Western-Chinese Relations in the Context of Taiwan Visits

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The island of Taiwan has become a highly problematic area for Beijing following the end of the Chinese Civil War and the refuge of former Republic of China President Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan. It was not until 1971 that China was recognized by the international community and was denied a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

In the following period, China made breakthroughs in economic, political, and military fields. This has caused concern among Western states, particularly the United States (US). In 2018, the US launched a trade war against China, plunging Western-Chinese relations into a tense atmosphere.

In August 2022, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited the island of Taiwan. The visit of a high-ranking official to the island was seen as a highly hostile act by Beijing and China conducted military exercises around Taiwan, encircling the island. These exercises have increased tensions in the region.

At the G20 Heads of State Summit on November 15-16, 2022, there were attempts to soften the strained relations between the West and China. However, in the face of these attempts, China warned that the US should support its commitment to the “One China Principle” with concrete steps through an article published in the state media China Daily[1] on November 15, 2022.

Beijing continued to act cautiously but nonetheless saw that there was no change in the West’s policy. Both the statements made after the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) between the US and Australia and the visits to Taiwan by parliamentarians from various states have shown that tensions between the parties remain hot.

The Taiwan Question is a tool of Western pressure on China, and Western states have not hesitated to use it directly or indirectly. Because it is obvious that Taiwan is an issue that has been waiting for a solution for a long time, but no progress can be made in practice, except for a few steps. In this context, the recent visits to Taiwan by Western states seeking to exert pressure on China are of interest.

First, a delegation of British MPs visited the island on November 29, 2022. The delegation held meetings with senior officials, including Foreign Minister of Taiwan Joseph Wu.[2] It is also noteworthy that earlier in the week of the visit, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that the “golden age” of relations between Beijing and London had come to an end. Sunak also warned against being too optimistic about China and said that China’s global importance cannot be ignored.[3]

Beijing responded to the visit through the British Embassy. In a statement, the embassy said that the visit was a flagrant violation of the “One-China Principle” and that any action to undermine China’s interests would be met with a strong response.[4]

Another meeting that provoked a reaction from China and strained relations was the visit of Australian MPs to Taiwan. On December 4, 2022, a delegation of MPs, including former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Barnaby Joyce, visited the island. As news of the visit spread, Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese stated that the delegation had nothing to do with the government and that there had been parliamentary visits to Taiwan before.[5] But these explanations were not enough to satisfy Beijing.

Indeed, an article published in the Global Times, a Chinese state-owned media outlet, argued that Albanese could not escape his responsibilities by saying that the delegation had nothing to do with the government.[6] The same article said that even if Albanese as Prime Minister could not block the delegation, as Prime Minister, he should make it clear that the government was against the visit.

Following these visits, the AUSMIN talks took place in Washington on December 7, 2022, as another factor affecting China-West relations. During the talks, the US and Australia agreed to increase military cooperation with Japan, joint exercises, and the US presence in Australia to counter growing Chinese influence in the Pacific.[7]

An article published in the Global Times on December 7, 2022, against the decisions taken in the talks suggested that Australia should not give up its own interests and autonomy for the sake of US expectations.[8] The fact that three important actors in the region have adopted a common stance against China means that they want to increase the pressure on China.

Finally, on December 11, 2022, Koichi Hagiuda, a senior official of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, visited Taiwan. During the visit, Hagiuda said that in addition to increasing China’s military expenditures, North Korea’s missile tests were also effective in increasing Japan’s defence budget.[9] China responded to this visit through its Embassy in Tokyo. In a statement on December 12, 2022, the Embassy Spokesperson stated that this violated the “One-China Principle”, the four political documents between China and Japan, and Japan’s commitments to the Taiwan Issue.[10]

As a result, the expected positive atmosphere in West-China relations after the G20 Summit did not emerge. On the contrary, visits to Taiwan by Western states and their allies have led to further escalation of tensions. In the face of these Western moves, China is likely to take much more assertive steps.

[1] Shen Dingli, “US’ Sincerity to Its Commitments Vital to Sino-US Ties”, China Daily,, (Date of Accession: 15.11.2022).

[2] “U.K. Parliamentary Delegation Arrives in Taiwan for Five-Day Visit”, Focus Taiwan,, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2022).

[3] “Rishi Sunak Says “Golden Era” of UK-China Ties Over”, NDTV,, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2022).

[4] “China Condemns British Lawmakers’ Taiwan Visit”, BBC,, (Date of Accession: 01.12.2022).

[5] “Government and Opposition MPs to Visit Taiwan as Part of Australian Parliamentary Delegation”, ABC News,, (Date of Accession: 03.12.2022).

[6] “Albanese Criticized for Insincerity on Improving Ties with Beijing Amid His Attempts to Distance Himself from Taiwan-Visiting Delegation”, Global Times,, (Date of Accession: 04.12.2022).

[7]Phil Mercer, “Australia, US to Reinforce Defense Ties With Japan”, VOA News,, (Date of Accession: 07.12.2022).

[8] Wang Qi, “Australia Warned not to Become US’ ‘Spearhead’, as ‘2+2’ Meeting Goes Beyond Hyping ‘China Threats’”, Global Times,, (Date of Accession: 07.12.2022).

[9] “Japan MP in Taiwan Says ‘China threat’ Needs More Military Spending”, Pars Today,’_needs_more_military_spending, (Date of Accession:11.12.2022).

[10] Leng Shumei, “China Denounces Senior Japanese Official’s Taiwan Visit; ‘Irrational Move to undermine Stability in Straits’”, Global Times,, (Date of Accession: 12.12.2022).

Elcan TOKMAK, 2022 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü'nden mezun olmuştur. Eylül-Aralık 2022 tarihleri arasında ANKASAM bünyesinde Kariyer Staj Programı'nı tamamlayan Tokmak, Temmuz 2023 tarihinden itibaren ANKASAM Asya-Pasifik Araştırma Asistanı olarak çalışmalarını sürdürmektedir. Şu anda Hacettepe Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü'nde Yüksek Lisans eğitimine devam eden Tokmak'ın ilgi alanları Çin-Japonya-Kore ilişkileri ve Çin Dış Politikası'dır. Tokmak; profesyonel düzeyde İngilizce, orta derecede Çince ve başlangıç düzeyinde Korece bilmektedir.