Taiwan. Not far from Okinawa. Taiwan, China, Japan. He uses. A few days before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics. A few months after the Beijing Winter Olympics. Games to be held in two neighboring and rival countries. Meanwhile, for the first time in its Defense White Paper, Japan underlines the importance of Taiwan, with its de facto (though not de jure) independence, for peace and security in the region. Not a surprise. In recent months Japan had repeatedly referred to Taiwan in official statements, laying – as Forbes wrote – “the rhetorical basis for a possible change in Tokyo’s policies regarding China and Taiwan”, which Beijing has considered a province since 1949. rebel ‘with its 24 million inhabitants, an island that recently reported frequent incursions into its airspace by Chinese military aircraft.
“There is – observes in an interview with Adnkronos the sinologist Francesco Sisci, professor of geopolitics at Luiss – an increase in the rhetoric of tension”. According to the White Paper, preceded by statements by the Japanese Prime Minister and Vice Premier in favor of Taipei’s independence, “stabilizing the situation around Taiwan is important for the security of Japan and the stability of the international community”. If China were to attack Taiwan, Japan could join a US-led allied intervention to defend the island. An eventuality to be avoided. The words of the White Paper – the New York Times pointed out – suggest that Japan, “although still reluctant to be involved in the rivalry between the United States and China, may come close to Washington” after it has long tried to “balance its interests “between the USA, a crucial ally, and the Asian giant, a trading partner.
“China is identified – underlines Sisci – as the greatest threat to Japan”, which in 2017 angered the Asian giant by inserting the word ‘Taiwan’ in the name of its de facto embassy in Taipei (the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association, formerly Interchange Association).
‘Asian giant changes the way you see and think about things’
“In Asia – he highlights – there is an increasingly important perception of security, which is worth much more than economic issues”. And the strategic point on Taiwan for Japan, which sees China as its main outlet market, “is that 50% of the food needs pass through the Taiwan Strait, 70% of Japan’s energy needs”. And “if a hostile, adversary China takes possession of Taiwan, Japan’s economic, political and commercial independence would naturally be compromised”.
Beijing diplomacy soon responded to the release of the White Paper, accusing Tokyo of “extremely wrong and irresponsible” comments and insisting on the “complete reunification of China”. Beijing, Sisci comments, has “an alternative: either it definitively renounces reunification in fact if not in rhetoric or it must proceed with military reunification”. But both prospects are not without “dangers” for Beijing. And they are not without consequences. For China, the Taiwan dossier notes, “it is an important internal issue” and a renunciation of the goal recently reaffirmed by President Xi Jinping or a “removal of the prospect of reunification with Taiwan could ignite internal tensions in the Chinese Communist Party and rekindle elements of political struggle “.
Xi could find himself with “his enemies accusing him of losing Taiwan” and in turn he could accuse them “of pushing him into a corner”. A political struggle, internal controversies with unpredictable implications. But, “not giving up on Taiwan would mean opening up to the possibility of war” with consequences that could be “catastrophic”. Two alternatives which, according to Sisci, “are both very bad for China”, which “would need to completely change the way we think and see things”.
‘at the Games there is also a very political competition to see who wins the most medals’
The United States speaks of a “risky balance” that “must be maintained”. Washington’s official stance is in support of a “strong unofficial relationship” with Taiwan, with “the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait” cited in the joint statement following the April summit between Joe Biden and the Japanese premier. Yoshihide Suga. The United States is one of the actors in the ‘Taiwan dossier’, and Sisci invites us to consider the “China-US question not from a bilateral point of view, but within a complex system of Asian rivalry and tensions”.
And the question of Taiwan, explains the Sinologist, speaks of “an ‘overbearing’ Chinese hegemony, more overbearing than the American ‘hegemony’, a political and economic hegemony” felt by the other countries of the area with a “relationship with the Use that is becoming more and more symbiotic “. “A context – he underlines – in which the bilateral question between China and America is inserted and in which perhaps America can be seen as the driving force of these sentiments in Asia and not the engine”.
It is the context in which the Tokyo Olympics will open and in which the Winter Olympic Games will open in Beijing next February. On the latter, Sisci remembers, “there is the shadow of a possible boycott”, a shadow that for now “is in the background”, but which could “thicken after the Tokyo Olympics”, which will be “a competition, even a very politics, who wins the most medals “. “But – he concludes – the real point will begin later”.