Russian-Ukrainian invasion: Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine gives China ‘green light’ to act on Taiwan: Wang Ting-Yu

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Wang said the world had given a signal to Beijing and Moscow that they would be punished, threatened and restricted – but no boots would be put down.

“It gives Beijing the green light,” he said. “If you’re a dictator like Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin and it’s all about the money, they can afford it because they don’t care – they control society.”

Xi and Putin met in Beijing three weeks before Putin invaded Ukraine. The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday rejected the “despicable” allegations reported by the New York Times and South China Morning Post that China had asked Russia to wait until the end of the Winter Olympics to attack Ukraine.

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No major leader has had as much contact with Putin as Xi. China is increasingly wary of being publicly linked to Russia’s actions, but it is reluctant to criticize Moscow as world leaders urge Beijing to use its leverage.

“Unilateral changes to the status quo by force or coercion are unacceptable,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday after a meeting of Quad leaders.

Wang said Xi and Putin were “meeting each other’s needs”.

“When Xi needed a good environment to hold the Winter Olympics, the last thing he needed was Russia invading Ukraine and when people want to start a war with Ukraine, the last thing What Putin wants is an ambush from China,” he said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has accused Wang and Taiwan People’s Democratic Party deputies of stirring up the confrontation. Beijing has said it wants to pursue peaceful unification while sending dozens of warplanes every week to threaten Taiwan‘s airspace.

Internally, the Taiwanese government is currently debating whether to send defense equipment to Ukraine – after promises of medical aid, humanitarian aid and semiconductor export controls. Tsai and two other members of his cabinet, Vice President William Lai and Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang donated their salaries to help Ukrainians in the crisis.

Russia continued its bombardment of Ukrainian cities, even as harsh sanctions and significant dissent put pressure on the Kremlin at home. Credit: Getty

Wen-Ti Sung, professor of Taiwanese studies at the Australian National University based in Taipei, said Taiwan “must demonstrate that it is a giver, not just a taker” when it comes to paying the cost of the maintenance of international order.

“Taiwan needs to empathize and ‘participate’,” he said. “As Taiwan would like to feel the support of other states if it ever comes under military pressure, Taiwan should also participate in expressing its support for a coerced Ukraine.”

The Tsai government is now debating whether Taiwan should send body armor and helmets to Ukraine. This could escalate into additional military equipment as the war enters its third week. The move is highly sensitive as it could provoke a response from Beijing which raised concerns about Ukrainian citizens but refused to condemn the Russian invasion and blamed the war on the US and NATO.

Wang said the crisis and the sudden conscription of civilians had accelerated Taiwan’s plans to train its army reserves – numbering 2.5 million – in state-of-the-art military equipment, with particular emphasis on obtaining 300,000 reserves capable of firing Stinger missiles and anti-tank missiles.

“We hope there will be no war, but national defense preparedness must consider the worst-case scenario,” he said. “Taiwan’s military capability is much stronger than Ukraine’s.”

Taiwan has spent decades building its military defenses along an unforgiving strip of coastline separated from the mainland by a 180 kilometer stretch of water. Geography makes an amphibious invasion of Taiwan much more difficult than Ukraine. Taipei has sworn to fight to end it if attacked, but it is recognized in Taiwan that it could not stand alone if China launched a full-scale war.

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Sung said the difficult situation has pushed some Taiwanese into different camps, pessimistic and optimistic. Pessimists predict strong similarities between Ukraine and Taiwan, arguing that there will be no US military intervention in the Taiwan Strait.

“Therefore, they question the credibility of the United States as a security partner and argue that Taiwan must do everything it can to accommodate Beijing as soon as possible,” he said.

Sung said the optimists were focused on managing morale – pointing out that Taiwan is more strategically and economically important to the United States than Ukraine.

“Therefore, the absence of US military presence in Ukraine is not predictive of US military presence or not in a Taiwan Strait conflict scenario,” he said.

Five of the looming crisis points in the world outside of Europe involve China – the South China Sea, East China Sea, Taiwan Strait, Indian border and North Korea. Taiwan is in the middle of three of them.

“Keeping peace across the Taiwan Strait is not just a regional need,” Wang said. “It’s a global need.”

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