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China, Taiwan tensions: What’s at stake for the US in the South China Sea

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As U.S. lawmakers visited Taiwan this month, Chinese officials criticized the move, believing it meant the U.S. backed the island’s independence. And the tension under these circumstances is nothing new. It began when Republic of China leaders fled the mainland during the communist takeover in 1949. Taiwan became an independently-governed democracy, while China viewed it as a breakaway province.

The controversy over Taiwan’s status continues as the United States has publicly stated it supports the island as a democracy, but falls short of officially taking any hard stances against China. Nevertheless, China has taken steps to potentially prepare for war with the U.S.

LONGWORTH: MILITARY PILOTS IN TAIWAN SCRAMBLE WHENEVER CHINESE JETS HEAD TOWARD TAIWAN AIRSPACE.

THEY NEVER KNOW WHEN IT’LL BE THE REAL THING.

IT’S HAPPENING MORE AND MORE OFTEN—THE FLEXING OF FORCES.

AND AIR DRILLS AREN’T THE ONLY THING TAIWAN IS DOING TO PREPARE ITSELF FOR A POTENTIAL CHINESE INVASION.

SO IF YOU’RE WONDERING WHY CHINA WOULD INVADE TAIWAN AND IF THE US WOULD STEP IN TO STOP IT, LET ME EXPLAIN.

LET’S START WITH WHY CHINA WOULD INVADE TAIWAN.

REPUBLIC OF CHINA LEADERS FLED TO TAIWAN TO ESCAPE THE COMMUNIST TAKEOVER BACK IN 1949.

SINCE THEN, CHINESE LEADERS HAVE SEEN THE COUNTRY AS A BREAKAWAY PROVINCE.

AND JUST LIKE WITH HONG KONG, CHINA WANTS TAIWAN BACK — CALLING FOR REUNIFICATION.

ACCORDING TO U-S DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE OFFICIALS, CHINA COULD EASILY INVADE AND TAKE OVER BY 2027.

CHINA HAS ABOUT 2 MILLION ACTIVE DUTY TROOPS AND IS IN THE MIDDLE OF A DECADES-LONG MODERNIZATION EFFORT WITH ITS WEAPONRY, AIMING TO BUILD A WORLD-CLASS MILITARY.

YEAH, INTIMIDATING.

BUT TAIWAN IS ACROSS A LARGE BODY OF WATER, AND IT’S BEEN PREPARING FOR YEARS.

SPENDING MORE THAN 15 BILLION DOLLARS TO BUY EVERYTHING FROM US MILITARY JETS TO MISSILES.

BUT TAIWAN HAS FAR FEWER TROOPS THAN CHINA, ACCORDING TO THE CIA–ONLY ABOUT 170-THOUSAND.

ZACK COOPER, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE WITH EXPERTISE ON THE REGION, SAYS IT REALLY COMES DOWN TO HOW CONFIDENT CHINESE PRESIDENT XI JINPING IS FEELING.

ZACK COOPER: “THIS IS A HARD THING TO DO, AND OH, BY THE WAY, YOU HAVE TO DO THIS POTENTIALLY NOT JUST TAIWAN, BUT ALSO THE UNITED STATES, BUT ALSO JAPAN–THE WORLD’S NUMBER ONE AND NUMBER THREE ECONOMIES.”

THAT’S RIGHT, THE US FREQUENTLY SENDS ITS WARSHIPS INTO THE STRAITS OF TAIWAN TO REMIND CHINA OF ITS PRESENCE.

ADMIRAL PHILIP DAVIDSON: “WE MUST BE DOING EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO DETER CONFLICT. OUR NUMBER ONE JOB IS TO KEEP THE PEACE.”

LONGWORTH: SO, IT BEGS THE QUESTION: WHY DOES THE US CARE SO MUCH ABOUT TAIWAN THAT IT WOULD POTENTIALLY GO TO WAR FOR THE ISLAND?

REASON ONE, MILITARY OPERATIONS.

THE US USES THE TINY ISLAND AS A MILITARY FOOTHOLD IN A PART OF THE WORLD THAT HOSTS OUR BIGGEST THREATS–CHINA AND RUSSIA.

US STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON NED PRICE TALKED ABOUT THIS IN AUGUST.

NED PRICE: “STABILITY ACROSS THE STRAIT IS AN IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE THAT NOT ONLY WE SEEK TO UPHOLD, BUT THAT WE’VE DISCUSSED WITH OUR PARTNERS IN THE REGION, INCLUDING JAPAN.”

LONGWORTH: THAT BRINGS US TO THE SECOND REASON THE US WOULD STEP IN—OUR TIES TO JAPAN.

JAPAN RELIES ON TAIWAN’S WATERS FOR A LOT OF ITS IMPORTS, AND HAS SOME ISLANDS THAT’RE REALLY CLOSE BY.

IN EARLY OCTOBER, JAPAN’S PRIME MINISTER SAID HE SPOKE TO PRESIDENT BIDEN ABOUT SECURITY IN THE REGION–INCLUDING THE SENKAKU ISLANDS, WHICH SIT IN THE EAST CHINA SEA, 200 MILES OFF THE COAST OF TAIWAN.

BOTH JAPAN AND CHINA CLAIM THOSE ISLANDS AS THEIR OWN.

HE SAID THEY’D CONFIRMED THEIR REGIONAL SECURITY COOPERATION.

REASON THREE, TECHNOLOGY.

AFTER ALL, TAIWAN IS THE GLOBAL LEADER IN CREATING SEMICONDUCTOR CHIPS, WHICH ARE USED IN EVERYTHING FROM COMPUTERS TO CARS.

ZACK COOPER: “AND SO, IF YOU CAN IMAGINE CHINA TAKING TAIWAN, THE NEXT DAY YOU MIGHT WAKE UP AND FIND THAT WE CAN’T BUILD IPHONES ANYMORE.”

LONGWORTH: ALL THE MORE REASON FOR THE US TO MAINTAIN, AS THE STATE DEPARTMENT CALLS IT, “STRONG, UNOFFICIAL RELATIONS WITH TAIWAN.”

WE DON’T OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZE TAIWAN AS AN INDEPENDENT COUNTRY OR MAINTAIN AN OFFICIAL EMBASSY THERE BECAUSE TAKING A HARD STANCE AGAINST

CHINA IS A POLITICALLY AND ECONOMICALLY DANGEROUS MOVE.

SO, WHAT’RE YOUR THOUGHTS? IF CHINA INVADES TAIWAN, SHOULD THE US STEP IN?

LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS, AND DON’T FORGET TO HIT THE STRAIGHT ARROW BIAS METER.

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As U.S. lawmakers visited Taiwan this month, Chinese officials criticized the move, believing it meant the U.S. backed the island’s independence. And the tension under these circumstances is nothing new. It began when Republic of China leaders fled the mainland during the communist takeover in 1949. Taiwan became an independently-governed democracy, while China viewed it as a breakaway province.

The controversy over Taiwan’s status continues as the United States has publicly stated it supports the island as a democracy, but falls short of officially taking any hard stances against China. Nevertheless, China has taken steps to potentially prepare for war with the U.S.

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