India’s endeavour to bolster its military might unfolds as a complex and nuanced narrative. The recent strides made by the Narendra Modi government in remaking India’s military apparatus reflect not only a response to the rising spectre of Chinese power but also an intricate weeding out of ghosts of the past.
Amidst all the huffing and puffing and threats to blow the house down by Beijing, what precisely is Taiwan’s plan to protect itself against China given heightened cross-Strait tensions in the aftermath of US House of Representatives’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island? That there obviously is a plan can be gauged from the fact that, unlike the last time there was a crisis of similar magnitude in 1995-96, there is no panic and public bedlam or a rush to stockpile food and home supplies; neither has the value of the Taiwanese currency depreciated nor has there been a stock market crash, and there is a marked absence of Taiwanese citizens queuing up for American visas as happened then.
As China expert Ryan Hass writes after having spent a week in Taiwan in early August: “Now, by comparison, restaurants are packed and sidewalks are filled with people living their everyday lives. Much of Taiwan’s resilience in the face of China’s escalating pressure can be traced to the approach to the crisis of its leader, President Tsai Ing-wen. Ms Tsai has made it clear Taipei will not flinch, but also will not provoke. She has instructed her administration to deprive Beijing of any justification for escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan’s protection plan, according to Hass, rests on the following pillars ~ attract greater investments to further strengthen its already out-performing economy, augment its military defence capabilities, double down on predictable and steady cross-Strait policies, sustain its central role in global value chains, and intensify coordination and cooperation with the USA and other friends and allies.
All of these are, in turn, premised on the principle that it would be wiser and more effective for Taiwan to deny China the ability to achieve its goals rather than to confront China head-on. Taipei is betting on the expectation that other powers in the region ~ and globally ~ will appreciate and recognise that their interests are implicated by conditions in the Taiwan Strait, and that this will encourage them to act in their own interests to bolster cross-Strait stability. Analysts are agreed that this is a reasonable assumption for Taipei to work with, particularly if dealing with the military aspect of a possible conflict with Beijing is underwritten by Washington, which now seems to be the case as the US-Taiwan security relationship has been significantly ratcheted up in recent years and includes a joint effort to strengthen Taiwan’s asymmetric military capabilities.
There should be no doubt, however, that China will continue to seek to create conditions for the reunification of its “renegade province” with the mainland by weakening Taiwan, trying to derail US-Taiwan relations, and isolating Taiwan globally. Taiwan has taken adequate measures ~ though the situation is dynamic and more may need to be done depending on how it evolves ~ to protect itself from Chinese pressure and intimidatory tactics. But the biggest danger remains that of China launching an all-out invasion. That’s a possibility experts do not rule out if President Xi Jinping gets impatient, especially as he gets closer to the end of his time in power. Against that, there can be no protection but to fight back.