Taiwan

Invasion of Taiwan Not Imminent

21 March 2024

4 MINS

Is China about to invade Taiwan? In his New Year’s address, Xi Jinping claimed that the ‘reunification’ was inevitable, and asserted that ‘All Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should be bound by a common sense of purpose and share in the glory of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,’ according to state news agency Xinhua. His remarks led to a flurry of reports suggesting that Xi is preparing for the invasion of the island.

The comments are better read in the context of the recent presidential elections in Taiwan. After eight years of cautious leadership by the outgoing Tsai Ing-wen, the polls suggested a tight outcome between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Koumintang (KMT). Added to the mix was a wildcard, the former Mayor of Taipei, Ko Wen-je, who heads the Taiwan’s People’s Party. The DPP’s candidate, William Lai Ching-te, the nation’s current Vice-President, led in the polls narrowly from the KMT’s Hou Yu-ih.

The Chinese Communist Party was feverishly working to influence the election in favour of the more pro-Beijing KMT. It was particularly critical of the DPP candidate, William Lai Ching-te, describing him as a dangerous separatist. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said Lai had ‘exposed his true face as a stubborn worker for Taiwanese independence and destroyer of peace across the Taiwan Strait’. The spokesman for the Office said ‘his words were full of confrontational thinking.’

Since 2016 — when President Tsai Ing-wen took office — the DPP-led government has promoted separatism and is the ‘criminal mastermind’ in obstructing exchanges across the strait and damaging the interests of Taiwan’s people, a spokesperson for the Office said.

‘As the leading figure of the DPP authorities and current DPP chairman, Lai Ching-te cannot escape his responsibility for this,’ he added. In typical CCP doublespeak, the regime fails to acknowledge that it rejected all approaches by the DPP government of President Tsai for dialogue.

The KMT candidate Hou tried to downplay comments on cross-strait reactions, relying on Taiwan’s constitution as his position. But this did not stop the CCP from attempting to depict the DPP as a ‘pro-war’ party.

An added difficulty for the KMT was that its vice-presidential candidate, Jaw Shaw-kong, has been a long-time proponent of reunification with the mainland. The third presidential candidate, Ko Wen-je, who heads the Taiwan’s People’s Party, has tried to walk the middle ground, but is often criticised for not having a clear position.

Business As Usual

It is against this background that the words and actions of the Chinese regime can be analysed. While Xi’s New Year’s address clearly articulated his desire for the absorption of Taiwan into China, his statements were not new. He has been saying the same thing for some years now.

Secondly, his comments were not more radical than past statements. Indeed, a comparison of the English and Chinese versions suggests that the speech had two audiences; the domestic and the global. The reunification of the motherland is a historical inevitability,’ Xi said, though the official English translation of his remarks published by the Xinhua news agency used a simpler phrase: ‘China will surely be reunified’.

The Chinese version claimed that compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should be bound by a common sense of purpose and share in the glory of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.’ The official English translation wrote ‘all Chinese’ rather than ‘compatriots’. Perhaps there are no real differences, but the language was more circumspect than it has been on other occasions.

There is little doubt that the CCP preferred victory by the more pro-China KMT. ‘Taiwan compatriots must stand on the right side of history, and make a correct choice to promote cross-strait relations back to the right track of peaceful development,’ said Zhang Zhijun, head of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, the body that handles ties with Taiwan.

These comments reinforce the incessant CCP propaganda through social media. Apart from sending some spy weather balloons over the island, Beijing has been somewhat constrained in its military behaviour, probably knowing that the Taiwanese react negatively to direct threats from the mainland.

Taken together, these events do not suggest an imminent invasion of Taiwan. Other issues reinforce this observation. The economy is facing very significant headwinds, and investors are increasingly wary of placing their funds there. The military deterrence towards China is growing in a number of nations, and defence cooperation is increasing. Xi cannot be assured of success if he was to launch a military campaign against Taiwan.

Thorn in Their Side

The fact that Xi and the CCP were so threatened by the presidential elections is telling. Giving the Taiwanese advice about which candidate to vote for — something that the Chinese people have never had: the opportunity to vote — exposes the weakness of the communist regime. Commencing in 1996, this was the eighth direct presidential election. KMT candidates have won three elections, and the DPP five. Democracy is clearly working in Taiwan, as anyone who visits can attest.

A functioning democracy in Taiwan is an affront to Xi Jinping and the CCP. It exposes the falsehood of their assertion that their totalitarian system is the only — and best — means of governing Chinese people. While a free, democratic Taiwan exists, the CCP’s lies are exposed.

For the people of Taiwan, cross-strait relations are but one aspect of their decision-making about the government. The issues that affect people elsewhere also play out in Taiwan. Cost of living, the provision of government services, the jobs of the future and similar issues remain relevant for ordinary Taiwanese. Having struggled through COVID-19, with many restrictions, the extent to which the DPP will be blamed for the impositions remains to be seen.

In the meantime, the fate of Taiwan under the CCP can be seen in Hong Kong, where the remaining vestiges of democracy are being squashed. After months of imprisonment, the publisher Jimmy Lai is finally on trial under the draconian national security laws. The conviction of Lai would mark the final demise of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, a fate that awaits the Taiwanese if Xi and the CCP ever have their way.

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Originally published in The Spectator Australia. Photo by Timo Volz.

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One Comment

  1. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich 21 March 2024 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Sad state of affairs that Taiwan is not recognised by Australia, etc and will eventually not be allowed to retain its democracy and independence . They are good people , many of whom were educated at school in Adelaide with my children. I predict History as in Hong Kong will repeat itself ! The fault belongs to the the Allies who after WW2 supplied the Communist Chinese the means to Take-Over China in 1948 and to brutally invade peaceful Tibet . The “holier -than -Thou ” West has created a fiction of Morality . The reality is the opposite —it either turns a blind eye , or, actively supplies weapons to evil regimes .
    The West yesterday and today is weak–all rhetoric and no substance –should be ashamed of themselves that they let Stalin take over Eastern Europe and half of Germany at the end of WW2 , hence brutal murders of millions of innocent people.. As for the majority of today’s Germans , they are , in my opinion, a gutless lot one cannot rely on and, the United Nations, in my opinion , is an expensive “hobby “we cannot afford as it serves no useful purpose and there have been countless cases in which its “Peace”!-Keeping troops have been involved in rapes. Time has come that Australia should pull out of it !

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