China no longer talks about the annexation of Taiwan as a peaceful | iRADIO

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The People’s Republic of China has again increased its military budget by seven percent. Along with this, she also stopped talking about the planned union with Taiwan as “peaceful”. Is she going to take tougher action against him? “It’s not a good thing to take lightly because it’s a symbol that was definitely thought out. But I wouldn’t attach too much value to it,” says Sinologist Simona Fantová for Radiožurnál and iROZHLAS.cz.



Prague
12:00 p.m April 1, 2024

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Anti-tank barricades on the beach of one of the islands of the Jinmen archipelago in Taiwan | Photo: Ann Wang | Source: Reuters

China continues to increase its military budget. Last year and this year it was always seven percent, regardless of the fact that its economy did not grow nearly as much in the past two years.

“The question of increasing the budget actually goes hand in hand with China’s policy, because until recently the People’s Republic of China emphasized very rapid economic growth, even growth on debt. But we have seen in recent years that the trend is going a little differently. The trend is suddenly going in the direction of emphasizing state security and increasing the budget for military defense,” says Sinologist Simona Fantová from the Sinopsis project.


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China is not alone in increasing its military budget. For example, in the European Union, military spending increased by an average of six percent for the year 2022, and six of the 27 member countries increased their military budgets by ten percent. But Beijing spends a larger part of its gross domestic product on the military than European countries. In addition, part of his strategy includes propaganda aimed at the “hostility” of other states.

“Perhaps it is also related to the fact that GDP growth is unsustainable in the way it looked, for example, five or seven years ago. And the Chinese side is aware of this, so maybe they are trying to focus on something else. Sometimes, when the economy is not doing well, it’s good to emphasize some external enemy against which you need to fight,” Fantová explains the mindset of Chinese politicians.

China’s external enemy is primarily the West. And the West returns this rhetoric to Beijing to some extent. Rich countries in particular have a negative view of the People’s Republic of China, as can be seen from by the Pew Research Center. Beijing then perceives these countries, led by the United States of America, as an obstacle to the ideal arrangement of the world.

“China is coming up with a new vision of the future world order. As an alternative, he uses his vision of socialism with Chinese features,” continues Fantová.

This is also related to China’s expansionist policy, which is currently increasing tensions in Southeast Asia, for example. This is, for example, a dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Archipelago or disputes over various territories in the South China Sea. But one of its most striking manifestations is the relationship between the People’s Republic of China and the island of Taiwan.

New rhetoric

Thailandwan it is perceived by the People’s Republic of China as a satellite of the United States and, although it has not governed it for a single day of its existence, as its rebel province. She would like to get the island state for herself. Although many Taiwanese armed conflict with China they are afraidChina has for years talked about a plan to annex the island peacefully.

But the term “peaceful” was dropped by Beijing in a recent report delivered by Chinese Premier Li Qiang in parliament.

“It’s not good to take it lightly because it’s some kind of symbol that was definitely thought out. But then again, I wouldn’t put too much value on it. War would be very expensive and not only in terms of money and human resources or what Taiwan would look like, but also in terms of the international reputation that China is trying to build,” says Fantová.

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But this does not mean that armed conflict cannot occur under other circumstances.

“There is a risk that the conflict may not be planned, but that there will be some accidental encounter, such as a collision between Taiwanese and Chinese fighter jets, and then it can somehow escalate into a conflict that was not completely planned from the beginning. The risk is definitely there,” Filip Šebok, an AMO analyst focused on China, tells Radiožurnál and iROZHLAS.cz.

Many countries support Taiwan’s efforts to gain independence from China, but do not formally express their views on its statehood and do not maintain official diplomatic relations with it.

Beijing is trying all kinds of ways to convince other countries and the people of Taiwan themselves that they want to unite with China. These include, for example, various forms of economic cooperation, but also diplomatic strategies.

“In short, they are trying to convince Taiwan that its only path and only possible future is together with China,” explains Filip Šebok.

“She is failing miserably. 98 percent of people in Taiwan have some Taiwanese identity. They don’t want to connect with that country not because they have a problem with Chinese culture, but because they have a problem with that regime,” adds Fantová.

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Taiwan is important to China not only for ideological and symbolic reasons, due to a similar culture and shared language, but also for strategic reasons. The Taiwan Strait is one of the world’s busiest in terms of shipping. To have control over the Taiwan Strait would mean for China to have control over shipping and trade there and over a substantial part of the South China Sea.

In addition, Taiwan has had the role of an imaginary link between China and Japan for centuries. If China seizes the island, Beijing could have more leverage over Japan, the Philippines and other countries in the region with which it currently has territorial disputes.

Even so, it does not seem that China intends to attack Taiwan in the near future. It got into a situation where it has to bring results to its own population, but at the same time it cannot afford a military solution to the Taiwan question.

“It doesn’t mean that China wouldn’t be interested in it militarily, but of course there are negative effects that would be economic or political,” says Šebok.

“China must claim that its strategy is working, because otherwise it would not be able to justify to its own Chinese population why it is still continuing and why, when it talks about Taiwan having to be united with China, why, when it is this vision less and less realistic, not to proceed to a military solution,” he continues.

According to him, China would also have to change its communication with its own population if it really wanted to attack Taiwan. The sudden start of an armed conflict could appear to be unjustified, as Beijing has so far claimed that even the Taiwanese themselves are interested in unification.

“I would expect that China would have to change its rhetoric as well, because they keep saying that the majority of people in Taiwan support China, are interested in reunification and so on. If Chinese propaganda changed this and perhaps admitted that this is not the case, I would take it as a signal that there may be a change in Chinese policy,” explains Šebok.

An outdated army

The problem, although certainly not unsolvable and crippling, is ultimately also in the Chinese army itself. She had not been in a full-fledged war for a long time.

“There are some clashes on the India-China border from time to time, but they are not major clashes. Respectively, they are significant, but it is not a full-frontal war. The last time the army was involved in something like this was Vietnam,” says Fantová.

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And its very functioning is also a problem. Although the army plays an important role in Chinese society, which provides it, among other things, with a large influx of money, it also has huge problems with efficiency and corruption.

“We see on the one hand that Xi Jinping is trying to modernize the army in terms of weapons and equipment, but at the same time that he is trying to somehow make its leadership more efficient. The question is how much he trusts the army, because there are regular purges. In very high positions,” he notes.

“I remember the incident with the six officers who were removed. 2,000 ballistic missiles are aimed at Taiwan. Unfortunately, this has been a fact for a long time and nothing is changing. And when the inspection was carried out, it was found that some of the rockets did not contain fuel, but water. Which was part of the corruption that resulted in low-quality material being selected,” Fantová describes.

A successful invasion?

But the obsolescence of the Chinese military does not necessarily mean incompetence. Chinese army is still the largest in the world – has over two million active soldiers. Despite the motivation of its citizens, Taiwan has many times fewer of them, namely 169,000.

Despite the shortcomings in the army command, according to Šebok, China could successfully invade Taiwan at the present time. In addition, according to him, Taiwan’s allies would not be able to effectively supply military support to the island, unlike, for example, Ukraine.

“China would be able to implement, for example, a naval blockade and the like, so that the weapons would not even reach Taiwan. And if the conflict had already broken out, it would be too late anyway. And waiting for arms deliveries and not direct involvement of other states in this case is out of the question at all.”

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The direct involvement of other countries, specifically the USA, is to a large extent what currently deters China from an armed conflict with Taiwan.

“There are various scenarios that military experts have worked out, and according to them, it is crucial for the United States to be directly involved in the defense of Taiwan,” Šebok describes.

According to him, the involvement of Japan, for example, is also important. This would have to allow the United States of America to use the military bases it has on its territory, or it could also provide logistical support.

“Within these exercises, these scenarios that experts are thinking about, the assumption is that the United States, with the help of Japan, should still defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion. But if the United States did not get involved, Taiwan would probably be occupied in the event of an invasion,” adds Šebok.

“Whenever China feels that all its diplomatic moves have failed, it will try to push more on the military side. But I don’t think the situation is such that China would now say ‘it failed, so we will attack Taiwan’. The situation is definitely not like that,” concludes Simona Fantová.

Katherine Vašíčková

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