Dario Kuntić ReportAbout Us

EATS Library Grant Recipient: Dario Kuntić

The Implications of China’s Rise on the Security Situation in the Taiwan Strait

SOAS, University of London, UK

Dario Kuntic

As a professional interested in the field of international relations, I have developed a strong interest in the security studies with particular emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region. During my stay in Taipei as a visiting fellow at European Union Centre in Taiwan, National Taiwan University, I have strengthened my interests in cross-Strait relations, the rise of China, and the U.S. policy towards East Asia and the Pacific. As the Asia-Pacific region has become one of the most vibrant regions in the world, knowing the relationship between Taiwan, China and the United States has become crucial in understanding the sensitive issues that could undermine security in East Asia. Thus, when the European Association of Taiwan Studies (EATS) awarded my a 2014 Library Grant for my research project on the implications of China’s rise on the security situation in the Taiwan Strait, I have received a fresh new opportunity to further my research on the matter.

The short research period in which I conducted my research was spent at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS), University of London. SOAS Library is one of the most important academic libraries for the Asian studies in Europe. It holds over 1.2 million volumes alongside considerable archival holdings, special collections and an increasing electronic resources database. Thus, the possibility to access the SOAS library has been a great opportunity to advance my research in the field of Asian studies.

The aim of my research at SOAS was to analyze the implications of China’s rise on the security situation in the Taiwan Strait from the viewpoint of realism. The realist approach uses the concept of power shift to understand the rise of China. From the viewpoint of realism, the rise of China poses a security dilemma for many Asian states.

As continued increase of Chinese economic, political, and military power has enabled China to create conditions that will serve its own interests, states in the Asia-Pacific region have to find an answer how to deal with a rising power that may challenge the status quo. Some of regional states may not bandwagon or align themselves with China, but may hedge against China’s perceived hegemony and adopt balancing measures between China and the United States. One of them is Taiwan. Taipei at various times has been in the lead among those in Asia who judge that the recent rise of Chinese military power along China’s economic power and positive multilateral diplomacy is inconsistent with China’s avowed peaceful intentions toward its neighbors and poses a serious threat to its security and regional stability.

Although relations between Beijing and Taipei are currently on the highest level in decades, China, which considers Taiwan as an integral part of its territory and thus essential question for its self-identity, honor, power, and prestige, has been steadfastly unwilling to reject the use of force to settle the Taiwan issue. Thus, many foreign policy analysts see Taiwan as a major indicator of whether China is a status quo or revisionist state.

Considering the huge gap between Taiwan and China in terms of overall national power and military strength, to retain its de facto independence Taiwan had no choice but to balance China by aligning itself to the United States to avoid submission or destruction. However, given China’s rapid growth in power, it is doubtful for how long will China be willing to tolerate Taiwan’s de facto independence and U.S. domination in its backyard. Should it become clear that Taipei has foreclosed the possibility of future unification, there is a danger that overconfident China could take a military action to “return the island to the motherland”. As the United States is firmly opposed to any forceful resolution of the Taiwan issue, that could send the two powers on a collision course and destabilize the Asia-Pacific region.

The opening of the new SOAS Resource Centre on Taiwan and Chinese Studies, 2013. Courtesy to SOAS

The finest selection of books and other materiel at SOAS Library allowed me to conduct the research that should be helpful to the teachers, scholars, students and other parties interested in the field of international relations and global security issues because it has provided a constructive framework for the observation of future relations between the United States, Taiwan and China.

The books of my particular interest at SOAS Library were Henry Kissinger: On China; Michael D. Swaine (ed.): Assessing the Threat: the Chinese Military and Taiwan’s Security; Russell Ong: China’s Security Interests in the Post-Cold War Era; Steve Chan: China, the U.S., and The Power-Transition Theory; Yong Deng and Fei-Ling Wang (ed.): China Rising: Power and Motivation in Chinese Foreign Policy; David S.G. Goodman and Gerald Segal (ed.): China Rising: Nationalism and Interdependence; Yongjin Zhang and Greg Austin (ed.): Power and Responsibility in Chinese Foreign Policy; John F. Cooper: Taiwan: Nation-State or Province?; Ross Terrill: The New Chinese Empire and What It Means for the United States; John Q. Tian: Government, Business, and the Politics of Interdependence and Conflict across the Taiwan Strait; and Chun-Yi Lee, Taiwan Business or Chinese Security Asset.

Staying at SOAS also give me the opportunity to make a conversation with the experts in Asia studies such as Dr. Enze Han, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS, and Dr. Chun-Ye Lee, Lecturer and Senior Research Fellow at the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham.

Resuming my stay at SOAS, I would strongly recommend a visit to SOAS’s Library to students, scholars and professors. The finest selection of books on Asian studies offers great opportunity for the young and experienced researchers who are interested in the field of international relations, security and diplomacy of the Asia-Pacific region.

Dario Kuntić is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb.