The wisdom of Chinese vaccine diplomacy
TIn recent months, there has been an intensification of aggressive Chinese activity against Taiwan. Repeated forays into its air and sea space have become the norm rather than the rarity. There have been occasional pushbacks from the Taiwanese military. The US administration has also made nuanced statements, bordering on advising the Chinese to behave rationally. Chinese actions subsequently indicate its explicit disregard for anything the Taiwanese and US governments protest against, and there does not appear to be a curtailment of relentless Chinese movements to challenge Taiwan’s sovereignty, politically and militarily.
So what is really going through the minds of the leaders of Xi Jinping’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA)? Is China going to invade Taiwan militarily and remove the small opposition that is clashing with the United States? Why for a change, the Chinese aggression suddenly became more open and categorical against Taiwan? If he has already planned to take military control of Taiwan and the US administration is only publicly showing its commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act, 1979. More importantly, if and when something like this happens, it does. could lead to a war between the United States. and China. And what will be the security implications in the region, for countries like Japan, India and the smaller ASEAN countries.
It is important to understand the strategic context of Chinese activities. The sudden surge in aggression against Taiwan preceded the outbreak of the dreaded Corona virus across the world. Interestingly, the virus actually originated in China, whether intentionally or accidentally, and the timing of Chinese aggression in the region, Ladakh in India, around the Senkaku Islands in Japan and Taiwan, increased as global attention turned almost entirely to the pandemic. In addition, these countries themselves, along with other countries in the region, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia are also very committed to protecting their respective economies from the attack of the virus.
While the sudden shutdown of the World Health Organization (WHO) in delayed investigations into the origin of Corona, seems curious and probably acting itself requires further investigation, strategically, the timing seems perfect for China. As countries in the region and the world at large appear distracted to contain the impact of the pandemic, events unfolding in China, suddenly and miraculously, has become normal.
He first directed his greatest attention and military might against India. Continuing his unofficial strategic salami-slicing doctrine, he attempted to occupy a significant portion of eastern Ladakh. However, India not being child’s play, which reacted with a huge surge in military power and even occupied some strategic areas in the Kailash range, making the Chinese PLA vulnerable to Moldo and Spanggur Gap. , it had to fall back on the policy of prolonged negotiations which followed. through selective decommitments.
Unable to secure all of its strategic objectives on the Indian front, China then switched to a tactical strategy on Taiwan. It started with an approach of intense intimidation, with the hope that the resolution of most political sections there will be seriously undermined. The international community will remain unstable and uncertain about China’s intentions, partly because of Corona and partly seeing this tactic for quite a long time.
The actions of Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the past two or three years have been extremely troubling to the world community. He began with unprecedented aggression in the South China Seas against all countries in the region, occupying uninhabited islands, shoals and repeatedly entering the sea areas of other countries, claiming them to be his own. , openly violating the United Nations International Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). After a while, with the opposition becoming limited, he developed an information strategy of creating new artificial islands on the seas with strategic and security objectives.
Hong Kong’s domestic repression followed. Despite some international condemnation and strong domestic protests, China was able to quell the crisis afterwards. It followed with a major assault on India. Once this faced a formidable crackdown and retaliation from India, China reportedly expanded its borders by occupying isolated uninhabited villages in smaller countries, Nepal and Bhutan. With Nepal completely locked in a domestic political turmoil and a dispensation from power having an inexplicable affinity with the Chinese ambassador in Kathmandu and the CCP, there were also no murmurs of diplomatic protests. With Bhutan completely dependent on India for its security, India found India too involved in the domestic Corona crisis to fit right into the picture at Doklam in 2017.
While the CCP has grandiose plans to make China a great power by 2049, the centenary year of the Chinese Communist regime, events seem to have heightened its political and strategic appetite. A supposed unification of a renegade province, in the form of Taiwan, may well be the CCP’s crowning glory in the centenary year of its founding. More importantly, it just might turn out to be XI’s biggest political victory, if it comes to fruition, at all.
The United States is currently the only power that seems able and willing to protect and defend Taiwan. There are other regional powers like Australia, Japan and India that could well support and help Taiwan, protect its sovereignty. However, how far they will go and confront China, strategically and militarily, is open to changing situations.
A raging border and maritime conflict with India and Japan should occupy the minds of PLA planners. While neither is strategic, India in particular may in fact give China a bleeding nose, as happened in Ladakh in June of last year. Japan is also concerned about Chinese measures and, for the first time in decades, has started to bolster its latest arms acquisitions besides, of course, having US security guarantees. But Chinese measures against the Senkaku Islands indicate a significant security threat to Japan if and when Taiwan is invaded by China.
Australia has also faced a barrage of economic and psychological warfare, particularly from China. Since the cancellation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Australia and a few other strategic infrastructure rental deals, it has also faced Beijing’s wrath. Although Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State has just ensured that his country will stand alongside Australia as an ally, he is also likely to face an increase in Chinese belligerence in the likelihood of an invasion of Taiwan.
Finally, the Chinese dilemma in Taiwan depends squarely on the likely American reaction. Sooner or later, a lightning strike by Special Forces on Taiwan, beheading its formidable small military force is a real possibility. This possibility has in fact been played and suggested by the main American military generals.
The important strategic factor for the world community is that China is a country that has repeatedly violated international norms, rules and regulations and challenged an established order to achieve its aggressive expansionist designs. If it is allowed to do so in the case of Taiwan or if no clear exposure of Taiwan’s sovereignty is made by the major powers, the likelihood of an erosion of the security of others in the region will be a real possibility. .
For the United States, a simple repetition of standing with Taiwan and the current ambiguity over its political status, will no longer do so. It should, along with the emerging Quad of Australia, India and Japan and possibly Vietnam and others later, form Taiwan’s defense and security bulwark against Chinese aggression. Politically and militarily, if necessary, the world must come forward to protect Taiwan’s territorial integrity and make China accept that its land grabbing tactics, through intimidation and false historical documents, will no longer do so. The days of redefining territorial borders by force are over and must not be accepted.