STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

China's ramping up pressure on Taiwan

Beijing's push to isolate Taiwan is gathering pace, with two of the island's few remaining allies switching allegianc...

Posted: May 29, 2018 11:37 AM
Updated: May 29, 2018 11:37 AM

Beijing's push to isolate Taiwan is gathering pace, with two of the island's few remaining allies switching allegiance to China in the past month.

Taiwan isn't just taking heat from China diplomatically. Multi-national companies are being pressured over how they describe Taiwan, with Beijing insisting they follow its line that the island is an integral part of China. Shows of force by the Chinese military in the Taiwan Strait, the narrow strip of water that divides the two, are also becoming more commonplace.

This ratcheting up of tensions between China and the self-governed, democratic island opens up another fault line for Washington in its dealings with Beijing, with the Trump administration already at odds with China over trade, North Korea and the South China Sea.

Washington has signaled closer support for Taiwan and a high-profile demonstration of solidarity comes in June when the United States opens a new complex to house its de facto embassy in Taipei that's three times the size of the original building.

Here's what you need to know about the potential flashpoint.

How has China been piling on the pressure?

While Beijing has been chipping away at Taiwan's shallow bench of diplomatic allies for years, the loss of two -- Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic -- in the space of a month is unprecedented.

Taiwan accuses Beijing of "dollar diplomacy," enticing countries to switch allegiance with cash or other incentives -- a strategy that's become easier as China's grown richer and its pockets deeper.

Beijing has also focused its attention on companies that don't toe its line on Taiwan. Some 44 airlines were recently warned not to list Taiwan separately from China on their websites and given a deadline to comply, a move the US government has described on May 5 as "Orwellian nonsense."

Most recently, Japanese retailer Muji has been fined for coat-hanger packaging that described Taiwan as a country.

China has also prevented Taiwan from attending, even as an observer, the annual meeting of the World Health Organization's decision making body for two consecutive years, a move that excludes the island's 23 million people from information that helps prevent outbreak of global diseases.

No target is too small. In the small Australian town of Rockhampton, tiny fish-shaped Taiwan flags featured on a children's art project displayed in public were painted over, reportedly at the behest of Beijing.

What's China's goal?

China and Taiwan -- officially the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China, respectively -- separated in 1949 following the Communist victory in a civil war that saw the Nationalists flee to the island.

The two sides have been governed separately since, though a shared cultural and linguistic heritage mostly endures -- with Mandarin spoken as the official language in both places.

Bringing Taiwan back to the fold has eluded China's Communist leaders for nearly seven decades and would be a huge achievement for President Xi Jinping, who now has the option to rule for life.

Chong-Pin Lin, a former deputy defense minister in Taiwan, said he believes reunification is still a long-term goal for Xi. For now, he says, Beijing is focused on deterring Taiwan from making a declaration of independence -- something that would be a huge embarrassment for Xi.

"Beijing is skillful at applying psychological pressure on Taiwan," he says.

President Tsai Ing-wen's Democratic Progressive Party has traditionally leaned in favor of formal independence from China, compared to Taiwan's other main political party, the Kuomintang, as the Nationalists are known locally.

Although Tsai has been "very prudent" since being elected in 2016 and tried to restrain the more radical wing of her party, says Lin, Beijing may feel that she will look to appeal to her base as mid-term elections near.

However, it's not just about the stick for Beijing. China has also been encouraging integration. In February, China's Taiwan Affairs Officer revealed 31 new measures to promote exchange and cooperate with Taipei, many of which make it easier for those from Taiwan to work, do business and study in mainland China, including teachers and doctors.

How does the US fit in?

Despite their unofficial nature, Taiwan's ties with the US, which provides arms to the island under the Taiwan Relations Act, appear strong.

Defying strong pressure from China, Congress passed the Taiwan Travel Act, which US President Donald Trump signed into law in March, by unanimous vote in both houses. It aims to make it easier for US officials to visit the island and Taiwan officials to visit the US.

Another bi-partisan bill aimed at ensuring Taiwan's space in the world stage isn't diminished further was launched on Friday by Republican Sen. Core Gardner and Democratic Sen. Edward Markey.

"This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that major international organizations do not turn a blind eye to our ally Taiwan simply because of China's bullying tactics," the senators said.

And when the Trump administration opens the new American Institute in Taiwan, as the unofficial embassy is called, on June 12, it's possible that high-ranking members of the Trump administration will attend.

However, in Taiwan, some analysts fear that an erratic and unpredictable President Trump may use Taiwan as a bargaining chip to extract concessions in his dealings with China on North Korea or trade.

"Taiwan-US relations are pretty good right now, but we don't know what the future holds," said Lin.

What's Taiwan doing about it?

Taiwan has long been used to operating in China's shadow.

In 1971, the Republic of China was forced to withdraw from the United Nations after a motion was passed recognizing the People's Republic as the only lawful representative of China to the UN. Many other countries followed suit, including the United States, which switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing 1979 but has maintained unofficial ties with Taipei.

Its unofficial relationships, especially with the United States, ultimately carry greater weight than its smaller, formal allies. Taiwan has representative offices, which act as de facto embassies, in more than 100 cities and a passport issued in Taiwan allows visa-free access to 148 countries, compared to 70 for China.

Many people in Taiwan barely bat an eyelid when a diplomatic ally is lost -- seeing the money the government spends on maintaining and cultivating these small countries as a waste.

What will be key is if Beijing's pressure has an impact on the island's more powerful allies, like the US, EU or Japan or on the companies that do business there.

As Beijing has ramped up pressure, Taiwan's government has been more vocal in calling out Beijing's tactics.

It has publicly criticized some companies who have bowed to Beijing's pressure. And Tsai warned of a red line in a statement issued last week in the wake of Burkina Faso's decision to ditch Taiwan.

"China's efforts to undermine our national sovereignty are already challenging Taiwan society's bottom line. This we will no longer tolerate," said President Tsai.

"We will simply redouble our resolve and continue to engage with the world."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 515504

Reported Deaths: 10296
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34999558
DeSoto33360432
Hinds32743643
Jackson24906392
Rankin22565405
Lee16455245
Madison14954283
Jones14158248
Forrest13834260
Lauderdale12311323
Lowndes11357193
Lamar10693140
Pearl River9748244
Lafayette8868143
Hancock7849132
Washington7559169
Oktibbeha7229138
Monroe7068179
Pontotoc7033110
Warren6885178
Panola6791135
Neshoba6744210
Marshall6707142
Bolivar6468151
Union643598
Pike5942157
Alcorn5921107
Lincoln5540136
George510680
Prentiss508285
Tippah495683
Itawamba4884107
Scott478999
Tate4777117
Adams4776125
Leflore4749144
Copiah458195
Yazoo458092
Simpson4566117
Wayne443472
Covington434895
Sunflower4319106
Marion4295112
Coahoma4244110
Leake414191
Newton396182
Tishomingo386894
Grenada3789109
Stone366166
Jasper341266
Attala340490
Chickasaw318367
Winston318392
Clay312978
Clarke301695
Calhoun286850
Holmes272889
Smith270552
Yalobusha244947
Tallahatchie232353
Greene225149
Walthall222166
Lawrence220242
Perry214556
Amite210357
Webster206548
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182157
Carroll175441
Jefferson Davis174343
Tunica163539
Benton153139
Kemper145441
Choctaw137027
Claiborne134839
Humphreys132239
Franklin126530
Quitman107828
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson97134
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 848498

Reported Deaths: 16185
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1164292005
Mobile743961384
Madison53544738
Shelby38446371
Baldwin38207589
Tuscaloosa36168644
Montgomery34570782
Lee25677264
Calhoun22632520
Morgan22540411
Etowah20074520
Marshall18859318
Houston17790426
St. Clair16963359
Limestone16200220
Cullman16164306
Elmore15948295
Lauderdale15080307
Talladega14265302
DeKalb13093271
Walker12170380
Blount10782193
Autauga10561157
Jackson10217196
Coffee9439192
Colbert9374210
Dale9045192
Tallapoosa7286202
Russell710865
Chilton7097170
Covington6972197
Escambia6968144
Franklin6366108
Chambers5804142
Marion5445132
Dallas5303210
Pike5132109
Clarke486086
Lawrence4852130
Winston4799110
Geneva4655136
Bibb436295
Barbour370880
Butler3445101
Marengo342993
Monroe338566
Randolph337967
Pickens335090
Fayette332185
Henry321266
Cherokee320564
Hale319489
Crenshaw261778
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253555
Clay253069
Macon246367
Conecuh193562
Coosa186048
Wilcox178538
Lowndes178468
Bullock152845
Perry141840
Sumter139841
Greene130745
Choctaw94628
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
49° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 44°
Columbus
Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 51°
Oxford
Clear
° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: °
Starkville
Mostly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 52°
After Monday mornings storms, rain chances should remain more spotty throughout the week, with temperatures hovering a little below what we expect for this time of year for the next couple of days. The extended forecast does have more chance for storms, some that could be strong, but timing remains an issue at this point.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather