Dangerous Strait: The U.S.-Taiwan-China Crisis

The Taiwan Strait in 2018 – Still a Dangerous Flashpoint: J. Michael Cole for Inside Policy
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Attempts to turn the Taiwan issue into a regional or international security matter have always been an extremely sensitive subject for Beijing, yet Taipei seems to be actively seeking that outcome. If this rhetoric is translated into actions, Beijing can be expected to react strongly. Despite these worrisome developments, the situation in the Taiwan Strait is unlikely to spin completely out of control for the time being for three reasons.

Due to its growing power and influence, mainland China has gained much more confidence in its ability to keep things under control across the strait and believes that time is more or less in its side. This means that Beijing now has greater strategic calmness zhanlue dingli and is not likely to overreact. Moreover, peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait seem to remain important interests for the United States.

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Any attempts by Washington to change its One China policy would risk disrupting these interests. On this point, a useful reference point is the opening of a newly constructed office complex in Taipei in June for the American Institute in Taiwan AIT , where unofficial U. The United States only sent an assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, a relatively low-level official with a nonsensitive policy portfolio, to the dedication ceremony. In addition, rumor s that the U. Marines would be stationed to safeguard the building have not yet materialized. After the phone call with Trump, for instance, Tsai had to downplay its significance by stating that it does not represent a policy change.

As the smallest player in the strategic triangle between Beijing, Taipei, and Washington, Taiwan understands well that it would likely suffer the most from any potential confrontation or conflict across the strait. Although these considerations somewhat moderate the risks of confrontation, if the negative interactions between Beijing, Taipei, and Washington continue and if relations keep deteriorating, it is certainly not inconceivable that another crisis across the strait could transpire.

Such tensions could be triggered by any of the three parties, whether by strong pessimism on the part of China, a provocative redefinition by Taiwan of the nature of cross-strait relations, or the potential that Washington might sail a warship to a Taiwanese harbor. However such a hypothetical crisis were to unfold, it could be more dangerous than previous ones. If another crisis were to take place in the next year or two, it would unfold amid an almost total lack of trust between Beijing and Taipei and during an emerging strategic competition between Washington and Beijing.

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Furthermore, when push comes to shove, a much more capable Chinese military could conceivably be deployed if tensions ran high enough. Such a crisis would be a losing proposition for all sides. Follow the conversation— Sign up to receive email updates when comments are posted to this article.

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Sign up for Carnegie Email. Experts Publications Events. Experts Publications. Experten Publikationen. Beijing Regions and Countries Issues. Jie Dalei. October 30, Article. Sign up for more from the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center If you enjoyed reading this, subscribe for more! Window Into China. No links or markup permitted. Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Screen names appear with your comment. Screen Name. Email Address. Hide Footnote Whether these zones will ultimately produce products that can compete in the international market, including against Chinese manufactures is also debatable.

Pakistani policy is skewed toward imports, given a one-time 6 per cent import duty, rather than production. Manufacturing accounts for 13 per cent of the economy but almost 60 per cent of the tax burden.

CPEC was originally meant to pass through and thus help develop impoverished areas of Balochistan as well as southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A compromise between the federal and provincial governments yielded three planned routes: western, central and eastern. The eastern route would cover southern and central Punjab districts, including Lahore, Faisalabad, Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalpur and Multan.

The controversy continues, however. Afrasiab Khattak, a former senator and senior ANP leader from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a major jihadist sanctuary, was also critical of the current focus on further developing the eastern route. Hide Footnote Yet addressing the adverse impact of CPEC on local communities, both in remote regions and the heartland, is arguably more urgent than settling the controversy about routes. Given the mountainous terrain, the single-lane highway in Gilgit-Baltistan can only be upgraded and not significantly widened.

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Adding insult to injury is that CPEC projects, designed and implemented without their input, will be of little benefit to them. Hide Footnote The ecological costs of infrastructure projects in a mountainous region prone to landslides, and carbon emissions from the expected increase of truck traffic, have also angered environmental and local activists. Instead of addressing such concerns, authorities have regularly invoked the Anti-Terrorism Act and the cybercrimes law against political party and human rights activists.

Hide Footnote Officials accuse Indian intelligence agencies of trying to stir up anti-state sentiment in the region, implying that dissidents and protesters are Indian spies, contributing to a generally restrictive environment where criticism of CPEC is especially fraught.

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This allegation provoked heightened security measures and stricter monitoring of foreigners and visiting Pakistanis, including searches in hotels and guesthouses, and more patrolling of the route and exit and entry points. Tensions with Islamabad have also risen as the result of the May promulgation of the Gilgit-Baltistan Order , with the Pakistani prime minister retaining significant authority, with only some powers delegated to a council headed by an appointed governor to the elected Gilgit-Baltistan legislative assembly.

In ongoing protests throughout the region, thousands of its inhabitants are demanding full democratic rights and representation. Protesters have regularly clashed with police, who have used tear gas and shot in the air to disperse crowds. Hide Footnote According to a former senator, locals ask why CPEC passes through their region when Islamabad denies them fundamental rights.

In , China detained around 50 Chinese Uighur women married to Gilgit-Baltistan residents, reportedly on suspicions of links to Islamist militants in Xinjiang; the Gilgit-Baltistan legislative assembly has urged the federal government to work for their release, though as yet to no apparent avail.

New Delhi protested the Gilgit-Baltistan Order Crisis Group discussion, Chinese scholar, Shanghai, April Hide Footnote Beijing seems sensitive to these concerns, but equivocates. The Port of Singapore Authority assumed control over Gwadar port in January , and inaugurated it in March that year. Gwadar Port became formally operational in November and can now berth 50,tonne oil tankers.

Taiwan Strait I: What’s Left of ‘One China’?

The National Party is a Baloch nationalist party. Hide Footnote The Port of Singapore Authority, the previous Gwadar port operator, had the same lopsided terms but many local officials and business community representatives believed that Islamabad should have renegotiated them with the Chinese operator. A bilateral currency swap agreement 10 billion yuan from the Chinese side and Rs. Since the private sector is playing a major role in both CPEC bilateral trade and SEZ industrialisation, there are concerns that Pakistani businesses might still be resistant to trading in Chinese currency.

Pakistani businesses do not want to trade in Chinese currency. They would much rather continue to use currencies such as the U. Gwadar suffers from acute water and electricity shortages, major challenges to transforming it into a commercial hub. Iran exports electricity to Gwadar, but outages can extend up to ten hours a day.

Trump’s Incredibly Risky Taiwan Policy

Hide Footnote With pipelines running dry, privately owned tankers supply water at high prices. Are we being set up for a fall? Hide Footnote Two desalination plants have been built with Chinese support in Gwadar, and the military intends to build another. In the battle of Karbala AD , the Umayyad commander blocked access to the Euphrates so that Imam Hussain and his followers would have nothing to drink. Some Pakistani security analysts believe that China is less interested in developing a road and logistical network that would enable access to the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf from Xinjiang via Gwadar than in using the port for military purposes.

A federal government directive to the development authority to stop approving new housing and commercial developments until the master plan is finalised came after housing schemes had already been approved, with some private firms acquiring 14, acres of land.

Hide Footnote Landowners say properties have been expropriated without advance notice as required under the Land Acquisition Act. They will make offers, but if locals refuse to sell, they will simply seize the land. As local alienation increases, so does security surveillance and control. Several intelligence agencies monitor movement within and around the city.

Residents, even local officials, are subjected to frequent and demeaning questioning by soldiers at checkpoints. Even children are not exempt.