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India’s Role in Thwarting China’s Attempt to Annex Taiwan

What happens when the saviour becomes the enslaver? What repercussions follow when the world’s largest army sets out on a rampant march to conquer the world?

It is fair to associate the aforementioned questions with the current situation transpiring in China.</

Since the Chinese economic reform of 1978, the country has transformed into an economic, military, and political superpower. While China was developing, people all over the globe thought that it would gradually give up on its pursuit of annexation and there would be stability. However, since the unhindered rise of the Communist Party under General Secretary Xi Jinping, China has become more rapacious than ever and there are higher instances of territorial conflicts; to name a few, China’s tightening grip on Hong Kong, border clashes with India, taking further control over the disputed South China Sea and even trying to annex Bhutan (according to a data analytics firm HawkEye 360, China is rapidly building structures along the Bhutan border). Analysts opine that as a communist country, China’s ideology thrives on expansionism. To justify its belligerent move of occupying foreign territory, it often cites the example of the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), drawing parallels to justify its actions. Due to its expansionist tendencies, China has border issues with all its neighbours, except Pakistan, be it land or marine jurisdiction.

“All political power comes from the barrel of a gun. The communist party must command all the guns, that way, no guns can ever be used to command the party.”
- Mao Zendang, alias, ‘Chairman Mao’

‘Chairman Mao’ had envisioned that China should try and lay hold over territories near it. It should try to expand its boundaries far and wide. President Jinping is working for the same. This can be claimed by citing various occurrences. The most recent ones would be The Galwan Valley Clash and The South China Sea Issue. Chinese and Indian forces clashed at the Galwan Valley when China tried to penetrate into the Indian territories. The South China Sea has been an issue because China wants complete control over it whereas the other countries assert it would be a blatant abuse of the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), whose 321 articles and 9 annexes constitute a guide for behaviour by nations in the world's oceans, defining maritime zones, laying down rules for drawing boundaries, assigning legal duties and responsibilities, and providing machinery for settlement of disputes. The other nations oppose this move as China is turning artificial islands from reefs in the South China Sea into military bases by deploying the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia and involving fighter jets and war ships along the Paracel and Spratly Islands (to mention a few). China has swallowed Tibet and Hong Kong (in the past), is now encroaching on Indian and Bhutanese soil and plans to gulp Taiwan.

Today, Taiwan has a robust economy. It has been included in the advanced economies of the world by the International Monetary Fund. As of December 2020, Taiwan was the world’s fifth-largest holder of foreign exchange reserves and was ranked thirteenth in gold reserves, with holdings of $483 billion and 423.6 metric tons, respectively. Taiwan is the most technologically advanced computer microchip maker in the world. Its independence is of utmost importance and relevance to the world economy.

China usually uses a debt trap to lay hold of the strategically important resources of the borrowing country, it can modify the strategy and instead use its military might to seize Taiwan’s specialisation in electronics. It will not only cripple Taiwan’s economy but will also have drastic impacts on the global economy. This is so because Taiwan has held over strategic technology that enables it to be one of the most efficient electronic goods manufacturers and microchip makers; and if China captures Taiwan, it will get hold of these technologies. China may then exploit it. It would be able to dictate terms with other countries that depend on Taiwan for these goods.

This would harm the global economy. It is fairly obvious that the revenue that China would earn from the sale of these goods (or by utilising Taiwan’s resources) would not be used for Taiwan’s development but to fund China’s own ambition and developmental projects. Foreign trade has been the engine of Taiwan's rapid growth during the past 40 years. Taiwan's economy remains export-oriented. Thus it depends on an open world trade regime (In 2020, the United States and Taiwan transacted $106.2 billion of trade in goods and services). Therefore any activity that limits its trade will cripple it.

In today’s technology-driven world it is clearly evident what economical benefits Taiwan could bring to China’s draconian economy that aims to upset the USA as the world’s largest economy. With a raw man force of almost 2.19 million in the defence force and titled as one of the most powerful defence forces in the world, China believes it can bulldoze through Taiwan easily, giving it a psychological advantage. The way how China gobbled up Tibet under Mao Zedong's regime instils in them the belief to pull off another such act. The annexation of Tibet, regarded by many as one of the most far-reaching geopolitical developments in the post-World War II world, encourages China to undertake such activities. It is safe to say that in its own right, China perceives it has all the reasons to annex and conquer Taiwan.

For the most part of its history, Taiwan was inhabited by Malayo-Polynesian tribes and had no ties with China until the 17th century when Dutch colonial rulers invited Chinese workers to emigrate. Taking the ethnicity factor into account, Taiwan is closer to the Philippines than China. However, China irreverently claims that Taiwan has always been a part of it. Hence, any claim by China is based on revisionist history and is not backed by any facts that substantiate the claim.

In the way, a porcupine’s quills protect it from larger predators by making it difficult to digest, Taiwan needs to create porcupine-like defences in the form of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. It needs to convert a Chinese invasion into a failed attempt by inflicting high costs on them, including major military casualties, using guerilla warfare. Taiwan’s imperative to carve out greater international space for itself is equally important. It should avoid committing the mistake which Tibet made. Tibet did not apply for United Nations membership, making it easier for China. China is trying to break off Taiwan’s international ties by bribing countries to not recognise Taiwan and is also vetoing Taiwan’s position in international forums

Thus, Taiwan should instead try and gain a greater presence on the global stage as a de facto nation to make it tougher for China.

When Tibet was invaded by China in 1950, India opposed Tibet’s plea for a UN discussion, instead, it withdrew its troops from Tibet and handed over Tibet’s postal, telegraph and telephone services that it was running to China. By being proactive, India should avoid an encore of the Tibet issue. It is an opportunity for India to tighten the screws on China in the wake of the Galwan valley clash. Following the precedent set by Japan and the US, India could try to increase ties with Taiwan. India must consider allowing Taiwan to rename its “Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre” in New Delhi as the “Taiwanese Representative Office” while renaming its own mission in Taiwan as “India Representative Office''.

We ought to take inspiration from Lithuania who, undeterred by Chinese sanctions, allowed Taiwan to open an embassy. The volume of bilateral trade between India and Taiwan has grown nearly six-fold from USD 1.19 billion in 2001 to almost USD 7.05 billion in 2018 and India ranks as Taiwan's 14th largest export destination and 18th largest source of imports, according to official data. Taiwan is also important for India as there is a microchip shortage in the market and Taiwan’s expertise can help India come out of the crisis. India’s security will come under greater pressure if China succeeds in recolonising Taiwan as it will allow China to dictate terms with India. Not to mention, Taiwan deserves India’s help on humanitarian grounds too.

It is imperative that India be proactive and take steps at the right time to avoid a Tibet-like situation when it ceded strategically important locations to China. India should put its best foot forward and avoid any lackadaisical approach. It should for once let go of its traditional ‘non-aligned’ and a ‘bystander’ stance and side with Taiwan for its own good. Taiwan possesses the technology that can fasten India’s Digital Push. Thus, in upholding Taiwan’s autonomy lies India’s advantage.

Vansh Choudhary
Undergraduate Student At SRCC


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