Comparing the China-Taiwan Situation to the Ukraine Crisis

Comparing the China-Taiwan Situation to the Ukraine Crisis

President Zelenskyy has now agreed to talk with President Putin for peace in Ukraine. It can be seen as an admission of defeat, now that the Ukrainian leadership is not seeking help from their European neighbors or the US, and they have no more hope that the international community can convince Putin for a peaceful settlement or at least a ceasefire. In this war, Russia used hypersonic missiles for the first time, though it was not a decisive missile as it did not carry a nuclear warhead.

Ukraine is not a formal military ally of NATO and the US, which encouraged Russia to launch an attack on Ukraine. Taiwan, however, has signed the Taiwan Relations Act in which the US will assist it with military modernization but is not bound to give any security guarantee.  Taiwan does not have any territorial connectivity with the West as Ukraine does, but that did not guarantee Ukraine’s rescue. As such, it is a lesson for the Taiwanse leadership not to trust the West and try to resolve issues with China through talks.

China is unlikely to launch a military campaign against Taiwan unless the latter moves toward a formal anti-Chinese military block. In the future, if the US or NATO were to establish a military base in Taiwan, it could provoke China, which is otherwise not seeking the world’s attention by means of attacking Taiwan. There are several reasons which argue against China and Taiwan going to war with each other. 1) Both countries have heavily invested in each other; the value of bilateral trade was US$166 billion in 2020 value. 2) The tourism industry will not welcome any aggression. 3) China has an energy-consuming and export-oriented economy that cannot afford any kind of hostility as it will disturb the supply chain; in 2020, 10,852.615 barrels/day were imported by China and any disruptions in this supply of crude oil supply will disturb the Chinese economy significantly. And 4), China is dependent on the Taiwan semiconductors industry.

Now the question is, if the US gives a positive security guarantee to Taiwan, how China will react? Will it do the same as Russia did with Ukraine or not? Russian forces are facing resistance from civil society. This reinforces for China that winning the hearts and minds of the public before any invasion is as important as the invasion itself.

Role of China in this conflict

China had abstained from the UN vote in the ongoing crisis, which was surprising for the US; the assumption was that China would overtly support Russian, but this was not the case. If China gives any military assistance to Russia then it will face very strong opposition from the US and its allies, and may even become the target of secondary sanctions by the West. The challenge in this crisis will be to remain neutral when China becomes a mediator, given China’s leaning toward Russia. If China succeeds in brokering a ceasefire or comes with any other solution for both, it would mean China is a serious player in mediating for European issues. 

Will sanctions work?

Russia is one of the largest energy suppliers to Europe, which means European sanctions create great difficulties for the European economy. Russia is an exporter of oil, gas, and grain it will survive much as Iran has survived the sanctions against it. China and India will likely remain mindful of sanctions; however, India must choose between the US and Russia. US Sanctions will also hurt the European Union, as Russia is the largest energy and grain supplier to it only Germany is importing 40% of its gas from Russia. China is a beneficiary of this turmoil; it will be able to import more oil and gas at a cheap cost.

Wining position for Putin

Putin must have calculated by how much the war can be prolonged, and how much territory they will need to capture in order to compel Kiev. Now if Kiev recognizes the Donbas region as home to two sovereign states, it may open the way to end this war and will be a considerable victory for Russia. Regime change is also an option for Putin to make changes and set Ukraine according to their will.

US response

Russia is now the world’s most sanctioned. President Biden stated that he will not send troops to aid Ukraine, essentially emphasizing that this is Ukraine’s war, not America’s. The US knows if they take part in this war the conflict will expand into Europe. Russia deters Europe and America by having activating its nuclear command. But if Russia takes full control of Ukraine and attempts to further move toward NATO members, then Article 5 will be invoked.

From this crisis we can draw a few lessons. International liberal institutions fail cannot be effective in protecting a state that does not have a formal treaty for protection, and it must then not become a pawn between two great powers. In light of this, Taiwan and India must revisit their foreign policy options. This episode should encourage China that the US will not engage in a military campaign in any regional conflict when one an adversary is a nuclear power and has military might, economic power and veto power.

Comparing the China-Taiwan Situation to the Ukraine Crisis

About Faiz Ali Shah 2 Articles
Faiz is an MS Scholar in the Department of Strategic Studies at Air University, with a BS in International Relations from the National University of Modern Languages.

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