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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Taiwan, Past And Future: Two Lessons For China From The Russia-Ukraine War

China is already profiting from the West's economic divorce from Russia. But its biggest interest may be to learn from Russia's experience of invading a land it claims for itself.

Photo of a man cycling past a store in Taipei, Taiwan

In Taipei, Taiwan

Julián López de Mesa Samudio

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — On Dec. 7, 1949, the Chinese nationalist leader fighting the communists, Chiang Kai-shek, decided to move his operations provisionally from mainland China to the island of Formosa, or Taiwan. For 50 years, until the end of the Second World War, the island had been part of the Japanese empire.

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More than two million sympathizers of his cause, the Kuomintang, also moved to Formosa, hoping to bide their time there before they could reverse the communist conquest of mainland China.


Months before, the victorious communist leader Mao Zedong had announced the creation of the People's Republic of China.

Becoming a pariah state

But the temporary stay became permanent as an exiled, though legitimate and internationally recognized, government declared itself to be the Republic of China. Taiwan came to be recognized as the Chinese government — at least until 1971, when the United Nations decided to recognize the People's Republic of China. Until then, Taiwan was China's official representative at the assembly.

Today, Taiwan is absent at the UN and only 14 countries recognize it as a state.

While Putin remains in power, Russia will likely be excluded from Western platforms.

Russia may go the same way. As the invasion of Ukraine progresses, and regardless of its outcome, Russia will almost entirely sideline itself in a globalized world.

Days ago, it became the world's most sanctioned state, soundly beating its friends and allies Iran, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela. Within a little over 10 days, it went from being an important actor within global dynamics to becoming a pariah state.

And while Putin remains in power, it will likely be excluded from Western political, cultural and economic platforms that have so far dominated the global discourse.

Photo of protesters carrying signs showing Taiwan's support of Ukraine, during a march in Taipei on March 6

A protest in support of Ukraine in Taipei, Taiwan, on March 6

Walid Berrazeg/SOPA Images/ZUMA

China's geostrategic interests in the war

We are also seeing China's growing interest in the invasion, in contrast with its apparent neutrality in the weeks preceding the war and its initial days. This is in part because the war in Ukraine suits its interests and even serves as a justification for accelerating its plans for geostrategic supremacy.

On the one hand, China will be supplying a good portion of the goods and services Russia will no longer receive due to Western sanctions. That is instantly giving it a captive market of 150 million consumers who will become increasingly dependent on China.

Putin's approach sets an excellent precedent for China.

On the other, China's anti-secession law of 2005 and its One-China policy proscribe any attempt at secession from what the Communist party defines as historical Chinese territory. That includes Taiwan, which China does not recognize as a state.

President Putin's approach toward the eastern regions of Ukraine sets a great precedent for China. And if China were to proceed the same way, its takeover of Taiwan would also mean engulfing its buoyant economy, exerting greater control over the South China Sea and, with that, over a third of the world's maritime trade.

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