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Taiwan: Europe Must Position Itself

Europe Must Position Itself

Taiwan: Europe Must Position Itself

Geopolitical consultant, director Europe of the review “Conflits,” Jean-Baptiste Noé decrypts the significant events of international news every Thursday. This week he is looking at Beijing, which no longer masks its desire to take control of the island of Taiwan. China isolates companies and states that have relations with ancient Formosa. Europe cannot remain indifferent and, like the United States, will have to take a stand.

Responding to questions from reporters

On October 22, responding to questions from reporters, Joe Biden asserted that the United States was ready to militarily defend Taiwan in the event of an attack from China. Exact words, which emerged from “strategic ambiguity” until then developed, aimed to cast doubt on a possible military operation. Attacking Taiwan would therefore also mean attacking Washington for Beijing. Has the means for such an army operation, any naval process being always delicate and uncertain.

Smother Taiwan

Beijing is playing on a different register than direct attack: suffocation. T is to isolate international companies that work with Taiwan by closing the Chinese market to them. The economic choice is quickly realized between an island of 23 million inhabitants and a country of nearly 1.5 billion. The suffocation also concerns people favourable to Taiwan by closing them the visas necessary to come to China. In early November, Beijing banned entry into its territory to relatives and relations of a list of Taiwanese personalities deemed too pro-independence. Beijing is unlikely to attack Taiwan directly. A military operation is always very hazardous and full of unforeseen events, both logistical and strategic. The Chinese strategy has always consisted of winning without fighting until it is possible to take a territory, like Tibet in 1950. It was not a conquest strictly speaking since Tibet was already in the orbit of China. These are also what happened to Hong Kong in January 2021. The final win was the consequence of the long suffocation that began in 1997. The same goes for Taiwan: first suffocate then, when the moment will have come, to occupy a territory which will have already fallen.

More and more Taiwanese see themselves as Taiwanese first and not Chinese, which is even more evident among the younger generation.

Taiwan independence

But the thing is more difficult to achieve in Taiwan than elsewhere. Insularity helps to create an identity of its own. Democracy and economic development distinguish this country from mainland China; lifestyles are also different there. More and more Taiwanese see themselves as Taiwanese first and not Chinese, which is even more evident among the younger generation. The more time passes, the more Taiwan becomes Taiwanese and the less Beijing it is. Time, for once, seems to be playing against China. A country can only wage war if it is young and ready to sacrifice part of its youth for a more significant cause. But China is ageing and fast. The younger generations marry less and limit their children and, because of the old one-child policy, the country has too many men compared to women. This demographic imbalance, coupled with the ageing of the population, weakens the demographic power of China, which was one of its pillars of strength. If Beijing is ready to make a military intervention, it should not wait too long. For once.

Vocabulary for kids

Where is Europe?

The countries of Europe, if they still want to count on the world stage, will have to take a stand. To say nothing is to side with China. But can they have an independent opinion? For that, we need the power, of course, but also the will. However, many countries have left the orbit of strategic thinking. To be able, one must also be independent. But here, too, many are bound by their financial commitments to China. Greece and Montenegro have contracted a lot of debts with Beijing. Italy is increasingly linked with Chinese trade. French and German industries are located mainly in China. Creates dependency links, which are also double entries. So not so easy to oppose Beijing when we owe it so much. Europe, therefore, seems to be caught in a dual dependence: that of Beijing, by economy and trade, that of the United States, by politics, commerce, and the military. In this new excellent world game which is in the process of being set up and of which Taiwan is the unforeseen epicentre, the countries of Europe seem to be reduced to playing the role of spectators, or perhaps a supporting role?

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