In the Xi Jinping era in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan has returned as a critical security issue for Australia.
The PRC has an elaborated policy and institutional position on Taiwan that is focused on the ‘one country, two systems’ (1C/2S) model and prioritises the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the authority of CCP leadership.
Taiwan’s political parties have different policies on China but have bipartisan agreement on rejecting the 1C/2S model. The Taiwanese electorate rejects unification with the PRC. Taiwan has been on a distinctive historical trajectory since the end of the Qing Dynasty and will not converge with mainland China in its post-Qing historical trajectory.
Under these conditions, the PRC has no viable road map to achieve its policy goals of unification through 1C/2S and no policy or political framework to sustain cross–Taiwan Strait security in a post-unification scenario.
A negotiated settlement can only be achieved through disruptive politics in Taiwan and in the global Taiwanese diaspora, including in Australia.
Military action by Beijing is possible under conditions of a breakdown of CCP authority over the People’s Liberation Army.
The most likely scenario is a continuation of current tactics by Beijing and a progressive deterioration in cross-strait relations. In that scenario, there is a greater likelihood of unpredictable actions by Taipei and a limited tactical military action by Beijing.
Taiwan policy in Australia and internationally is structured around the ‘resolution’ of the Taiwan issue, either through a negotiated settlement or through large-scale military action by the PRC.
Australia should reassess its understanding of the Taiwan issue so as to identify alternative scenarios and calibrate its responses accordingly