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Geopolitical Insights: Update on Taiwan

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Increasing diplomatic tensions

A group of five U.S. lawmakers visited Taiwan on 15 August. The bipartisan congressional delegation was led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Ed Markey (Dem) and their visit included a meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. In response, China’s military said it had organized multi-service joint combat readiness patrols and combat drills in the sea and airspace around Taiwan.

All parties appeared to be more cautious in their public responses to the continued visits to Taiwan by U.S. politicians. Chinese state media were seemingly content to restrict their coverage to reporting the official remarks from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while social media conversations did not spread into the mainstream.

On 16 August, China imposed sanctions on seven Taiwanese officials and lawmakers it accused of being "independence diehards" – strong language that is another clear sign of the efforts to punish Taiwan for what Beijing sees as unacceptable overtures to Western visitors.

China also promised “resolute measures” in response to an agreement between the U.S. and Taiwan on 18 August to push ahead with the previously announced U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade, a series of trade talks covering issues like trade facilitation, regulatory practices, trade barriers, and China's "economic coercion."

On 21 August, Republican governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, arrived in Taiwan with a small delegation, while it is expected that a bipartisan group of Japanese lawmakers and another US Congressional delegation will also make separate visits to Taipei this week.

Military drills create “new normal”, while supply chain stability highly dependent on peace

Although not as assertive as the training exercises that followed Nancy Pelosi’s visit two weeks ago, the latest patrols in the Taiwan Strait reaffirm the expectation that China’s military will maintain more regular patrols and activities in the region, creating a concerning “new normal.”

A senior U.S. naval commander expressed concern about increasingly assertive efforts by the PLA to intercept U.S. and allied military aircraft in the skies over the Pacific – echoing remarks made by Canadian and Australian officials earlier this year.

In media comments, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is critical to the stability of the global supply chain of high-tech products.

Reunification strategy meets swift rejection

China provided an update on its position on Taiwan in a new white paper, which asserted that historical precedent supports “reunification” and was consistent with previous policy statements that China’s preference is for “peaceful reunification.” Controversially, it removed a key pledge not to station Chinese military personnel in Taiwan.

Taiwan swiftly rejected the white paper as highly unacceptable, saying cross-strait unification and “one country, two systems” would never be options for the island.

Read the full update here.