Can Taiwan broker peace with China?

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Taiwan’s political status is contentious. Although the island has been governed independently of China since 1949, Beijing views it as part of its territory, vowing to “unify” Taiwan with the mainland eventually, using force if necessary. Taiwan enjoys official diplomatic relations with only 12 out of 193 UN member states and this week added the Holy See that governs Vatican City. Taiwan has come under increasing military and political pressure from Beijing, including two major sets of Chinese war drills near the island since August 2022. These manoeuvres have heightened fears of a conflict that would have global ramifications. Nonetheless, authorities from both Taiwan and China have frequently called for peace.

The Arguments

Taiwan seeks “peaceful coexistence” with China with free and unrestricted interaction, according to President Tsai Ing-wen’s National Day speech. Ms. Tsai, who cannot stand again for president at the election in January after two terms in office, has repeatedly invited talks with China, which has rejected them as it views the Taiwanese President as a “separatist”.

China’s Foreign Ministry responded to Ms. Tsai’s speech on Tuesday, calling the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities the “greatest threat” to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait for “seeking independence and provocation”.

The major political contention in Taiwan ahead of the elections is between parties favouring eventual Chinese unification and promoting a pan-Chinese identity, contrasted with those aspiring to formal international recognition and promoting a distinct Taiwanese identity.

Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party will seek to maintain power in elections next year against the Nationalists, who officially support unification between the sides that divided amid the civil war in 1949.

With a population of just 23 million and a military of 169,000 active service personnel, Taiwan is dwarfed by China’s population and military strength.

The Facts

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has been increasingly sending ships and warplanes across the Taiwan Strait in an effort to intimidate the population of 23 million, who strongly favour the status quo of independence.

China cut off most communications with Tsai’s government shortly after she took office in 2016. The Progressive Party is favoured to win the presidential election, potentially laying the groundwork for further tensions between the sides which still retain close economic and cultural ties despite the massive gap between ruling governments.

Taiwan has not formally declared itself to be an independent country with President Tsai claiming there is no need as they are already independent and call themselves the “Republic of China”.

But tensions between China and Taiwan reached a climax following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit of August 2, 2022. Analysts fear the US might go to war with China over Taiwan following increased Chinese military drills off the island’s coast.

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