WATCH: Will the U.S. and China clash over Taiwan?

If you follow the news, you get the impression that war will erupt soon between China and Taiwan and the U.S. is prepared to defend its ally. But in modern times, conflicts of such gravity do not occur without legitimate reasons. In this video, Kevork Almassian puts the conflict into a proper context.

Taiwan is a self-governing island roughly 100 miles off the coast of mainland China, officially known as the Republic of China (ROC). It has its own governance as well as a military. Due to China’s claims to the area, most countries do not recognize Taiwan as a separate state, despite its de facto independence.

Taiwan was once a backwater of Imperial China that was colonized by the Japanese during the World Wars. After losing a violent civil war to the communists, who founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with its government in Beijing, Chinese nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949.

While the ROC government claimed to represent all of China and even held a seat on the United Nations Security Council, from 1971 onwards, most countries – including the US –dropped diplomatic recognition of the ROC in favour of PRC.

In recent times, Beijing declared the “One China” principle which eventually includes reunification with Taiwan and even threatened to use military force if the latter declared formal independence.

Now, fear of all-out war growing after the U.S. weight in again in favour of Taiwan against the growing super-power in China, which is planning to conquer Taiwan by 2025, according to Taiwanese officials.

In March of this year, President Biden claimed that the U.S. would defend Taiwan if it came under attack from China even though Washington doesn’t have a formal defence treaty with Taiwan, unlike with South Korea and Japan.

However, the U.S. has passed legislation three decades ago called the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which states that the U.S. to “preserve and promote extensive, close and friendly commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people of Taiwan”.

The Act also obliges the US to make “available to Taiwan such defence articles and defence services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defence capacity”.

Nonetheless, Beijing’s “One China” principle is clear; Taiwan is simply a province of the mainland and not an independent state. But for the U.S., “One China” clearly has a different meaning. To protect their Taiwanese allies, former President Donald Trump stepped up support for Taiwan, approving some $5.1bn in weapons sales in 2020 alone and it seems the Biden administration has continued and ramped up the Trump-era policy.

Not only that, it is widely reported that the U.S. have been training Taiwan’s ground and maritime forces for at least a year.

But would the U.S. directly intervene on the side of Taiwan if war erupts?

In my opinion, the US will continue supporting Taiwan in terms of military hardware and training but judging from the recent events in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, Washington’s attitude is unpredictable and it could be either way; accept the fact that Taiwan is part of China in exchange for economic and geopolitical compromises by Beijing or escalate the military tensions there in a bid to stop China’s growing hegemony.

But why the U.S. is so interested in Taiwan?

Based on the explanation in this video, it is pretty obvious that Washington has at least three important interests in far east Asia:

One, to block China access to the international waters and this policy has mainly two pillars: Trade and Military. This strategy was widely adopted during the cold war when the US was mainly a sea power and blocked the USSR’s access to the international waters and eventually was one of the reasons for the defeat of the soviets.

Two, to portray China as an expansionist aggressor and hence keep selling weapons to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. 

Three, to block a precedent of reunification in an area that includes other territorial conflicts such as the one between South and North Koreas and to keep selling arms to Japan where the US has military bases. 

In your opinion, what are the American options and would Washington intervene in favour of Taiwan as it has promised if China uses military force to reunite with Taiwan? Your take is important to me and I value and read them all.

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