And such is the superpower’s commitment towards eventual unification, the island has no choice but to maintain an uneasy status quo in which it enjoys autonomy without true security, Ketian Zhang, an Assistant Professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government has said. Prof Zhang was speaking at a time of raised tensions in the region, with China, led by President Xi Jinping, launching a series of military drills which saw 19 fighter jets encroach into Taiwanese airspace.
The drills were apparently triggered by the visit of Keith Krach, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, last week, much to the irritation of Beijing.
Meanwhile PLA Rocket Force has released a propaganda video featuring footage of soldiers being put through their paces, and missiles being launched, which was widely interpreted as a message aimed at Taiwan, led by President Tsai Ing-wen.
Prof Zhang told Express.co.uk: “I would say the tension surrounding Taiwan has worsened since Trump took office, and the worsening of cross-strait relations is a gradual process.
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A fighter jet attached to an aviation brigade of the air force under the PLA Eastern Theater Command
“It has to do with three factors, one, the Trump administration’s policy, especially efforts in trying to make US-Taiwan relations into more of a formal and official bilateral relationship (including senior-level official visits to Taiwan), two, the DPP’s growing pressure to demonstrate Taiwan’s de facto independence, and three, China’s harsher statements toward Taiwan.
“That said, I would say the possibility of war, at least intentionally, is still low.
“None of the three sides – Taiwan, China, and the US, would want to actively get involved in a war.
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Prof Zhang said tensions had increased since the election of US President Donald Trump
“We will, however, continue to see more political conflicts.”
Neverthless Ms Zhang said: “China does have a red line, which is that Taiwan should not declare de jure independence.
“If it does so, it is highly likely that China will resort to the use of force.”
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Soldiers are shown running through flames during the propaganda video
The propaganda video also features multiple rocket launches
With respect to the military drills, Ms Zhang believes such exercises stem from China’s determination to “defend its perceived national security” as opposed to a genuine intention to start a conflict.
However, she added: “What is still concerning, though, is the possibility of accidents escalating into unintended conflicts.”
Questioned about China’s long-term goals, Ms Zhang said: “The Chinese Communist Party’s endgame is eventual unification, preferably peacefully.
Taiwan is separated from the mainland by the Taiwan Strait
“But if Taiwan declares de jure independence, China is highly likely to use force.”
On the island itself, most people were opposed to the idea of unification, she said, especially the younger generation, raising doubts about how China’s goals could be realised without the use of force.
In such a context, the arrival of Mr Krach and before him US health chief Alex Azar had inevitably raised the temperature, Ms Zhang said.
She said: “These visits, from the CCP’s view, signals a step toward formalization of US-Taiwan relations, which the CCP deems unacceptable – it demands that relations be kept at the unofficial level.
Keith Krach, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, visited Taiwan last week
“Since Azar is a senior official, it is viewed by the CCP as the US and Taiwan trying to officialise their relationship, which violates the one-China policy, from the CCP’s perspective.”
Given the realities of the situation, Ms Zhang said Taiwan had little choice but to wait things out and hope China opted to leave things as they were – even though there was no guarantee as to how long the fragile truce will last.
She added: “Of course, if black swan happens, say, China democratises, it might be a different story.
“But I think it is highly unlikely given the current political climate.”