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Improving China-Taiwan relations

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16th-Mar-2014       
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Tanbir Uddin Arman :
China and Taiwan   held in very recent time their     first   historic talks in Nanjing since they   split about 6 decades ago. The talk is a landmark in cross- strait relations   between the two sides and supposed to produce   some concrete results for beefing up ties as well as easing the rivalry   between both sides   since after the end of   brutal civil war between Mao- led Communist party and Chinag's Kuomintang in 1949. Chiang Kai Shek and his nationalist Kuomintang party     fled, being defeated by Mao Zedong,   to China's Taiwan island and the party had long been ruling the island since 1949 to 2000.  They reckoned the island would be reunited   with the mainland under nationalist rule.  But   meanwhile an anti- reunification stance had largely begun    to grow   among the predominantly ethnic Taiwanese mainly out of Kuomintang's discriminatory behaviors towards them and with the advent of their Taiwanese Democratic Progressive Party in 1986.  During the presidency of the party leader- Chen Shui Bian from 2000 to 2008, he envisioned an independent   Taiwan    which   would be separated from mainland China's dominance.
He   emphasized Taiwanese   sovereignty as a most priority issue of the party's political agenda. However,    Taiwan's relations with mainland   China have   largely evolved   with Kuomintang's return to power in 2008.  President Ma Ying-Jeou's of Taiwan   uninterrupted  efforts ,who   has long  been  emphasizing   Taiwanese  unification under  nationalist  rule   with   the mainland    have  eventually   resulted  in the  recent    China- Taiwan  talks.
 Most of the Taiwanese people are now longing to better   their   relations with the mainland in order to ameliorate their businesses as well as to assure security issues since China is moving very fast as a rising power.   
In January-December 2013, trade volumes between mainland China and Taiwan reached USD197.28 billion from USD102 billion in 2007 as per the report of the Ministry of Commerce of Peoples' Republic of China. Taiwan is now China's seventh largest trading partner and fifth largest source of import.
In 2009, Taiwan opened up one hundred of its industries to mainland investments.   China and Taiwan have also agreed on allowing banks, insurances and   other financial services in both sides' markets. President Ma Ying-Jeo has called for further development of cultural and educational exchanges with China with continuing    conciliatory approach   to   the mainland. Notwithstanding the issues aforementioned, Taiwan's   geographic location  serves a  significant strategic role  for  China   in  undermining US  maritime  dominance and  its  naval  base   establishments in  Pacific and Southeast  Asia  regions.
China has now   about  300 - 400  missiles  having  range of  120  sea miles  aimed  at Taiwan in order to  counter any potential  threats posed by the US. Withal, it has 60 to 70 submarines in the area and strong air defense forces.   
It is, however,  apparent  from  the  history  that   geographical   location of Taiwan   also entices  the US  into making it   a strategic partner as the  island   depicts  same   geo-strategic  significances to the US   in order to defend  her   strategic interests   vis-à-vis  China.  
During the cold war  period,   US  and  Taiwan  agreed on  "Taiwan Relations Act"    essentially  for two main  purposes  of  the  both  parties of the agreement.
First,   to combat the rise of communism and aid in the spread of globalization and capitalism. Secondly, the act declared that if any outside nation attacked Taiwan, the US should come to its defense.  
Even though the act  had  lost  some  of  its   relevance   with the decline  of  Cold War ,   maintaining    amicable ties  with the Taiwanese  island   is  hitherto  a 'strategic necessity'  of  the US  with a view to keeping  its  influence  uninterrupted in  Southeast Asia  and Pacific regions    and   defending   its     allies  -Japan,  South Korea and  the  Philippines.
America's   Taiwan policy  has long been  emphasizing  a Taiwanese  independence  as the US  conceives  of  the possibility  that unification  of   Taiwan  would  force  American  interests  to  fall   into  the hands  of  the  Chinese  Communist.  
The Taiwanese   motive  for  independence is largely  backed by the US Neo-Conservative   Republicans   notably  George Bush , Colin Powell ,  Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney  as  they greatly perceive    Beijing 's  rise   would  result  in  a complicated  military confrontation  with Washington DC.  Bush   when   he was in presidency  felt   that  US should take a more direct role in backing the  Taiwan island's  drive towards Independence  as  the  island   serves immense   geo-strategic  significance for  the  US.
 But in contrast,   China  which   has improved its relations with Taiwan  over the last   some years  and longs   to keep the island  under its jurisdiction   has  already  warned that   it    will react   with its  nuclear  weapons  if  any  interference be made  by  the US in   China-Taiwan  internal affairs and  if  the US    pursues  further  attempts  at provoking  a Taiwanese independence.
Hence the situation   would obligate   the US   either to lose to significant extent    of its strategic interests in the region or to militarily confront with China that would result in a scourging ravage.   

(Tanbir Uddin Arman is a Research Assistant at Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) Dhaka)

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