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Recently Taiwan reported a large scale incursion in its air defence zone by Nuclear-capable Chinese bombers and fighter jets. In response, the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier strike group in the South China Sea. The US claims this as an effort to support freedom of navigation in the region.
The China-Taiwan conflict has larger regional implications. At its worst, this issue has a potential of igniting a war between the US and China. This conflict will also have implications for India.
What is the core conflict between China and Taiwan?
In China, after World War II, two political parties were formed
- The Kuomintang (KMT) or the Republic of China (Nationalist)
- The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) (Communist)
Civil War broke out between two political parties in China. During the civil war, the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong won. The KMT under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in 1949.
The Communist Party and its leaders began ruling the Chinese Mainland as the People’s Republic of China (PRC). KMT started ruling Taiwan as the Republic of China (RoC). Both PRC and ROC disagreed on the issue that who is the legitimate governing body of China.
The PRC always maintained that it is the legitimate governing body of China. Along with that the PRC also maintain Taiwan as an inalienable part of mainland China and consider Taiwan as a breakaway province. To prove that the People’s Republic of China introduced “One country Two systems approach” and “One China Policy”.
- It is an island on the southern coast of China.
- The maritime boundary of Taiwan includes China (officially the PRC) on the west, Japan on the Northeast, and the Philippines on the south.
- It is the 5th largest economy in Asia and a global leader in Integrated Circuit Chip manufacturing.
- Taiwan is the most populated state and largest economy that is not a member of the UN (United Nations) and WHO (World Health Organization).
- However, Taiwan is a member of WTO (World Trade Organization) and Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation (APEC) under the name of “Chinese Taipei”.
What is One Country Two system Policy?
It is a policy proposed by Deng Xiaoping. Initially, the policy aimed to restore the relationship between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. But later expanded to include other historical Chinese territories as well (e.g. Macau and Hong Kong). It is also called the One-China Principle.
In general, the regions accepting this policy have to acclaim that there is only one China (PRC). China (PRC) will control defence and foreign Affairs of these regions. In return, the region can have economic and administrative autonomy (I.e., they can follow the capitalist economy).
But this policy has not been accepted by Taiwan. It has put forward the following conditions in front of China:
- The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has to be renamed the Republic of China (ROC).
- The Chinese mainland (The communist region) has to conduct democratic elections.
Conditions were not accepted by the People’s Republic of China.
What is One China Policy?
This is a policy to force Taiwan to sign a ‘one country two system’ policy.
Under this policy, any country willing to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China must acknowledge that there is only “One China”. Apart from that the accepting country also has to cut down all formal ties (informal ties can be maintained) with Taiwan. Moreover, it can’t recognize Taiwan as an independent country.
At present Countries such as Egypt, Iran, Iraq have recognized the PRC and accepted the One China Policy. However, Countries such as the USA, India, Saudi Arabia maintain an informal relationship with Taiwan.
The countries such as Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay have rejected the One China Policy and have diplomatic relations with the Republic of China.
Major developments on conflict:
First, Sunflower Student Movement 2014: In 2010, the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was signed between ROC and PRC to boost Taiwan’s economy. This is followed by the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA). But this was opposed by students resulting in the Sunflower Movement.
Second, There is a diplomatic shift in the policy of the US and Taiwan. In recent years US engaged with Taiwan and supporting Taiwan’s membership to WHO (World Health organisation).
Third, In a recent referendum, Taiwan people rejected the proposal to rename the country’s Olympic team as Taiwan. The people voted for the team’s name to be continued as Chinese Taipei.
India’s changing position on One China Policy (OCP)?
First, In the 1950s, India was one of the first Asian countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China and its OCP. Thus, no diplomatic relations could be established with Taiwan.
Second, The Look East policy started strengthening the engagement of India with East Asian countries, including Taiwan. In 1995 India and Taiwan established complementary representative offices.
Third, India-Taiwan relations improved gradually and since 2010 India has refused to endorse the “one-China” policy. At the same time, India is not having any formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
India’s relationship with Taiwan:
India’s relationship with Taiwan is based on the co-operation of the two countries.
First, In the field of the economy: Both countries signed a Bilateral Investment Agreement in 2018. Apart from that both the countries also signed the “Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement” and “Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement” in 2011 to boost economic ties.
As a result of these initiatives, Bilateral trade improved from $934 million in 1995 to USD 7.5 billion in 2019
Second, Science and Technology co-operation: Taiwan is a technological giant. India and Taiwan signed an MoU for cooperation in the field of agricultural and food science; new material for sustainable energy and storage devices, health care, etc.
Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn committed a 5bn$ investment in Maharashtra.
Third, In the field of education both the countries signed a mutual degree recognition agreement (2010) in higher education. At present there are 7 Taiwan Education Centers (TEC) has been set up in various universities in India.
Fourth, Apart from that Taiwan and India also involve in Cultural engagement like screening Taiwan films in film festivals of India, etc.
India can engage more actively with Taiwan for reasons like,
First, Taiwan is a technological giant and India’s present challenges can be solved to a greater extent by engaging with Taiwan.
- For example: India can achieve Make in India, ”“Digital India,” “Skill India,” and “Startup India” initiatives with active engagement with Taiwan
Second, closer Economic and Political ties with Taiwan may be the counter China-Pakistan Nexus. India can better leverage China’s territorial claims on Aksai Chin and engagement in Gilgit Baltistan by maintaining closer relations with Taiwan.
Despite there is an ongoing tussle between China and Taiwan, India being Non-aligned with any one of them. India continuing a mutual relationship with Taiwan without harming the relationship with China. It is high time for China to respect the same