Taiwan: The Weak Part of the Equation

It would seem that there are only two actors — China and the United States — in the saga of global interest represented by the visit of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The reality is that, in this misunderstanding involving the two powers, the Taiwanese people themselves are a key element highlighted by strategists and political scientists.

Let us put some cards on the table.

The reality is that the U.S. was the first to take a position on Taiwan when, in 1979, it dropped Taipei and chose an alliance with Beijing. Washington pulled the rug out from under the island’s feet. Since January 1980, their mutual defense commitment ceased to exist. From then on, Taiwan was isolated on the international scene. Its citizens experienced a defining pressure to transform the country into an economic miracle and, in addition, to become one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies. Both goals were achieved in a relatively short time.

Taiwan’s economy is a highly developed market economy. It is the eighth largest country in Asia and the 18th largest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity, which is why it is included in the International Monetary Fund’s group of advanced economies. It is also ranked in the group of high-income economies by the World Bank. Its gross domestic product per capita — currently $24,800 — is 25th in the world. The key element of its economic success has been its industrialization strategy, based on the production of high value-added products and the constant maintenance and improvement of their quality.

With only 23 million inhabitants, almost no inflation (1.2%), a very low unemployment rate (3.9%) and, because only 1.5% of the population is below the poverty line, no major social fractures, Taiwan’s strength today lies in its colossal export potential and the place it has achieved in the world for the production and export of telecommunications equipment and parts, integrated circuits and robots for industrial production. One figure to keep in mind is that the small island of 36,000 square kilometers (13,899 square miles) produces 63% of the world’s semiconductors.

This explains why China’s interest in Taiwan is not capricious, nor is it a response to the principled position of territorial sovereignty expressed in its concept of “One China.” There is much more behind its effort to exert control over the many variables.

China’s military reaction to the U.S. challenge of Pelosi’s visit goes far beyond emphasizing its dominant military strength in the region. In addition to the blatant demonstration of armed capability, its action has focused on showing that, if necessary, China will play the card of a trade blockade that will affect the entire globe. The message, rather than having been aimed at Washington, has been delivered to Taipei, which happens to be the weaker part of the equation.

China leaves no room for doubt: It is not planning to invade Taiwan. The Asian giant will proceed to block the powerful exporter in all fields — without having to fire a shot.

About this publication

About Patricia Simoni 131 Articles
I began contributing to Watching America in 2009 and continue to enjoy working with its dedicated translators and editors. Latin America, where I lived and worked for over four years, is of special interest to me. Presently a retiree, I live in Morgantown, West Virginia, where I enjoy the beauty of this rural state and traditional Appalachian fiddling with friends. Working toward the mission of WA, to help those in the U.S. see ourselves as others see us, gives me a sense of purpose.

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