By pursuing an aggressive policy towards Taiwan, China strives to change the current status quo in their relations
The unification with Taiwan is a core element of Xi’s vision for ‘great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’. Xi presents the unification as a historical inevitability, tries to justify his plans by historical interpretations, ideological opposition, and alleged threats to national security; he simultaneously instigates nationalism and accelerates modernisation of the People’s liberation Army.
In Beijing’s view, political processes in Taiwan and the region are currently unfavourable to the prospects of reunification. The majority of Taiwan’s population is in favour of maintaining the status quo in relations with Beijing, but since 2018, the portion of Taiwanese supporting the idea of the island’s independence has been increasing (25.2 percent of population favoured it in 2022). China criticises political, economic, and defence initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region led by the U.S., such as QUAD and AUKUS. Beijing believes that these initiatives are part of the plan devised by the U.S. and its allies in the region to contain China’s expansion. China is particularly opposed to the strengthening of Japan’s military capabilities, as it believes that in the event of a conflict with Taiwan, they could be used against China. Taiwan’s efforts to develop relations with democracies are also viewed in a negative light, as these could be employed to rally international diplomatic support in the event of a conflict.
Beijing openly demonstrates that it is prepared to cross a red line in its relations with Taiwan. Reacting to the visit by the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives to Taiwan in the summer of 2022, China held unprecedented military exercises simulating a total blockade of Taiwan. During the exercises, the Chinese naval and air forces on numerous occasions violated the median line, which divides China’s and Taiwan’s territorial waters, and for the first time in history, launched a missile over Taiwan’s main island, which later landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. After the exercises, Xi stressed that China was not ruling out the use of military force against Taiwan and initiated the adoption of amendments to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Constitution. They state that China will pursue to implement the ‘one country, two systems’ principle with regard to Taiwan. In 2020, China betrayed ‘one country, two systems’ principle applied to Hong Kong, what shows that China itself does not respect its commitments and obligations. Since then, Taiwanese society has been particularly sceptical about China’s similar initiatives.
During Xi’s third term in office, China’s aggressiveness towards Taiwan will increase; however, the military invasion is unlikely. China will continue to hold military exercises around Taiwan in order to intimidate Taiwanese society, to deter Taiwan’s partners from collaboration with Taipei, and test the reaction of the international community. It is possible that China will carry out military provocations against Taiwan’s smaller islands and will obstruct supply of raw material to Taiwan as well as operation of international trade routes near Taiwan. In the medium term, China will pursue to decrease its economic and technological dependence on the West significantly, as this would be China’s critical vulnerability if it came under sanctions in the event of a military invasion of Taiwan.