China isn’t backing down from its claim to ownership of Taiwan, and Beijing may be closely observing the world’s reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to weigh if the cost of launching an assault against Taiwan would be worth it.
Beijing wants the reunification of Taiwan with mainland China and growing tensions between the two have prompted warnings from the United States that America will back Taiwan in the event of a war. China questioned America’s commitment to Taiwan, and while Beijing claims there’s no comparison between its relationship with Taiwan and Russia’s relationship with Ukraine, a soft approach to Russia could factor into China’s decision-making.
“It is common knowledge that the Taiwan question was caused by civil war, and there is a political confrontation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait due to that civil war. However, China’s sovereignty and territory have never been divided and cannot be divided. This is the status quo of the Taiwan question,” Hua said.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed historic ownership of Ukraine during a speech on February 21. He claimed Ukraine has no identity outside of Russia, as it was “entirely created” by the Russian communist party after Vladimir Lenin came to power and criticized the Soviet leader for giving away territory that Russia had a rightful claim to.
While both countries lay historic claim to the conflict areas, China appeared to separate itself from Russia by specifically saying the territory has “never been divided and cannot be divided.”
The situations between Russia and Ukraine and China and Taiwan aren’t direct parallels, but with concerns mounting about President Xi Jinping‘s goals, officials expressed concerns about the conflict’s ability to impact other global issues.
If Ukraine is put in danger, the “shock will echo around the world,” including in Taiwan, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, CNN reported. He said people could “draw the conclusion that aggression pays, and that might is right.”
At a press conference in Australia this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that “others are watching” how America responds to Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, although he didn’t mention China directly. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen ordered the creation of a task force to study how the Russia-Ukraine conflict could affect Taiwan’s conflict with Beijing.
“Taiwan is obviously clearly following what’s going on in Eastern Europe very closely, and they do see a very close parallel,” DJ Peterson, president of the geopolitical advisory firm Longview Global Advisors, told CNBC. “I think what matters for Taiwan is, if there was a significant action in Ukraine, Beijing will be watching the level of sanctions, the intensity of sanctions,”
On February 22, former President Donald Trump told Clay Travis and Buck Sexton that he believes “China is going to be next.” He said he “absolutely” believes China will “go after” Taiwan and is planning to make a move now that the Olympics are over.
While a firm approach to Russia over Ukraine could signal America’s preparedness to defend Taiwan, experts don’t believe the world’s response to the conflict in Ukraine will be the catalyst to a military invasion of Taiwan.
Lev Nachman, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studie, told CNN that Beijing will be “watching closely” to gauge the world’s reactions, it’s “highly unlikely” that China “drastically” alters its strategy.