The Singapore PM said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine leads to some awkward questions for China, because it violates Beijing’s closely-held principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty and non-interference. Furthermore, he does not think that China will pay a political price in the region when it refuses to distance itself from Russia, because all the countries in the region want their ties with China though they worry about sovereignty and the principles of the UN charter. Otherwise, the developments in Ukraine are bound to strain the US-China relationship. China is unlikely to volunteer to be a mediator, but the lack of which is not the problem in Ukraine, because the invasion is about Putin’s political calculation, what he wants involves some core interests of Ukraine and won’t be stopped through sheer diplomacy.
In the same event, the moderator also asked PM Lee about Taiwan. PM Lee said that is a very difficult question, but it can be analyzed through three aspects, which are politics, military, and economic, all of which China will use to try to unite with Taiwan in more peaceful ways than with bruit force.
Firstly, the invasion in Ukraine will provide lessons to Taiwan, and China will not destroy their relations with Russia and the US that easily. According to the history of China-Russia relations, they are not as close as they claim, for example, the Zhenbao Island incident which demonstrated the potential for conflicts between them, so China may not change its stance easily, as there are some disputes exist between their relations. Otherwise, the issue of Taiwan is related to hegemonic competition with the US, and China will face serious consequences from the US and its allies if it attempts to change the status quo. As such, China will not invade Taiwan by military force, because it is much easier to fissure Taiwanese on the issue of identity, and unite it by other means.
Second, Russian troops’ poor performance in the invasion may lead China to rethink the strength of the People’s Liberation Army. In the Russian case, the military and their leader’s relations are more tense with frequent miscommunication and dishonesty which means the real opinions will not get to the leader, and may lead to misjudgements. China will rethink their army, and certainly think twice regarding staging any invasion of Taiwan. China’s leaders understand the disadvantages of autocracy, and as a revisionist state which is seeking global hegemony, its leaders will make rational calculations regarding the cost of invading Taiwan.
Third, Western sanctions against Russia may cause China to be more prepared if it invades Taiwan. China’s prosperity relies on the stable economic environment, and it has much deeper connection to western countries. Before it invades Taiwan, it must ensure the stability of its financial payment system, and domestic demand to ensure it can be independent, or the Communist party may be deposed by popular dissent.
To sum up, it is also possible that China will send their troops to annex Taiwan, which it always repeats itself for deterrence reasons. However, because of the aforementioned three aspects, Taiwanese still need to care more about China’s peaceful ways of uniting, such as through the use of propaganda and trade dependency.
Written by Eddie C.
Edited by Ari B.