A visit by Taiwan’s leader to the U.S. brought swift condemnation from China, which stepped up its military activities in the strait separating the mainland from the island. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Amanda Hsiao looks at what these events might portend.
China maintained military activities around Taiwan amid near-collision incident with U.S. and Canadian ships, while U.S. ruled out Taiwan independence during high-level talks in Beijing.
China continued aerial and maritime activities. As of 27 June, Taiwan had spotted 298 Chinese military aircraft entering its air defence identification zone (ADIZ), of which at least 84 either crossed unofficial “median line” or were detected in south-western ADIZ; notably, Taiwan 8 June detected 37 Chinese planes in its ADIZ, one day after China conducted joint air patrols with Russia in Sea of Japan and East China Sea (see China/Japan); 11 Chinese aircraft 30 June crossed median line as U.S. congressional delegation visited capital Taipei. Taiwan sighted 138 Chinese naval vessels in surrounding waters; Chinese aircraft carrier group led by Shandong 21 June transited strait. In worrying incident, as Canadian HCMS Montreal and USS Chung-Hoon 3 June conducted joint “freedom of navigation” transit through Taiwan Strait, Chinese warship made course to cut across bow of USS Chung-Hoon, risking collision; Montreal’s commander called move unprofessional, while Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu said move aimed to prevent operations being used “to exercise hegemony of navigation”.
U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken visited China and discussed Taiwan. In first visit by U.S. sec of state to China in five years and becoming highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit, Blinken 18-19 June met with China’s FM Qin Gang, State Councillor Wang Yi and President Xi Jinping; U.S. called talks “candid, substantive and constructive” as Blinken assured his Chinese counterpart that U.S. does not support Taiwan’s independence, while China urged U.S. to fulfil its promise. Taiwan and U.S. 1 June signed initial agreement under U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade. U.S. House Armed Services Committee 14 June said it is exploring possibility of joint weapons production with Taiwan.
China hosted annual non-political conference. Beijing 16 June held 15th Straits Forum in Fujian province, which saw participation of 5,000 people from various backgrounds, including Andrew Hsia, vice chairman of Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang party; in letter to forum, President Xi urged people from both sides of Taiwan Strait to work together to “safeguard the overall interests of the Chinese nation”.
Beijing will have to publicly condemn [Taiwan President] Tsai’s visit to the US, their ultimate response will depend on what Tsai says and who she meets with on her trip.
At the moment, we think that China has not fully developed the capability to guarantee a sure victory if it chooses to launch a military option on Taiwan.
[Western politicians] increasingly view a visit to Taiwan as an opportunity to signal their anti-China bona fides for domestic political reasons.
In this video, Crisis Group’s Giustra Fellow for China Ivy Kwek talks about her work monitoring tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
No matter what immediate tit-for-tat reactions there are to the visit, the troubling long-term implication points to the urgent need for the Biden administration and Congress to better coordinate their handling of the Taiwan issue.
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is planning a visit to Taiwan in early August. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Amanda Hsiao identifies steps the U.S. and China can take to keep frictions minimal should her trip proceed.
The number of Chinese military flights near Taiwan has soared in recent days. In this Q&A, our expert Amanda Hsiao says Beijing is not only demonstrating its objections to deepening U.S.-Taiwan ties, but also warning the broader international community against getting closer to Taiwan.
After drifting toward crisis for much of 2004, the outlook for stability across the Taiwan Strait has improved.
Each side’s most preferred solution for resolving the continuing Taiwan Strait issue – in the case of Taipei, widely recognised de jure independence; and in the case of Beijing, reunification of China on the same ‘one country, two systems’ basis as Hong Kong – are both non-starters.
Apparently irreconcilable positions on the ‘one China’ principle have emerged between China and Taiwan over the last decade, with Taiwan for some time now asserting not only that it is a separate political entity but an independent sovereign country.
China's underlying position on its cross-Strait relations, however strong its current commitment to peaceful diplomacy, is that Taiwan must make sustained, visible progress toward a peaceful settlement or risk a resort to armed hostilities.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.