But why hasn’t China declared war on Taipei yet?

But why hasn’t China declared war on Taipei yet?
But why hasn’t China declared war on Taipei yet?

One last rehearsal before, perhaps, taking action. China launched military maneuvers, named “Joint Sword-2024A”, around Taiwan on Thursday in order to verify the “capacity to take power and joint strikes”, said the spokesperson for the Chinese army. Clearly, Beijing is threatening to launch an invasion of the island, which has resisted it since 1949.

But for many months now, the Chinese army has been regularly increasing violations of Taiwan’s air and maritime space. Presented as a “severe punishment” in the inauguration speech of Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te, do these new maneuvers reflect a real increase in tone? What is stopping Beijing from starting a conflict? What could be the spark that ignited the powder? 20 minutes takes stock with Jean-Vincent Brisset, associate researcher at Iris and specialist in China.

Do Chinese maneuvers show a real increase in tensions?

The words are harsh, threatening, intended to impress. The Chinese exercise constitutes a “serious warning” to the “separatists” of the island who will end “in blood,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for Chinese diplomacy, on Thursday. Beijing even accused Lai Chang-te of being responsible for the tensions and pushing the country “towards war”. However, “there is nothing new in these exercises”, believes Jean-Vincent Brisset.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry announced that it had detected 49 Chinese planes, “of which 35 crossed the median line”, cutting the Taiwan Strait in two, between the island and the mainland. “It seems to be of the same magnitude as in 2022 during the visit of Nancy Pelosi”, then president of the American House of Representatives, continues the expert. Beijing, which “interferes in all political events in Taiwan”, triggered these exercises “without surprise”, as if to maintain pressure.

Why isn’t Beijing launching an offensive?

“On military means, there is no photo”, China is clearly superior. The Chinese army has more than two million men, a far greater number of planes, ships and tanks than Taiwan’s, and Beijing has atomic weapons. On paper, it’s quickly resolved. However, Taipei has been prepared for this eventuality for seventy years. “Defending an island is easy, an invasion would be very costly on a military level,” says Jean-Vincent Brisset.

Especially since Taiwan might not fight alone, the country maintaining strong relations with Washington. “There is no formal alliance” between the two countries, due to the diplomatic ambiguity of the United States, but “texts which would lead them to react”, tempers the researcher associated with Iris. A capture of Taiwan by China would also be “physically unbearable for Japan, since 40% of world maritime traffic would pass through an area controlled by Beijing”.

More generally, even without entering into the conflict directly, Chinese aggression would be “also costly to the international community”. Largely integrated into the global market, “China does not have at all the resilience of Russia” in the event of economic retaliation measures.

What could be the spark that ignites the powder?

To take action, Beijing would therefore have to be more than sure of its move. Jean-Vincent Brisset evokes the “only red line” ever drawn by China: “Beijing has been saying for more than twenty years that a formal declaration of independence would lead to an attack. » Lai Ching-te, described by Beijing as a “dangerous separatist”, defined himself before his election as “a pragmatic architect of independence”, but had recently softened his positions.

More information on Taiwan here

There is also a possibility of witnessing an “irrational outbreak of conflict”, recognizes Jean-Vincent Brisset. Faced with democratic resistance in Hong Kong and demonstrations during the Covid-19 epidemic, Xi Jinping is “experiencing domestic political problems”. “The risk is that he will be tempted to unite the country behind him by provoking a conflict, like Argentina with the Falklands,” points out the expert. The outcome would then be very risky for someone who sees himself as “president of a single China”.

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