Bill Hayton discusses economic impact of South China Sea tensions
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On Friday politicians from Taiwan’s ruling political party are set to meet their Japanese counterparts for a top-level meeting aimed at what they claim is Beijing’s threatening behaviour in the region. China views self-governing island nation Taiwan as a breakaway province that will one day be reunified with the mainland. Last week Beijing conducted military drills off the country to the north of the South China Sea in response to what it called “external interference” and “provocations”.
China’s activities near Taiwan and in the wider South China Sea have angered the US, which is allied with several countries in the region.
Express.co.uk spoke to Dr Jonathan Sullivan, a China specialist and political scientist at the University of Nottingham, about the potential for war if China invades Taiwan.
He said: “If that were to happen, it would result in significant and long-lasting disruption on a global scale.
“It would reconfigure international relations, lead to an ugly occupation of Taiwan and make China a pariah state.
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“Depending on the circumstances that led to a hypothetical invasion, it would probably lead to militarised conflict involving the world’s two superpowers.
“The Communist regime is obviously heavily invested in ‘recovering’ Taiwan, but it also acknowledges the above risks and so is unlikely to invade unless it feels there is no other option to prevent ‘Taiwan independence’.”
From last year into 2021, Taiwan has reported repeated incursions by Chinese aircraft into its air defence identification zone.
Washington has condemned such activity previously, and this week US vice-president Kamala Harris hit out at China again.
Speaking in Singapore, she said: “Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea.
“The United States stands with our allies and partners in the face of these threats.”
Dr Sullivan explained that although Chinese-American ties may have soured and Beijing is engaging in war games, a conflict remains unlikely.
He added: “In recent years it has ratcheted up the pressure on Taiwan and bellicose rhetoric.
“It is busily readying itself through military modernization to be in a position to credibly take Taiwan.
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“The military balance has shifted, but it is still not yet a slam dunk, and thus we are not yet at a point where an invasion is remotely likely.
“If only because China has many other levers it can use to increase Taiwan’s discomfort that fall short of invasion.
“Neither is it on the cards that Taiwan will declare independence.
“But the underlying danger that a clash over Taiwan could precipitate open warfare between the US and China is always there, and so this question always provokes interest.”
The US has a long-held a position of so-called “strategic ambiguity” over the situation between Taiwan and China.
This means Washington recognises only one Chinese government under its One China policy, although it does maintain unofficial relations with Taiwan.
A spokesperson for Joe Biden clarified the position last week after the US President said “we would respond” if Taiwan was invaded.
An official later said the US “policy with regard to Taiwan has not changed”, prompting observers to conclude that Mr Biden had misspoken.
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