China’s belligerent behaviour poses a threat to the established global order

Op-ed written by Dr. Tsai Ming-Yen, Representative of the Taipei Office in the European Union and Belgium

Over the last several years, the global community has become increasingly aware of the threats posed by so-called “black swan” events – those that seemingly come from out of the blue and cause tremendous effects. This awareness should not, however, blind the international community to other equally damaging potential threats that may have been building across a number of years.

In Taiwan, and across the Indo-Pacific region, tensions are on the rise, and many are sounding the alarm on such a threat to global security, as the People’s Republic of China’s increasingly unpredictable actions threatening to seriously undermine the peace and stability of the region.

Since the last quarter of 2020, China has persistently intruded into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ). And this year, up until February 15, China has already conducted a total of 93 sorties on 35 separate days. This represents a stark rise in comparison to previous years. However, alarm is growing not just due to the growing frequency of incursions, but also in large part because of the type of aircraft being deployed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The increasing prevalence of explicitly offensive military aircraft, including a large number of bombers and fast-moving fighter jets, represents a chilling step and a clear, provocative signal from Beijing.

No free citizens should be subjected to such threats and forced to live under the shadow of conflict; China’s actions are unprovoked, unacceptable, and should be opposed by all peace-loving people.

China’s belligerent and bellicose behaviour poses a threat not only to Taiwan, but also to the wider Indo-Pacific region and ultimately, the established global order. Its militarization of the South China Sea and ongoing bullying of claimant states in the region represents yet another example of its expansionist ambitions. China’s latest move on January 22 of passing a new law to allow its coastguard to take “all necessary means” to stop or prevent threats from foreign vessels has already prompted strong protest from the Philippines. Furthermore, the ongoing India-China border dispute and tensions between Japan and China in the East China Sea also bear witness to China’s increasingly assertive and aggressive actions.  

These situations also affect Europe’s substantial interest in the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region, especially when the EU is pursuing the EU-Asia Connectivity Strategy. With growing European trade and investment in the areas of energy, transport and digital technology, this increased connectivity cannot exist without sustained security.

To increase peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, Europe can, and should, play an active role in the region, utilising its power in order to promote its values and a rule-based international order.

There is already a growing concern across Europe regarding the mounting tensions in the region. This is reflected by the fact that we are now seeing Member States, such as Germany, France and the Netherland, begin to publish their own Indo-Pacific strategies.

It is time for a Europe-wide strategic outlook on the current security situation in the Indo-Pacific region. One that expresses European concerns and lays out European proposals for maintaining peace and stability in the region. Based on a shared European consensus view, I believe that a common strategic outlook could be greatly beneficial to the prospects of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific. We sincerely hope that Taiwan Strait would not be missing in any EU strategic outlook on the Indo-Pacific region.

We appreciate the EU for having been developing closer relations with Taiwan. Support for Taiwan from the European Parliament was also expressed in the resolutions on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Moreover, these resolutions, for the first time, called on Member States to “revisit their engagement policies with Taiwan” and to work with international like-minded partners in order “to protect democratic Taiwan from foreign threats”.

Furthermore, a bilateral investment agreement (BIA) with Taiwan would demonstrate the EU’s strong support for like-minded partners and would be crucial in breaking down the international isolation that Taiwan currently faces. The commencement of negotiations on a BIA retains strong support across the European Parliament, as was expressed last month in the European Parliament’s resolution on the Connectivity and EU-Asia relations.

As many become increasingly aware of the real and present threat being posed by aggressive Chinese military manoeuvres and posturing, it is vital that strategic action is taken now before it is too late. The European Union and the Member States, should work jointly with  like-minded democracies worldwide to support peace and stability, and make clear that reckless provocation has no place in today’s world.