Faced with a military threat from China, Taiwan is training its citizens in the reflexes to expand in case of attack.
Taiwan kicked off its biggest annual military exercises on Monday as Russia's invasion of Ukraine heightened fears that Beijing could do the same with the democratic island. The streets of Taipei were deserted in the afternoon. Taiwanese citizens were to participate in an air attack exercise by staying at home or taking refuge in missile shelters.
A large number of experts and experts analysts draw a parallel between the war in Ukraine and what awaits Taiwan. According to some observers, it would only be a matter of time, as the CIA suggested last week.
Political scientist Valérie Niquet, specialist in China and Asia Southeast, published in May the book entitled Taiwan facing China. Our correspondent in Asia, stationed in Taiwan, spoke with her.
Valérie Niquet: It's true that before the war in Ukraine , one could imagine that the Chinese and in particular President Xi Jinping made a bad calculation, carried away by the idea that China had become a very great power and that it had the capacity to invade Taiwan.
In my opinion, the war in Ukraine has rather reduced this risk. For a very simple reason, it is that Beijing, whether we like it or not, whether Xi Jinping wants it or not, has seen very clearly the difficulty of launching a military operation of this magnitude to invade a other country. Even though Taiwan is smaller than Ukraine, it still has over 20 million people. It is an extremely difficult relief and, above all, it is a sea strait almost 180 kilometers wide.
Preparation for an invasion of Taiwan would take months and, of course, the United States would see it and prepare on their side. Whatever their response, they would do something.
Military training offered to the people emptied the streets of Taipei on Monday.
China has also noted that several economic sanctions have been put in place. Even if we can wonder about the immediate effectiveness of these sanctions, we can see that there was a reaction. The Chinese economy is much more powerful than that of Russia, but it is also much more dependent on those of the outside world. If China no longer has access to the financial system, it no longer exports. Exports are still what drives Chinese growth.
Faced with what happened in Ukraine, all of a sudden, the Taiwanese also realize that we can resist and that we must not be demoralized. Here too, the resistance is likely to be greater than Beijing thought.
Before the Congress [The 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party scheduled for this fall and during which Xi Jinping will probably become the first president to obtain a third term, Editor's note], certainly not, insofar as, on the contrary, the goal is that everything remains as calm as possible and that there are as few waves as possible, whether inside China or outside.
That does not mean that there will not be psychological pressure, maneuvers to scare Taiwan. But it's not at all the same thing as an invasion or a war.View larger
Book Cover Page Taiwan facing China by Valérie Niquet.
After the Congress, some observers say that it will have to do it, because there is a window of opportunity. However, my analysis is that there is dissatisfaction with the policy pursued by Xi Jinping as it has had quite negative results on the external perception of China.
< p class="e-p">I think the military itself, and some factions within the Communist Party, are realizing the limits of Chinese capabilities. Russia, for example, has been manipulating the weapon of the nuclear threat a lot by saying: be careful, if we go too far, we are a great nuclear power. The Chinese can do the same, except their hitting ability is weak.
This is part of the ambitions, especially of Xi Jinping and the Communist Party. It is the reunification of the fatherland, as they say. We will see what China will be like in 2049. In this kind of regime, the most important point to keep in mind is that nothing can be predicted.
And then what will be the value of Chinese power? As China develops, other countries also continue to develop. We see, for example, the difficulties that China has in catching up as it wishes in the field of electronic chips.
In this context, the lesson is that we must not let our guard down and that we must not give China the slightest impression that it could go to Taiwan and that nothing would happen. That's the most dangerous thing, in fact.
Demonstrating to China what the economic, diplomatic and, why not, military cost of an intervention would be against Taiwanese democracy, this is an essential point to bear in mind.
When we talk about great democracy, Taiwan is one of the most successful examples in Asia of democratization without bloodshed and, above all, which works. It seems difficult for the great democracies of the world to always stay out of a potential conflict in the name of the principle of one China. There may be only one China, but why prohibit any contact with Taiwanese democracy?
Of course, China will not be happy. She protests. She still protests anyway. We finally realize that not much is happening, in reality. There have already been visits, during the time of Trump's presidency, of important personalities. It was a break from what had come before.
Taiwan is preparing for a Chinese attack.
Nancy Pelosi has also always been known to have very firm positions on questions of democracy.
There was a visit very recently from representatives of the European Parliament. The Chinese are protesting, but what can they do? We must keep in mind that China really needs the outside world, whether it is access to markets or technologies.
There is not much China can do if the democracies are united in their desire to demonstrate their support for Taiwanese democracy, especially in view of what happened in Hong Kong in recent years.
Our correspondent in Asia Philippe Leblanc is based in Taiwan for the next few months, to help us discover this island of nearly 24 million inhabitants , its society and the challenges that drive it. And also to cover current issues from the entire Asia-Pacific region.