The New Frontier of Diplomacy

The New Frontier of Diplomacy

✍️ Alan Joji & Sean Sougaijam

Published: 2023-02-15

Assessing the Future of China-Taiwan Relations


Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an island in far east Asia is concerned that it would suffer the same fate. Taiwan, like Ukraine, is a de facto sovereign state surrounded by a larger, more powerful, and culturally similar country that dominated them previously. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) regards Taiwan as part of its territory, whereas the Republic of China (Taiwan) regards itself as China’s sole government and claims control over the mainland.

For centuries, the island of Taiwan was ruled by the Qing dynasty from Beijing and the population became ethnically Han Chinese then the island was conquered by the Japanese in 1895 but was returned by the end of World War 2. Following that, China was engulfed in the last stages of a decades-long civil war between Mao Zedong’s communists and Chiang Kai-nationalists. The Communists emerged victorious in the mainland and established the PRC in 1949 while the nationalists (ROC) fled to Taiwan. Since then, no peace deal has been signed, hence the war technically continues. Taiwan is regarded by the PRC as a renegade province in a state of rebellion. If diplomatic efforts fail, Beijing has reserved the right to use force to reunify China. The current Chinese president has stated unequivocally that the intention to reunify has been strengthened.

Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, and only 15 nations recognize its sovereignty. This is primarily because the PRC regards it as a renegade province of its own and refuses to establish diplomatic relations with any country that holds a different view. Because China is the world’s second largest economy, most of the world supports Beijing and does not recognize Taiwan as an independent state. However, the United States is Taiwan’s most important unofficial ally. The United States has sold Taiwan weaponry and military hardware worth billions of dollars. The US navy patrols the Taiwan Strait on a regular basis, and US President Joe Biden has stated that the US would defend Taiwan if the PRC ever invaded, implying that the involvement of the US and its allies is unavoidable, and things will escalate quickly if China ever considers a forceful way of obtaining Taiwan.


But why is China so desperate to get control of Taiwan? China has a coastline that stretches for 14500 kilometers. Many of the world’s largest port cities are located on the coast and connect China’s export-driven economy to the global market.

However, several large and tiny islands, such as the Japanese Archipelago, the smaller Ryukyu islands, Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo, and Sumatra, obstruct access to the major ocean. These islands control all the choke points in the area, which is bad news for China because all these countries are US allies, which means they may block these choke points at any time to keep China in check and destabilize their economy. If China seizes control of Taiwan, it will be much easier for China to move its fleet and military vessels into the Pacific Ocean, posing a huge threat to the US and its allies.

Another reason that the island of Taiwan is valuable is that they dominate the entire advanced semiconductor and chip industry which powers every advanced civilian and military device in the world. A single company, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, manufactures 92% of all chips manufactured in the globe on this island (TSMC). It is crucial to both Beijing and Washington, as Taiwanese chip dependency has caused a major concern, particularly in the United States. Taiwan produces the majority of modern military equipment fueled by semiconductors. If China takes over Taiwan, the United States may be cut off from the supply of these high-tech semiconductors, giving China a technological and military advantage. China could suffer significant losses if it invades Taiwan, as Taiwan is the major exporter of these chips to China, and an invasion could result in the manufacturing facilities being caught in the crossfire, destroying the supply chain. Another factor is that China’s population is quickly ageing, and the number of foreign immigrant workers migrating to China is far fewer than in the United States. That means China’s economy and power are about to peak, making it even more frantic to achieve its decades-long objective of gaining control of Taiwan.

Former Leaders:


Current Leaders:


Current Situation


In recent months, the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan has reported that the number of companies in Taiwan experiencing business disruptions due to the escalating tensions between Taipei and Beijing has almost doubled. This comes as China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has launched three high- intensity military exercises in the region, widely viewed as cross-strait combat drills. This follows the first large-scale military exercises around the island this year, as China sent 28 warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

China has long been determined to “reunify” the democratic island with the communist mainland, using force if necessary. Considering this, images of Chinese spy balloons hovering over Taiwan in recent months serve as a clear sign of the increasing tensions between the two nations. As public opinion in Taiwan continues to shift away from China’s Communist Party (CCP), President Xi Jinping recognizes that peaceful reunification with Taiwan is becoming less and less likely.

To make a name for himself, Xi now needs to introduce a new doctrine on Taiwan reunification and apply pressure on Taiwan based on this new paradigm. There are three potential scenarios: a blockade of the island, the occupation of outlying islands, and an amphibious/air invasion. In the first scenario, the PLA Navy would encircle the main island of Taiwan and enforce a customs union or tariff regime to pressure Taipei to negotiate reunification. In the second scenario, the PLA would rapidly occupy a string of outlying islands, including Kinmen, Penghu, and the Matsu Islands. The third scenario would involve Chinese aerial bombardments that would destroy large parts of the Taiwanese army and navy, along with critical national infrastructure followed by a large-scale invasion. While these scenarios are possible, the blockade scenario is considered unlikely as it may backfire, potentially severely damaging the Chinese economy without delivering a victory.


In case of a military confrontation, China’s armed forces would significantly dwarf those of Taiwan. A Chinese takeover in Taiwan would give Beijing control over one of the world’s most important industries, and the outcome of the ongoing tensions between the two nations will have significant global implications.

Taiwan’s legal status stays unclear, despite having all the characteristics of an independent state and a political system that is distinct from China. Taiwan has rejected China’s “one country, two systems” solution, and Beijing considers the Taipei government illegitimate. Despite this, there have been limited talks between unofficial representatives from the two nations. In 2005, China passed an anti- secession law, stating its right to use “non-peaceful means” against Taiwan if it tries to “secede” from China.


It is difficult to predict the outcome of such a dispute. What is certain is that, as the second cold war continues, tensions in Taiwan may serve as a watershed moment in history.


Taiwan is a de facto independent state by a larger, more powerful, and culturally similar country which ruled them in the past. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) considers Taiwan a renegade province under a state of rebellion. If diplomatic negotiations do not work out, then Beijing has reserved a right to use forceful means to reunify China. Taiwan dominates the entire advanced semiconductor and chip industry which powers every advanced civilian and military device in the world.