Taiwan’s national day has created further tension with China following a recent diplomatic conflict in Fiji.
The events unraveled when Taiwan’s trade office in Fiji held approximately 100 distinguished guests in the Grand Pacific Hotel in the Fijian capital, Suva. A fight broke off when Chinese officials were accused by Taiwan’s foreign ministry of taking pictures and retaining information from the guests.
Joanne Ou, spokeswoman for Taiwan’s foreign ministry, condemned this illegal and inappropriate act by stating they are firmly against “the actions by the Chinese embassy in Fiji staff for seriously violating the rule of law and civilised code of conduct”. Officials from both sides were injured from the fight, to this date Fiji has not responded to this incident. However, China responded that those Chinese diplomats were only carrying out their “official duties”, and condemned Taiwanese officials in return for acting “provocatively”.
When did the China-Taiwan divide become so apparent? What are the dynamics behind the conflict in Fiji? China-Taiwan relations improved in the 1980s but progress has slowed down in recent years. The Chinese government perceives Taiwan as a breakaway province, and not a sovereign state as they claim to be. The “One Country, Two systems” policy directed to Taiwan back in the day, proposed to give them autonomy if only they accept Chinese reunification, but Taipei refused the offer.
Democratic figures such as Chen Shui-bian and Tsai Ing-wen were elected as Taiwan presidents, with both leaning towards maintaining independence from China. These events from the recent decade led to China-Taiwan tensions growing colder and drawing international responses from the US especially following Hong Kong’s National Security Law introduced on the 30th of June this year, China becomes more assertive and takes on their next target – Taiwan.
Beijing’s goal of ‘reunifying’ with Taiwan is meant to strengthen national control. Many questioned the autonomy in the change of policy – just like how Hong Kong worries about their freedom of expression after the National Security Law was passed. Although China and Taiwan have been divided since the civil war in the 1940s, China has stated they would reclaim Taiwan’s territory even by force if necessary. Ho-fung Hung states that China’s invasion of Taiwan would not be imminent, yet “Beijing is ready to defy international outcry,’ he said. ‘It will be a kind of a warning to Taiwan” instead. However, Taiwan’s foreign minister warns China to “back off” and military assets become a needed emergency to protect Taiwan’s national security.
As an ally to Taiwan, the US decided to support Taiwan’s military and proposed to offer them arm sales worth over £1.4bn. The US security advisor, Robert O’Brien, believes Taiwan needs to “fortify itself” in response to the coming threats from China. International response from the US in Taiwan further deteriorated relations between China and the US – especially since in recent years the power issues in South China Sea have not yet been resolved, and rather increasingly severe and hostile. China strongly criticised the meetings held between Washington politicians and Taiwan, as a deterrent to “not to send any wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ elements to avoid severe damage to China-US relations”.