Chinese President Xi Jinping said this week that Taiwan ‘must and will be’ part of China again. This talk seems to have already caused consternation in the formerly Chinese-owned country as it looks to assert its independence and show that it can hold its own on the world stage.
Last week, Taiwan said that it wants to be a part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and watched from the sidelines in recent trade talks at the APEC Summit held in Papua New Guinea at the end of 2018.
Now, the country is issuing statements about being more independent, which has led China to say that Taiwan has to reunite with the mainland at some point, preferably sooner rather than later. However, it appears that this rhetoric has merely instigated Taiwan to push forward with its own trade plans.
Due to its positioning in the Asia Pacific region, and particularly in the South China Sea, Taiwan has seen shows of aggression on all sides. The US is even trying to tempt Taiwan to work with it on trade, which could well be one of the reasons why China is taking a firmer stance.
There are clear signs that China is looking to increase the influence that it exerts in the region at present, but in the face of its strong words, Taiwan seemingly has no intention of taking any threats lying down.
Taiwan is now looking to reduce its dependency on China. It has a fairly heavy reliance on the nation due to its proximity and past ties. Jinping said this week that he did not oppose using military force to bring Taiwan back under China’s control.
It would seem that Taiwan’s best protection is to refuse to stay isolated on the matter and work on bilateral trade with other countries to show its outward international value.
The region’s current government came into power on the back of a wave of concerns over sharp reliance on China. Currently, 40% of Taiwan’s exports go to China, accounting for half of Taiwan’s GDP. The election manifesto called to ‘bid farewell to our past over-reliance on a single market.’
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen introduced the New Southbound Policy, a document that sets out intentions to get new investment from other South Asian nations. India is at the top of the list.
The Taiwan External Trade Development Council will be working to achieve this, and Chairperson James Huang has called India ‘the jewel in our external economic strategy.’ India’s mass labor market, low wages and skill in electronics are well suited to the Taiwanese tech sector.
With India’s aim to grow its GDP by 8%-10% and its population set to overtake China’s, there could well be a developing battle between the two nations to establish themselves as dominant powers in the burgeoning tech market. China is beginning to feel the effects of a trade war between itself and the US.
Taiwan is likely to struggle with growth if it cannot establish bases in other countries due to its shortages in land and energy capacity. Forming agreements with nations such as India could, therefore, help Taiwan to flourish, reduce its reliance on China, and gain support from elsewhere.