While the world looked to Ukraine during its time of crisis amid the Russian invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, his close ally China and Chinese President Xi Jinping has been busy reiterating that Taiwan is part of their sovereign territory after it had previously stated in a UNSC meeting that Russia and Ukraine should practice restraint and use diplomacy to find a solution to the crisis.
In not-so diplomatic rhetoric, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying boldly stated that “Taiwan is not Ukraine” and that the issue with Ukraine and its own issue with Taiwan are drastically different. She claimed that “Taiwan has always been an inalienable part of China. This is an indisputable legal and historical fact,” an eerily similar statement to Putin’s false claims on the history of Ukraine’s statehood, which the Kremlin claimed Ukraine to be part of Russia’s own territory and spiritual space.
Furthermore, Putin also claimed that Ukraine’s statehood is baseless and that it was never a real state, adding that Ukraine was a creation of Vladimir Lenin. Academics and analysts have since debunked these claims as a mischaracterization of history and are merely propaganda.
Taiwan, in response, has opposed these statements and their territorial claims, with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen stating that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent state called the ‘Republic of China.’ In accordance with these statements, she called for heightened vigilance with China’s military actions, specifically with the developments within the Taiwan Strait. She also said that Taiwan must raise the island’s surveillance and early warning capacity to ensure that they are always prepared for a potential Chinese mainland invasion.
“But in the face of foreign forces intending to manipulate the situation in Ukraine and affect the morale of Taiwanese society, all government units must strengthen the prevention of cognitive warfare launched by foreign forces and local collaborators,” said Tsai.
This heightened vigilance is not without evidence. Just last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to achieve a ‘peaceful reunification with Taiwan stating in 2021 that “No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and will definitely be fulfilled,” he asserted. Xi plans to reunify China with Taiwan through the “one country, two systems” policy, a move quite similar to the governance of Hong Kong.
Further heightening tensions in the region, China had sent eight Chinese J-16 fighters and one Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft to Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on the same day Russia invaded Ukraine. Said aircraft flew near Pratas Islands, which are under the control of the Taiwanese government. In response, Taiwan’s air force scrambled its own fighter jets in an attempt to secure its air space.
“The Air Force aircraft issued radio warnings and air defense missile systems (were) deployed to monitor the activities,” the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense reported.
This isn’t the first time China has flown military fighter jets and aircraft to the Taiwanese ADIZ. In fact, these deployments have been somewhat of a routine for both China and Taiwan as it happens quite frequently. Communist Chinese Air Force had reportedly sent 39 warplanes to Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) last January 23, the largest air fleet dispatched to Taiwanese airspace since October 4, 2021. Furthermore, Taiwan has also been upgrading and bolstering its air defense capabilities by purchasing a $100 million upgrade package for the Patriot Missile Defense System.
“In the face of China’s continued military expansion and provocative actions, our country will maintain its national security with a solid defense and continue to deepen the close security partnership between Taiwan and the United States,” said the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense earlier this month.
Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi had also recently warned about how China was observing the world’s response to a Russian invasion of Ukraine, fearing that the Chinese may follow suit if it deems the risk to be little enough. It can also be remembered Putin and Xi met ahead of the beginning of the Beijing Winter Olympics, exchanging pleasantries and verbal commitments to supporting each other with regard to the issue in Ukraine and the issue with Taiwan.