turn into a hot conflict. However, we see that the international system is evolving towards the ‘New Cold War’. In this context, the positions of other international actors also draws more attention. The USA wants to see its European allies on its side in this competition. Europe, on the other hand, does not consider China as a threat on its own. Europe is aware of the opportunities offered by cooperation with China within the scope of the Belt-Road Project.”

Emphasizing that Russia is another actor that affects the equation in the struggle for geopolitical supremacy, Ozan said, “Moscow has very close relations with Beijing. But these relationships are not entirely without problems. Russia historically does not consider itself an actor outside the Western World. In other words, Moscow is not a state willing to assume the leadership of the anti-US camp in the international system. If a status quo can be created between the West and Russia that is acceptable to both sides, Russia may turn into a balancing actor rather than a party in the US-China rivalry. As can be seen, the US-China rivalry has the potential to create new blocks in the international system. However, the arguments put forward on this subject do not go beyond speculation yet. Uncertainties continue. Taiwan Issue is one of the most important dimensions of the US-China rivalry. The close relations of the USA with Taiwan and its military activity in the South China Sea are disturbing China. Although a conflict is unlikely in the short term, military tensions in the region are likely to escalate as relations deteriorate.

Assoc. Prof. Fahri ERENEL (Retired General)

Retired Brigadier General Fahri Erenel, who stated that China increased the tension with the view of “one country, two systems”, said also that “China, the country which does not give up its ambitions on Taiwan, which it sees as its province, considers the Taiwan issue as its own internal issue. As a result of the pressures which has been given by China on Taiwan, the anti-Chinese party won the last election in Taiwan, which is recognized by around 15 countries around the world, with 57% of the votes. China, on the other hand, declared that “There is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is a part of China, it is China’s internal matter.” She declared that She did not recognize the election results and that this result was the work of dark forces.

Erenel said, “The fact that the US has removed the restrictions on its relations with Taiwan at the end of 2020 has led to a new tension in China-US relations. The USA has security agreements with many countries in the Pacific region. The USA is trying to prevent China’s access to the Pacific with the said agreements and thus trying to slow down the development of the country in question. In response, Beijing conducts military exercises, creates artificial islands, and deploys weapon systems on the islands where there are conflicts. As a matter of fact, the full control of Taiwan by China will create a significant weakness in the US strategy to contain China..

Erenel added, “Moreover, the concern that China’s economic dominance over Taiwan may bring full dependency and unification in all fields after a while worries the USA. If the aforementioned unification takes place, it will be possible for China to acces directly to the Pacific, and this will bring about a change in the balance of power.

Emphasizing that Taiwan has an important position in the “Indo-Pacific Initiative” newly formed by the USA, Erenel said that, “The USA is trying to keep Taiwan strong in every term, especially in military power. Taiwan is a red line for China. It will never allow a deviation  from this line. Depending on the attitude of the USA on this issue, it may even risk a war. In other words, Beijing will not let Taiwan in its backyard become a US satellite. Because China’s stepping back on Taiwan may deepen the problems it faces in other regions such as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (East Turkestan) and Tibet.

Finally, Erenel stated that, “China’s increasing air violations over Taiwan in recent days, its exercises and the use of warplanes as a simulation target by warplanes in these exercises should be seen as signs of Beijing’s determination. Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, is extremely vulnerable to China. China continues to hold the possibility of dominating Taiwan with its military capacity and is constantly increasing its capacity. This situation will continue to escalate tensions; however, it can be said that it will not turn into a comprehensive conflict at this stage.”

Asst. Prof. Cemre PEKCAN (Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University-International Relations)

In her assessment about the subject, Dr. Instructor Its member, Cemre Pekcan, stressed out that “The Chinese dream is kind of before China’s century of shame; in this context, it is defined as the purpose of returning to the eras when it was hegemon in the region. Taiwan occupies a very important place on the destination to China in order to achieve this goal. In this framework, Beijing’s union with Taiwan is perceived as a necessity for the realization of the aforementioned purpose. However, Beijing is the rising power of the international arena. Therefore, it has focused on its economic development in the current situation. Otherwise China can be effected negatively in case of using military power to achieve her goals about the region. Any intervention which can be conducted by China, may harm the country economically.

Emphasizing the severity of possible conflicts over Taiwan, Pekcan said, “Both Washington and Beijing will not be able to afford such a conflict in the near future, as the US intervention in Taiwan may cause a large-scale war. Taiwan-based steps taken by China can be considered  measuring the reaction of the USA by increasing the intimidation towards Taiwan.”

Umut ARIK (Retired Ambassador)

Retired Ambassador Umut Arık, who indicated that China will surpass the USA both militarily and technologically in the next 20-25 years, said, “In the forthcoming period, it is necessary to concentrate on the USA-China relations instead of the China-Taiwan relations. The USA’s support for Taiwan against China is as well as due to the two countries’ seeks for  taking a superior position at the international level. Therefore, Taiwan-China relations are probably as important as 1% of U.S.-China relations.”

Commenting on Taiwan through the power struggle in Asia-Pacific, Arık said, “The USA is gradually losing power in the Asia-Pacific region. It can also be said that Washington is in the same situation in the Atlantic region. Therefore, the situation is uneasy for the USA. Currently, Taiwan expects the United States to take various steps. However, it is not possible for Washington to support Taiwan as of the current situation.

Finally, Arık said, “There is a serious loss of power of the USA in the international arena. Taiwan is also one of the tools used to reverse this decline. But no success will be achieved. The US is not just only failed about Taiwan also It appears that US have failed in many respects. In other words, we are witnessing that Washington is in a collapse in foreign affaires. For the US, Taiwan is one of the last trump cards that  can be used by US in the Asia-Pacific. It is an opportunity to say, ‘I exist too!’ However, it is extremely difficult to say that this will be an approach that will bring a opportunity to obtain results.”

Mehmet Emre ÖZTÜRK (Journalist)

Journalist Mehmet Emre Öztürk stated that “the tensions in the Taiwan Strait were influenced by international developments” and said, “Therefore, while examining the issue, it should be known that it is not just an issue between China and Taiwan. And also issue should be considered as an problem that needs to be addressed from an international perspective. With the rise of China, there has been an anxious process in the international society. In this process, the USA, which wants to keep the rising of China under control, continues to make attempts to create tension over Taiwan with various strategies. However, the recent airspace violations, and the tensions which are created in the name of freedom of navigation have pushed China to increase her military presence in the region.

Öztürk said, “On the other hand, the US-backed separatist attitude of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan by not adopting the 1992 Consensus has led a more serious stance by China. China has repeatedly declared that it will not give up and make concessions on its red line, which is the “One China” principle. According to the resolution 2758 of the 26th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNSC) held in October 1971, member states must comply with the principle of “One China”. Briefly, China is trying to ensure its territorial integrity within the framework of international norms with the policy called the ‘One China’ principle.

Öztürk added that “The White Paper on Security, published by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China in 2019, declared that Beijing will never be the first country which will  be intended to attack and will take measures against the increasing US military presence in the region. Recently, China’s activity in Taiwan’s air defense area against air violations by US aircraft is an important issue that should be carefully assessed by the Taiwan administration. It can be predicted that the Tsai Ing-wen administration will be the losing part  in case of a possible conflict. Despite this, Taiwan’s position provides a suitable basis for US regional interests.”

Öztürk continued by stressing out that US diplomacy attaches great importance to ideology in international relations, and Öztürk said, “Ideology still deeply shapes Washington’s strategy against Beijing. Considering the US’s diplomatic perspective on China, it can be said that the risk of conflict over Taiwan in the region can be increased according to the dependency of US’s on her regional policies. Aggression is defined by the UN as ‘the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state’. The fact that Selling weapons to Taiwan agains the rising China, having ballistic missiles in Guam and seeks for “Asian NATO” within the framework of QUAD are reflection of the purposes to contain Beijing administration.  On the other hand, China does not ensure world about not using arms in order to persevere her territorial integrity. She even signals how far it can go by her right to take some measures about the integrity.

Özge ELETEK
Özge Eletek 1999 yılında İzmir’de doğdu. İlk ve orta öğretim hayatını İzmir’de tamamlayan Eletek, 2017 yılında Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nü kazandı. Çeşitli düşünce kuruluşlarında birçok konferans ve seminere katılan Eletek, Ankara Kriz ve Siyaset Araştırmaları Merkezi’ndeki stajını sürdürmektedir.