TAIWAN’S Democratic Progressive Party could spark war with China if it refuses to resume peace talks, experts have warned.
The DPP swept to victory in Taiwan in the nation’s eighth presidential election – and it means there will now be at least four more years of limited to zero dialogue with Beijing.
Chinese troops during a joint counter-terrorism military exercise in RussiaGetty
Lai Ching-te of the ruling Democratic Progressive PartyAFP
AlamyChinese president Xi Jinping has long threatened to use force to ‘reunify’ China with Taiwan[/caption]
Taiwan insists it is an independent nation after splitting from mainland China in 1949.
The world now waits with baited breath to see how China responds to Lai Ching-te’s presidency after Tsai Ing-wen stepped down because of term limits.
Lai is openly despised by the Chinese government – which has called him a “complete troublemaker”.
They have dubbed him a “stubborn worker for Taiwan independence” and an “outright saboteur of peace”.
Hou’s main opposition candidate was former police officer Hou You-yi from the more conservative Kuomintang (KMT).
He argued that a vote for the DPP was be akin to “sending everyone out to the battlefield” – as it would provoke a war with China.
With DPP at the helm, Kerry Brown, the director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London, said Beijing will face another four years of frosty relations with Taiwan.
“There is at least another four years of limited to zero dialogue with Beijing,” he told The Sun.
“At a time when so much misunderstanding could happen, where the stakes are so high this is not a good position to be in.
“Even if the DPP win, they need to devise ways to speak to Beijing.”
China doesn’t trust the DPP, Prof Brown said, and it will “maintain its fairly harsh policies of no contact at political level, and almost constant aggression in closing down Taiwan’s international space”.
“It will be up to the DPP candidates and their advisors to think of a policy approach that can at least maintain the status quo and preserve their security,” he added.
“Brass necked former political leaders like Liz Truss coming to tell Taiwan to stick it to the Chinese are not helpful.
“Provocation is not diplomacy. This is a situation that needs top class diplomacy.”
Ruby Osman, senior China researcher at the Tony Blair Institute of Change, agrees the DPP’s victory could stoke tensions – and worsen ties with China.
“In general, KMT favour closer economic ties with China, they want to resume dialogue,” she told The Sun.
“The DPP are a little more independence-minded and a little more sceptical of the mainland.
“There’s an argument to say that if the DPP get in, it actually risks inflaming tensions more because they are less likely to see to resume dialogues [with China].
“That increases the chance of misunderstandings or increases the chance that Beijing will believe peaceful reunification is not an option anymore and there’s no way to convince them – and they have to turn to slightly more coercive tactics.
“That is a potential risk of the DPP.”
With America committed to defending Taiwan, Ruby said Taiwan’s relationship with the United States will be a top priority for the new president.
The island is feared to be a major flashpoint between the US and Beijing – with a potential invasion forcing the US to abandon the island or face a full-scale war with China that could spiral into World War Three.
But the DPP’s relationship with America won’t be secured until the outcome of the US presidential election in November.
“They know the US is a very necessary counterweight to China,” Ruby said.
“Beijing is going to want to wait and see who is in the White House before they decide their next steps on Taiwan.
“They will want to know who the US president is going to be and the way that China and Taiwan is discussed on the campaign trail.
“We’ve got the prospect of a second Trump term – and it’s a lot less clear what his commitment would be to Taiwan compared to the Biden administration.
“The thing that worries about me with a second Trump term is that he was very tough on China his first term – but all his issues were trade-based.
“They weren’t values-based, the same way Biden has been in terms of thinking about coming to the defence of Taiwan. I don’t think Trump has that same ideological affinity with Taiwan.
“That’s a little bit worrying.”
Prof Brown added: “A candidate there who sticks by the ‘one China’ policy and strategic ambiguity, meaning support for maintaining the status quo, would make conflict a little less likely.
“A candidate who wanted to use Taiwan as a way of attacking and provoking China by recognising its independence would immediately escalate things. Then we are into a situation if spiralling risk.”
Away from the conflict in Europe, the eyes of the world will nervously watching the boiling tensions between China and Taiwan.
Beijing has been increasingly flexing its military might – sending in fighter jets daily around the island, while its naval vessels have a near-constant presence around Taiwan’s waters.
Although China insists it wants to use political and economic pressure to “reunify” with Taiwan, it has not ruled out the use of force.
Ruby said it’s likely there will be a “spike” in war drills from China after the election – similar to when Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022.
“The thing that was worrying after Nancy Pelosi’s visit was that China cut off military-to-military communications with the US,” she told The Sun.
“That’s really worrying as you have a lot of US ships in that area.
“If there’s a potential of something going wrong there and quickly escalating because you don’t have the channels to de-escalate, that’s worrying.
“In general, the risk through misunderstanding that escalates is scary – and at a time when both China and the US don’t have a lot of room to back down.”Leave a comment