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Is Unification Between China and Taiwan Possible?

Taiwan was ruled by Imperial China for 200 years then Japan had it for 50 years after winning a war against China, but when Japan lost in World War-II China got Taiwan back again. This was followed by the Chinese Civil War which ended in favour of the Chinese communist party in overthrowing the Republic of China (ROC) nationalist government in 1949 which then fled to Taiwan an island located roughly 100 miles from the Chinese coast separated by the Taiwanese strait, and established Taipei as its new capital. The US allied with Taiwan and forced China to give up its plans to take over Taiwan. In 1971 US allowed a UN resolution to recognize the Republic of China by their own people, as the only lawful representative of China to the United Nations.


 In 1979 the US shifted diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China as it became of an increasing strategic importance to the US during the US-Soviet Cold War and terminated diplomatic relations with Taiwan and the mutual defence treaty. In the same year, the Taiwan Relations Act was enacted by Congress which fell short of an overall defence treaty. In the 1980s China and Taiwan established economic ties, and Taiwanese businesses set up factories on the mainland resulting in reaping great rewards. China looked at it as a useful opportunity to merge Taiwan with the mainland through economic influence. Making the two economies so integrated that would be economically suicidal for any government in Taiwan to be confrontational with China and therefore required the government in Taiwan to accept some form of unification with China.


 


Taiwan went through political reforms in the 1980s that led to the birth of the opposition party the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 1986 which supported an independent Taiwan. Two years later progressive Lee Teng-hui became the island’s first Taiwanese-born leader and in 1991 national assembly elections were hailed as Taiwan’s first truly democratic elections. China used its military might in 1996 to threaten Taiwan by launching missile tests off the coast of Taiwan to scare the Taiwanese people into not voting for Lee Teng-hui, whom China viewed as a pro-Taiwanese figure. The US responded with the biggest display of military might in Asia since the Vietnam War.


 


Based on many conducted public opinion research Taiwanese political spectrum voters place themselves in three groups. On one end is for unification with China and on the other end is immediate independence as the Republic of Taiwan, and in the middle are those who want the status quo; which is most of the voters. This emanates from the realization any radical change could lead to war.  The US position has an official name strategic ambiguity On one hand, it acknowledges that Taiwan is a part of China and not an independent country, but on the other hand is arming Taiwan to defend itself. The US rejects either side to change the status quo unilaterally. President Joe Biden was asked by a journalist in a press conference “Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan, if it comes to that?” in which his response was ‘Yes’.


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The younger generation of Taiwan is increasingly alienated from China, and even attempts by Taiwan’s government to forge economic ties have met with opposition. The Sunflower Movement occupied the parliament in 2014 to protest a free-trade deal with China which toppled the KMT government. Many Taiwanese do not accept being part of the communist political system regardless of the economic benefits. Tsai-Lng-weng the pro-independence DPP candidate won the election in 2016 as president of Taiwan and three years later an event in Hong Kong created more support for Taiwanese independence. In 2019 hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Hong Kong and battled with police to protest what they considered China's encroachment on Hong Kong's freedoms. Tsai Lng-weng said in a press conference “Taiwan will not accept one country, two systems”



 


There is an important factor which is Taiwan’s location if China takes over Taiwan and deploys the People Liberation Army (PLA) forces, that would pose an existential threat to Japan which is a close ally of the US. According to Statista semiconductor revenue share worldwide published on October 17, 2023, in the second quarter of 2023, Taiwan semiconductor manufacturing company (TSMC) recorded a market share of 56.4 percent in the global semiconductor foundry market and over 90 per cent of global chip output according to South China Morning Post published article December, 23,2023. All of this makes Taiwan not only important to China, and the US, but to the world. 


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For China, there is only one China; and Taiwan is part of it. China reiterated its desire for peaceful national reunification but in 2005 China passed an anti-secession law authorizing the use of force if Taiwan formally declared independence. Even though most of the Taiwanese population is ethnically Han, they consider themselves to be Taiwanese rather than Chinese. As voluntary unification looks increasingly remote China is relying on its military might. It seems the only way that the US and China would go to war would be over Taiwan. There is no prospect of the near future that Taiwan will be part of China as It would like to be a democratic multi-party system which is the opposite of the Chinese one-party system.


 


Edited by: Megha Siddapura Manjunatha


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