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A recent poll has found nearly 60 per cent of people in Taiwan – the self-governing island democracy long coveted by Communist China – want a military alliance with the United States, with only 1 in 5 openly disagreeing.
Current VP Lai Ching-te is in the lead to win the Taiwanese presidential election (Image: Getty/I-HWA CHENG)
The poll – commissioned by the Taiwan Independence Alliance and the Taiwan Security Association – comes amid growing tension in the region, with Taiwan set to elect a new President in January.
As things stand, current VP Lai Ching-te is in the lead, especially after a joint opposition ticket spectacularly collapsed. Lai represents the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the most nationalist party in Taiwan.
For Beijing, Lai is a separatist and the least amenable to what the Chinese Communist Party(CCP) calls “peaceful reunification”. Should Lai win, expect the gloves to come off so far as China goes.
The same poll found virtually no support for unification with China, with over 40 per cent of Taiwanese in favour of the status quo of independence in practice, with just over one-third supporting the status quo while working toward independence.
Separately, a survey by the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica, found trust in the US has declined among Taiwanese people in recent years, although less than 10 per cent think China is a “credible” country, while a huge majority think the threat from China has increased.
Worst of all for China, the same survey found nearly 80 per cent of Taiwanese people think Taiwan and China are not the same country – a view shared across the political spectrum – with over 60 per cent viewing themselves as Taiwanese only.
Despite this, Communist China cannot simply let Taiwan be. For CCP leader Xi Jinping, his reputation in no small part rests on taking over Taiwan one way or another.
No, this isn’t primarily about semiconductors, a major element of electronics manufacturing which Taiwan specialises in.
Instead, geography is the key: capturing Taiwan offers Beijing its best chance of dominating the Western Pacific and pushing the US out of the region, a longstanding goal of the regime.
Taking Taiwan would be no mean feat: the Taiwan Strait which separates China from the Mainland is extremely tough to cross, while Taiwan lacks good landing sites for maritime vessels, and offers a hard terrain for Chinese troops to fight in, not least its rugged and mountainous interior.
Then again Taiwan is small – sixteen-times smaller than Ukraine – and, being an island, it will be very tough to get equipment in and people out once any invasion begins. Meanwhile, China could opt to blockade, rather than invade, choking the resource-poor Taiwan while its troops prepare to invade.
Now the world must hold its breath for Taiwan’s January vote, which – alongside the US election in November – will be watched hawk-like by China.
Once the CCP knows the lay of the land in both Taiwan and America they will be ready to make a full and final decision about Taiwan. Beijing cannot let sleeping dogs lie, while Taiwan is clearly not ready to become another Hong Kong and surrender to Beijing.
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