The remarkably aggressive position that Xi has taken over Taiwan is a visible sign of China’s unsteady ideological stance and Xi Jinping’s insecurities in his struggle for power and a legacy, trying to play up a conflict that stopped meaning anything the moment the people of Taiwan started calling themselves “Taiwanese” and getting annoyed at their passport still reading “Republic of China”.
As China sets a softer tone ahead of the Taiwanese general elections in January (link) I couldn’t help but think back to last January’s episode, in which Xi Jinping talked about Taiwan making “no promise to abandon the use of force” (link).
At the time, I had been in Taiwan for only a couple of months, on my first exploratory visit. I remember finding it a grotesque empty threat. Decades past the conflict that brought the CCP to power and the scission of the The Republic of China, what good would the forced annexation of Taiwan bring to mighty China?
One could make the argument that Taiwan holds an interesting geostrategic location in the contended South China Sea. But considering how China’s advance into this position would come as a threat to US interests in the region and surrounding nations (link) as well as Taiwan itself, and the US’s deliberately ambiguous stance in their diplomatic and military relationships with Taiwan (link), the massive military endeavor required to make such a move could spark a war that nobody is ready to fight.
On this note, the US Congress has passed the House Bill 2500 (link), detailing the will to continue upholding the “Six Assurances”, “strengthen defense and security cooperation with Taiwan” as well as expressing interest in collaboration with Taiwan on matters of cybersecurity While this hasn’t been turned into law yet, it shows promise to what a future American position on their affairs with Taiwan may look like.
Add this to the already tense trade relationships between the two superpowers and you reach a status quo that’s unlikely will be broken soon.
Speaking of trade, I feel like the idea of China pushing into Taiwan for economic reasons may also be unfounded.
Taiwan’s territory, aside from its beauty, is of little value when it comes to natural resources. What little coal, oil, or natural gas there isn’t readily available, and would be of negligible consequence in the economy of a country with the large amount of land and resources China has.
Aside from energy sources, China is also estimated to already hold around 36% of the World’s reserves of rare earth elements (link), which are key to the production of high-tech electronics, among other things.
Taiwan’s richest, most influential industries are electronics, semiconductors, and IT, with Taiwanese Foxconn being the 23rd largest company (link) in the world (4th in the tech behind Apple, Samsung and Amazon), manufacturing products such as iPhones, iPods, Nintendo and Sony consoles, Xiaomi products, in their factories in… Shenzhen, China.
Multinational companies operate according to the laws of the market and follow the money. When it comes to giant manufacturers like Foxconn, or smaller brands looking for cheaper workforces or a massive-but-still-growing market, politics take second place behind revenue.
Larger operations especially cannot afford to stand on shaky grounds that could see their network and revenue compromised by trade embargoes or controversies on an international scale.
And indeed, all of Taiwan’s strongest manufacturers have massive interests in China already, as they should. What then would be the point of China’s takeover, which is easy to imagine as disruptive to business operations, with the notoriously tight grip the CCP holds around their major players.
And that is not mentioning the detrimental effect such a move would have on the stock market, seeing that was precisely what happened when the Hong Kong protests turned violent (link), this past August, (which attracted some jackal, Chinese investors (link)).
Ultimately, I’m lead to believe there may be little practical reasoning behind the current Chinese stance on Taiwan.
The remarkably aggressive position that Xi has taken over Taiwan is a visible sign of China’s unsteady ideological stance and Xi Jinping’s insecurities (link) in his struggle for power and a legacy, trying to play up a conflict that stopped meaning anything the moment the people of Taiwan started calling themselves “Taiwanese” and getting annoyed at their passport still reading “Republic of China”.
Author / Gabriel De Curtis