The Cross-Strait Dilemma: Taiwan’s Struggle For Autonomy In Face Of China’s Pressure – Analysis


The international status of Taiwan is a subject of controversy and sensitivity that has implications for ties between Taiwan and mainland China. Taiwan is an autonomous island characterized by its democratic governance and unique cultural identity. However, China asserts its territorial claim over Taiwan and has not disregarded the possibility of using military force to accomplish what it perceives as “reunification”. The international standing of Taiwan is contingent upon its recognition by other nations and its involvement in global institutions.

Taiwan has been pursuing more global recognition and assistance in safeguarding its autonomy and stability. Due to the People’s Republic of China’s increasing military and diplomatic pressure on the island, this pursuit has become particularly important. Taiwan has been actively cultivating diplomatic ties with countries that share similar values and interests, including the United States, Japan, Australia, and India.

Additionally, Taiwan has been fostering partnerships with many nations in Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Taiwan has actively sought membership or observer status in several international organizations, including but not limited to the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the World Trade Organization. Taiwan has been actively campaigning for its substantial inclusion in these organizations, citing its notable contributions and accomplishments across many domains like public health, human rights, democracy, commerce, and climate change.

During the 20th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Jinping, the leader of China, reiterated the objective of attaining unification of the Chinese nation by the year 2049. President Xi reaffirmed his position on Taiwan, emphasizing that achieving reunification through peaceful methods would be advantageous for fellow citizens on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. However, he cautioned against underestimating the determination, resolve, and capability of the Chinese populace to safeguard their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

China has published an updated official white paper about Taiwan, affirming that Taiwan is an integral and inseparable component of China. The document emphasized the need to accomplish the historical objective of national reunification. The white paper also alleged that the Democratic Progressive Party currently holds power in Taiwan and is actively seeking “de jure independence” and engaging in collaboration with other entities like the United States to destabilize the relationship between Taiwan and mainland China. China has issued a warning, asserting its unwavering stance against any attempts, whether by individuals or entities, to facilitate the separation of Taiwan from China, regardless of the methods used or the justifications put forth.

Subsequently, in the year 2022, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, undertook a visit to Taiwan. This visit by a United States official represents the most significant level of engagement since 1979. Speaker Pelosi had a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen and other prominent Taiwanese officials, during which she conveyed her support of Taiwan’s democratic system, commitment to its security, and inclusion in global institutions. China, however, vehemently condemned the visit and characterized it as a grave act of provocation and an unwarranted intrusion into its domestic affairs. Subsequently, China severed its military relations with the United States. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the outcomes of the local elections did not necessarily signify a change in the prevailing public sentiment about cross-strait ties. The majority of Taiwanese citizens still showed a preference for maintaining the existing state of affairs rather than pursuing either unification or independence.

China leverages its economic might to exert influence on the diplomatic ties of other nations with Taiwan. China provides economic incentives and advantages to nations that align with its “one-China principle” and sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan. As an example, China has entered into free trade agreements, extended development funding, and augmented investments and tourists in nations that have transitioned their diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, including Panama, El Salvador, and Kiribati. China enforced economic sanctions and fines on nations that endorsed Taiwan’s involvement in global institutions or activities. China has implemented measures to temporarily halt or decrease the import of certain commodities, including sugar, wine, cattle, and coal, originating from nations that have shown support for Taiwan’s inclusion in international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization. These countries include Australia, Brazil, Guatemala, and Swaziland.

China utilizes its market accessibility and influential customer base as a means to exert pressure on international corporations and institutions, compelling them to conform to its political stipulations about Taiwan. China has also implemented limitations on the activities of some corporations that have designated Taiwan as an independent nation or distinct geographic entity on their online platforms, cartographic representations, or product branding. Notable instances include the actions taken against Marriott, Delta Airlines, Zara, and Gap. China has engaged in acts of boycott or protest against several organizations that have extended invitations or bestowed awards on Taiwanese artists, sportsmen, or politicians, including but not limited to the Golden Horse Awards, the NBA, and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Nevertheless, the international standing of Taiwan has seen considerable challenges due to the influence and pressure exerted by China. China has strategically used its economic and political influence to induce or coerce other nations into severing diplomatic relations with Taiwan and to isolate or exclude Taiwan from participation in international organizations. China has been engaging in regular military drills and operations near Taiwan’s airspace and maritime areas while engaging in cyberattacks and disseminating misinformation campaigns against Taiwan. The Chinese government has issued a cautionary statement to other nations, urging them to refrain from intervening in what it considers its domestic matters, particularly in endorsing the independence or self-governance of Taiwan. China has voiced its disapproval of the United States’ sale of armaments to Taiwan and its efforts to strengthen both official and unofficial relations with Taiwan.

The aforementioned events and developments have shown the intricate and ever-changing nature of cross-strait interactions, highlighting the multitude of elements that exert an impact upon them. Managing cross-strait interactions entails several difficulties and hazards, including the need to prevent misinterpretation, misunderstanding, escalation, or confrontation. Hence, it is imperative for all parties engaged in cross-strait interactions to engage in meticulous communication, collaboration, and compromise.

Consequently, the international standing of Taiwan plays a pivotal role in influencing the dynamics of cross-strait interactions. The statement elucidates Taiwan’s pursuit of self-determination and preservation of dignity while also highlighting China’s objectives of achieving national unity and exerting regional influence. Additionally, it encompasses the interests and values of other nations that have vested interests in maintaining peace and security in the area. The determination and safeguarding of Taiwan’s international standing will have substantial consequences for the trajectory of cross-strait interactions and the stability and economic well-being of the Indo-Pacific region.

In conclusion, the present state of cross-strait relations is characterized by a palpable atmosphere of tension and uncertainty stemming from divergent perspectives held by both parties about the political and legal standing of Taiwan. The United States extends its support for Taiwan’s security and democratic values but refrains from granting it formal recognition as a sovereign nation. China maintains the stance that Taiwan is an integral part of its sovereign territory and has not dismissed the possibility of using military means to achieve reunification. Taiwan asserts its status as an independent political entity and has been actively cultivating its military capabilities and diplomatic engagements.

Aishwarya Sanjukta Roy Proma

Aishwarya Sanjukta Roy Proma is a Research Associate at the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD). She is a research analyst in security studies. She obtained her Master's and Bachelor's in International Relations from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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