China Expected to Pressure Taiwan After Recent Presidential Election

 In China, GDI, Taiwan, Land, Defense, Sea, Cyber/ICT, Air

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Expect Beijing to probe Taiwan’s air, sea and cyber defens­es and ratch­et up diplo­mat­ic and eco­nom­ic pres­sure, but an all-out inva­sion is unlike­ly fol­low­ing President Tsai Ing-wen’s easy re-elec­tion vic­to­ry this week­end, a panel of experts agreed Monday.

In the run-up to the elec­tion in Taiwan, China sent its new air­craft car­ri­er Shandong through the Taiwan Strait, send­ing a mes­sage to the voters.

Tsai has stated she intends to main­tain the status quo with China. Yet Tsai and her party are clear about view­ing Taiwan as inde­pen­dent, not as being a sep­a­rate system of gov­ern­ment part of a China run by Beijing, called one country/two sys­tems.

“Beijing has no new ideas to replace ‘one country/ two sys­tems’” that it has used in the past to keep Hong Kong in line since its turnover in the 1990s by the United Kingdom and to try wooing Taiwan into a uni­fi­ca­tion agree­ment, said Robert Daly, direc­tor of the Kissinger Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Branding pro­test­ers in Hong Kong as ter­ror­ists sent a mes­sage to Taiwanese voters, par­tic­u­lar­ly younger ones who have grown up in a democ­ra­cy, of what they could lose, Daly and the two other pan­elists said.

Young Taiwanese “see their way of life could be threat­ened” if they were reunit­ed with China, Nadia Tsao, direc­tor of the Mandarin Service of Radio Free Asia, added.

These voters have little con­nec­tion to Mainland China, although Beijing con­tin­ues spread­ing a mes­sage on the island that the main­land is a land of oppor­tu­ni­ty for those with edu­ca­tion or seek­ing higher learn­ing.

The Chinese Communist Party “is fully aware of a growth of Taiwanese iden­ti­ty on Taiwan,” fol­low­ing the crack­down against pro­test­ers in Hong Kong. There is a strong pos­si­bil­i­ty China “will wait out Tsai” over her four-year term and go from there, Daly said.

Already Chinese media are call­ing her re-elec­tion a “fluke” and “an aber­ra­tion,” laying the ground­work with its public that time will even­tu­al­ly be on their side in reuni­fi­ca­tion and, in part, blam­ing Washington for the out­come.

However, Abraham Denmark, direc­tor of the center’s Asia Program and a former Pentagon offi­cial, warned the United States should not mis­read the re-elec­tion results as a move by Taiwan toward inde­pen­dence nor use the vote totals to put Beijing in a corner when it comes to the “One China” policy.

“There is a danger of going too far” in turn­ing China from a com­peti­tor to an enemy, he said.

Daly added, “It’s def­i­nite­ly not a time for American adven­tur­ism” in push­ing the “bad China” nar­ra­tive.

Even if an inva­sion seems unlike­ly now, in light of the elec­tion and Beijing’s response, Taiwan should con­sid­er enhanc­ing its defens­es, Denmark said. Taiwan should “Invest in asym­met­ric capa­bil­i­ties” where it has “inher­ent advan­tages” rather than trying to match China capa­bil­i­ty for capa­bil­i­ty.

China already oper­ates its navy east of Taiwan and rou­tine­ly flies strike air­craft around the island, so defense is a major issue. However, Denmark said the pres­i­dent would be hard-pressed to rev up the island’s econ­o­my and pro­vide career oppor­tu­ni­ties for its grow­ing work­force.

Taiwan’s lead­er­ship has to ask itself is, “With a lim­it­ed budget, what are the pri­or­i­ties: anti-ship cruise mis­siles, sea mines?” Denmark said.

“It would take Taiwan 30 years” to build the modern sub­ma­rine force it needs, Denmark said. Plus, it was highly unlike­ly, given Taiwan’s diplo­mat­ic status, that it would be able to buy modern diesel-pow­ered sub­marines from Germany or the Netherlands, the two nations most often men­tioned as poten­tial part­ners in such a sale.

Like anti-armor and anti-air­craft mis­siles, the fight­er jets includ­ed in the United States arms sale to Taiwan also makes sense as a deter­rent to inva­sion. Still, Denmark ques­tions the value of buying Abrams M1A2 tanks to bol­ster the island’s defens­es.

Source: USNI

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