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Taiwan Confrontation - Introduction

Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou on 10 August 2020 said the U.S. will not come to Taiwan's aid in the case of a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Ma stated that Chinas strategy of striking Taiwan is to "let the first battle be the last," suggesting that the communist nation aims to launch a quick war so that Taiwan does not have time to wait for American military support. The president should prevent war from happening, Ma remarked, referring to President Tsai Ing-wens comment to foreign media that if Taiwan is attacked by China, Beijing will "pay a great price." She also said that after the nation endures the first wave of attacks, she hopes countries around the world will come to assist it. Ma said he was worried because the nations military is aware of Chinas strategy. Once war has begun, it will be over in a very short period of time, he predicted, giving Taiwan no chance to wait for the U.S. military. The former two-term president added that in fact, there is no way the U.S. would even come to the rescue in such a situation. Ma stated: "Whoever is president should not tell our compatriots how many days [the nation] can last in a war but rather tell our compatriots that he or she can prevent war from happening."

Taiwan's quest for identity and international status continues to vex Beijing-Taipei and Beijing-US relations. The United States does not support Taiwanese independence, but it maintains strong trade ties with the island and is Taipei's biggest weapons supplier. Although it abides by a one-China policy, Washington has pledged to defend Taiwan against aggression from the mainland.

In 1982, during negotiations for the Third United States - China Joint Communiqu on Arms Sales to Taiwan, the Taiwan government presented the United States with six points that it proposed the United States use as guidelines in conducting United States - Taiwan relations. According to former Ambassador John Holdridge, the United States agreed to these points, conveyed this assent to Taiwan, and, in late July 1982, informed the Congress of the agreement. The "Six Assurances" to Taiwan are:

    1. The United States would not set a date for termination of arms sales to Taiwan.
    2. The United States would not alter the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act.
    3. The United States would not consult with China in advance before making decisions about U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
    4. The United States would not mediate between Taiwan and China.
    5. The United States would not alter its position about the sovereignty of Taiwan which was, that the question was one to be decided peacefully by the Chinese themselves, and would not pressure Taiwan to enter into negotiations with China.
    6. The United States would not formally recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan.

The 1992 consensus, in which Beijing and Taipei agreed to their own interpretations of the "one China" principle, led to talks, but they eventually broke down. On 30 January 1995, Jiang Zemin, then general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and president of the People's Republic, delivered a speech, entitled "Continue to Promote the Reunification of the Motherland," contained eight major points designed to achieve the unification of mainland China and Taiwan. Taiwan's President, Lee Teng-hui, responded the following year with a six-point proposal in response to Jiang's proposition.

But cross-strait relations worsened after Lee made public his "two states" theory in 1998. And in 1999 Lee Teng-hui redefined ties as "special state-to-state" relations. In 1995, nearly half of Taiwan's residents considered themselves both Taiwanese and Chinese, while as many as 25 per cent thought there were Chinese [by 2004 only 8 per cent of the island's residents regarded themselves as Chinese, while 42 per cent deemed themselves to be Taiwanese]. China suspended talks with Taiwan on eventual reunification in 1999, after Taiwan insisted negotiations be considered state-to-state.

By 2006, time was clearly not on the side of those who supported Taiwan's independence from the mainland. China's growing economic appeal to the island's business community, coupled with outreach to Pan-Blue politicians in 2005, suggested that over time Taiwan would inevitably be absorbed into the mainland. It would be argued that the window of opportunity for Taiwan to irrevocably assert its independence had closed. The "period of maximum danger" of a profound crisis appeared to be the summer of 2008. President Chen Shui-bian had pledged to push for a new constitution for Taiwan before the end of 2008. Pro-indepedence leaders might have calculated that Bejing would take no actions that would detract from the depiction of "peaceful rise" attending the 2008 Olympics, slated to open on 08 August 2008 in Beijing. But this moment came and went un-eventfully.

As of 2014, the prospects for military conflict across the Taiwan strait appeared nearly unthinkable. In the less than two months since President Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated as the chief executive of Taiwan in May 2008, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government had implemented or proposed numerous measures designed to tie Taiwan's future to the People's Republic of China. Regular weekend direct flights between five cities in China and eight airports in Taiwan had already commenced. Since the election of President Ma Ying-jeou in March 2008, the security situation in the Taiwan Strait has entered a period of relaxing tensions. Both Beijing and Taipei have emphasized enhancing people-to-people contacts and expanding economic ties. However, there had been no meaningful actions on the part of the Mainland to reduce its military presence directly opposite Taiwan.

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Page last modified: 17-08-2020 14:20:20 ZULU