Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, didn’t budge when asked about any potential conflict with China in early May.
“We think that war can be avoided … and we are trying to work together to prevent war from happening,” he said.
Wu continued, “We will not instigate conflict between Taiwan and China … Taiwan will not be the instigator.” “…we will call for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
Other senior government officials reiterated similar lines on a week-long press trip for international journalists organized by Taiwan’s foreign ministry. Taiwanese officials insisted on “maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Strait” and minimizing the possibility of war with China.
While the government does its best to portray a democratically free and prosperous island to foreign journalists, Taiwan’s situation – both domestically and internationally – remains a dangerous one. The ruling government, led by President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP), must also balance the views of the Taiwanese people, as there is an impending election in January next year that could affect Taiwan’s future.
Relations with China have steadily declined since the DPP came to power in 2016, and the prospect of war with China has become more apparent. Increasing military incursions by China since 2021 have soured relations and the mood among the people of Taiwan. In August 2022, following a visit by then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China began a series of military exercises around Taiwan. Chinese military aircraft have also repeatedly entered Taiwan’s air defense detection zone, with a record 71 reported in 24 hours in December 2022.
The people of Taiwan want to maintain the status quo. In the latest quarterly poll conducted by the Mainland Affairs Council, 88.9 percent of respondents said the status quo with China should remain unchanged.
“They talk about the China issue every day on the news,” said Jian Ya-qing, a 73-year-old Taipei market stall holder.
“It’s about a big country threatening a small country. But 300-400 years ago, many of us came to Taiwan from China… My great-grandfather was from Fujian, China.
“I’m already old … but for young people, like my grandchildren, when you talk about war, it’s a difficult subject. War [with China] would be disastrous. But what can you do?”
Wu, the foreign minister, said Taiwan does not want to imagine any scenario of war with China, and on the streets of the capital Taipei, it is clear that Taiwanese people do not want either. According to Connie Chang, director general of the National Development Council, it is “business as usual” for Taiwanese.
Making your way through central Taipei, you won’t find any sign of a possible war with China. Taiwan’s famous night markets are packed with hungry diners – usually families and young people gather to socialize and eat. The Taipei Metro is a hive of activity at most hours of the day.
Abroad, Taiwan’s diplomatic allies continue to decline – down to just 13 countries after the latest defection by Honduras in April. It is the ninth diplomatic ally from Taiwan to grant diplomatic recognition to China since Tsai took power in 2016.
So is Taiwan afraid of flying in the air in the event of a Chinese invasion?
“We are not afraid of being abandoned. And right now, Taiwan is getting more support than ever,” Wu – Taiwan’s most senior diplomat – said.
“Taiwan is getting no less support. Quite the contrary – Taiwan is getting more support from the rest of the international community.”
As a fairly small nation, Taiwan cuts a sympathetic figure against increased rhetoric and military activity coming from China. But it is also not stable in ramping up its military preparedness in the name of self-defense.
In March, the US State Department Approved potential sale for $619 million Among the new weapons for Taiwan, including anti-aircraft missiles.
wu will not confirm May 1 report US President Joe Biden’s administration was planning to send another $500 million in arms aid to Taiwan. Instead, he reiterated that China could choose to invade “if they see Taiwan as weak.”
“We need to enhance our defense capabilities. And we are engaged in very serious military reform. And we’re also making more military investments in our defense needs. And we are also buying military equipment from the United States for the purpose of self-defense,” he said.
“We are also talking with different countries on how to get weapons and equipment to be able to defend ourselves.”
Tsai’s announcement in December 2022 that compulsory conscription would be extended from four months to one year – reversing a decision to shorten the term in 2013 – also signaled Taiwan’s recognition of the looming threat of war.
Wu said the changes to the recruitment system were part of “complex preparations for any possible conflict between Taiwan and China”.
“We have tried to bifurcate the role that the professional military can play as well as the roles that conscription can play and the civil defence. These kinds of layers… for the professional army, they will be the front line, and they will be the most important defense force and they are considered for recruitment that can meet the requirement of our professional army,” he said.
Tsai acknowledged in her announcement about the conscription changes that Taiwan’s current military system is ill-equipped to respond to a Chinese invasion. From 2024, soldiers will undergo more intensive training, including handling of missiles.
“Once the service is extended to a year, they will be better trained,” Wu said.
While he called on the international community to continue supporting Taiwan, Wu said that the people of Taiwan were prepared to defend themselves.
“We are not in a position to ask other countries to fight for Taiwan. If we don’t have the determination to fight for ourselves, we have no right to ask other countries to fight for Taiwan.”
Other Taiwanese government officials remained firm in their language and tone when pressed about any defense against invasion by China’s People’s Liberation Army,
Hua Shi-jie, secretary-general of the Mainland Affairs Council, the agency tasked with handling Taiwan’s cross-strait policy, said Taiwan would continue to “combat the expansion of authoritarianism”, but to determine whether it had “There is no crystal ball” and if China would attack, including the widely reported 2027 deadline to “reunify” Taiwan.
“We are a small nation, we pose no threat to the government of China…Taiwan has sat here for six decades to resist a possible military invasion by the Chinese Communist Party. Their ultimate objective is to usurp Taiwan by force or by any means [necessary],” They said.
From an economic perspective, Taiwan would be crippled by a war with China, with any possible blockade of the Taiwan Strait by the Chinese Navy threatening to cut the island off to the rest of the world.
But it’s also the threat Taiwan has grasped, with a message for the rest of the world: Any Chinese aggression would be disastrous for the global economy.
The foreign minister said, “If the worst happens… when China is using force against Taiwan, then this kind of impact is not only going to be on Taiwan, the rest of the world is going to be affected.”
“Between 40 and 50 percent [world’s] Goods going through the Taiwan Strait. And Taiwan produces about 90 percent of the world’s total semiconductor computer chips, and so you can understand that the economic impact of this on the rest of the world is going to be very severe,” Wu elaborated.
Chen Chern-chi, vice minister of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, said there was no imminent threat of full-scale conflict with China, but that Taiwan was prepared economically.
“We do not see an immediate threat of war… There is a minimal, minimal chance of conflict. However, we do have contingency plans… We have live support and living materials, a list of materials needed for construction,” he said .
Chen said Taiwan had enough food supplies for its people if war broke out.
“We have food supply of more than 18 months. It is long enough,” he said.
Prompted by Russia’s weaponization of food supplies during its invasion of Ukraine, Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung said last year that Taiwan takes monthly inventories to ensure a six-month supply of seeds, soybeans and corn. The supply of other products, including pork, chicken and seafood, was also guaranteed for at least three months.
Another potential flashpoint for Taiwan in the event of a war with China is energy supplies. Taiwan imports 99 percent of its natural gasNatural gas and coal make up about 40 percent of its electricity generation.
“We need to ensure that LNG (liquefied natural gas) supplies to the island continue even during any potential conflict with China,” said Connie Chang, director general of the National Development Council.
A G7 joint statement issued at the Hiroshima summit last week called for a “peaceful solution” to China’s claim on Taiwan. Earlier, the leaders of the Quad – Australia, India, Japan and the United States – did not name China but urged for “peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific maritime region”.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Wu believes that it is joint efforts with “like-minded countries” that will prevent a war with China.
“All efforts by the United States or Japan or Taiwan are trying to prevent the war from happening. And we certainly hope that there will be no war… It will mean tyranny and destruction. And it is not in our interest and it will not be in China’s interest either.