Editorial of the “World”. Long considered a long-term regional dispute of medium intensity, the question of Taiwan is now the focus of concerns in Washington in Brussels and Tokyo in Canberra. Never, since the crisis of 1995-1996, which had given rise to a show of force between China and the United States, has the level of the threat exerted by Beijing on the Chinese island, politically separated from the Republic popular since its proclamation in 1949, has not been as high.
The rise in tension has recently been accelerated by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has repeatedly hinted at an upcoming “Reunification” of China and Taiwan, and whose army has, since 1is October, undertook some 150 incursions into the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone. The Chinese leader’s nationalist bidding and the rise in military power of Beijing, now able to carry out both cybernetic and conventional attacks on its rival, are fueling concerns on the small island, a rare democracy in the region.
For the authoritarian regime in Beijing, the existence of this other Chinese model, its inverted mirror, which thrives just 180 kilometers from its coast, is intolerable. After the fatal blow to the principle of “One country, two systems”, which had made it possible to preserve the autonomy of Hong Kong since the handover in 1997, Taiwan is clearly the next step towards the implementation of the slogan “One China”, agitated by the leaders of Beijing.
The United States, for its part, sees this situation as a challenge all the more crucial as it is convinced that China is seeking to oust them from their hegemonic position from a military and economic point of view on the world. Since its recognition of People’s China in 1979, Washington is no longer committed by treaty to defend Taiwan, but only to give it the means to defend itself in the event of an attack. Today, in an increasingly belligerent atmosphere and as the CIA designates China as “The most important geopolitical threat we face in the XXIe century “, the United States knows that an invasion of Taiwan by China would sign the end of its domination in the Indo-Pacific zone.
So far, the doubt maintained by Washington on its degree of reaction to a Chinese aggression has served as a deterrent. Now, China too blows hot and cold, alternating proclamations and acts hostile, and soothing statements. But the lines are moving dangerously: the fall of Kabul has emboldened the Chinese leaders, reinforcing their conviction of a decline in American power. And repeated speeches by Washington’s leaders about the Chinese threat have convinced a majority of Americans, according to a poll, of the need to defend Taiwan militarily against China.
We must fervently hope that President Xi Jinping will not have the folly to start hostilities and will stick to the rhetoric of reunification “By peaceful means” used emphatically in the speech given on the anniversary of the establishment, in 1911, of the First Republic in China. Everything must be done to encourage Beijing and Taipei to resume a dialogue interrupted since 2016.
Chinese aggression would risk triggering a direct conflict with the United States. This would threaten not only the stability of China and that of East Asia, but also world peace.