China-Taiwan Conflict; US role


This article is written by Bisma Mubashir, a graduate of International Relations from the National University of Modern Languages. she is interested in foreign affairs, global conflicts, International politics, and diplomacy. 


China-Taiwan Conflict: Besides technological advancement, Taiwan holds vital strategic importance due to its geographical location. Along with Japan to the north and the Philippines to its south, Taiwan is part of the first island chain along with China’s coast that hinders the country’s access to the Pacific Ocean.

Taiwan’s official name is the Republic of China (ROC). It was founded in 1912 on the Chinese mainland after the collapse of China’s last imperial dynasty. Both Taiwan and China still constitutionally claim that mainland China and the Taiwan Area as part of their respective territories. In reality, China rules only Mainland China and has no control of but it claims Taiwan as part of its territory under its “One China Principle”.

When the communist party took over mainland China in 1949, the Nationalist Party government escaped to Taiwan and made their seat of government. Since then, both the Nationalist government and the People’s Republic of China (mainland China) have considered Taiwan a province of China. Later that same year, Communist leader Mao Zedong declared the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from Beijing. The two sides have been governed separately since and they shared cultural and linguistic heritage.

Causes of Conflict:

Beijing views Taiwan as an inseparable part of its territory, even though the Chinese Communist Party has never governed the island. Chinese President has promised to pursue “reunification” with Taiwan by peaceful means. He said he wanted to see peaceful reunification occur under a “one country two systems” policy, similar to that used in Hong Kong. However, the system of government is generally opposed by Taiwan.

China is capable of invading Taiwan. After years of rising military spending, now boasts the world’s second-largest defense budget behind the U.S., for about $290 billion this year. That has allowed the development of advanced weapons systems as well. But the relations between China and Taiwan started improving in the 1980s.

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One country, two Systems:

China laid a formula, known as “one country, two systems”, under which Taiwan would be given significant autonomy if it will accept Chinese reunification. This system was established back in Hong Kong. But Taiwan rejected this offer, and it did relax rules on visits to and investment in China.

Independence Movement:

In 2000, the independence movement started in Taiwan when the elected president Chen Shui-bian openly backed “independence”. A year after Mr. Chen was re-elected in 2004, China passed a so-called anti-secession law, which states that China could use “non-peaceful means” against Taiwan if it tried to “secede” from China. Mr. Chen was succeeded by Ma Ying-jeou in 2008, who pursued to improve relations with China through economic agreements. In 2016, Taiwan’s current president Tsai Ing-wen was elected and she tends towards official independence from China.

Role of the US in China – Taiwan Conflict:

After Donald Trump was elected in 2016, it vowed to supply Taiwan with defensive weapons and has strained any attack by China would cause “grave concern”.

Throughout the year 2018, China put pressure on international companies, forcing them to list Taiwan as a part of China on their websites and it also threatened to block them from doing business in China if they failed to comply.

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At the same time, the US has been increasing its outreach to Taiwan and reassuring its continued support. Recently, the US sent the highest-level state department officials to visit Taiwan. China strongly opposed the meeting, and also warned the US “not to send any wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ to avoid severe damage to China-US relations”. During this controversial visit, China directed a live-fire military exercise in the waterway that separates Taiwan from mainland China.

Galtung’s Model of Conflict: 

In the 1960s Galtung proposed an influential conflict model which covers both the Symmetric and Asymmetric conflicts. He suggested that conflict has three attributes Contradiction, Attitude, Behavior, and Violence have three types Structural Violence, Cultural Violence, Direct Violence, and Peace are of three types, Peace-building, Peace-making, Peace-Keeping. Symmetric conflicts are defined by the conflicting parties, their interests, and the clash of interests between them, and Asymmetric conflicts are defined by the conflicting parties and the conflicts of interests inherent in their relations.


In this conflict, there is no such direct violence or use of force. Structural violence is built into the social structure and it can be resolved through the elimination of Structural contradictions. Moreover, Cultural Violence is a prevailing attitude used to legitimize direct or structural violence. Cultural violence can be ended by changing attitudes. Peacebuilding can be attained by peaceful negotiation among both lands. This is an ongoing conflict.

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