China's Latest Take on Taiwan: It Is 'Not Ukraine'

But comparisons between the 2 geopolitical conflicts are nervously being noted
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2022 8:38 AM CST
China's Latest Take on Taiwan: It Is 'Not Ukraine'
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech in Taipei, Taiwan, on Oct. 10, 2021.   (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File)

(Newser) – The world is currently hyperfocused on tensions between Russia and Ukraine, but some eyes are starting to turn to another geopolitical tussle: that between Taiwan and China, with the latter scoffing at any comparisons made between the two conflicts. The New York Times reports that Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan—a self-ruled territory that China insists belongs to China—this week bolstered surveillance and defenses on her island, after noting late last month that "we empathize with Ukraine's situation." On Wednesday, in front of a task force she created specifically to study tensions in Ukraine, Tsai blasted Russia for "encroaching on Ukraine's sovereignty."

Both the Times and CNN note the similarities between the situation in Ukraine and that of Taiwan. Both, for instance, are democracies aligned with more Western values, lying in the shadows of autocracies that have made no secret of wanting to sweep them back into their own fold. World leaders have recognized those comparisons, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said over the weekend that "echoes" of what goes down in Ukraine "will be heard in Taiwan." The Times notes that while "no sign that an invasion of the island is imminent ... a distracted West or a weak response to a Russian invasion in Ukraine could embolden the ruling Chinese Communist Party to ramp up pressure on the island." Still, not everyone agrees that China will soon make a move on Taiwan.

"[Xi Jinping] doesn't really want to take any risk" right before he's likely to ascend to a third term in October, Steve Tsang, the director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London, tells CNN. "A military adventure that is not successful will not do his third term of office much good, and a failure could potentially derail it." Tsai herself acknowledged Wednesday that Taiwan isn't a mirror image of Ukraine, especially when it comes to geographical, economic, and geopolitical conditions. China, for its part, says "Taiwan is not Ukraine," but its reasoning likely won't ease Tsai's mind. "Taiwan has always been an inalienable part of China," a spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, per Reuters. "This is an indisputable legal and historical fact." (Read more Taiwan stories.)

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