“The Chinese seem to be preparing for a war against Taiwan” says Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu. This puts the US and China on collision course for war – with potentially dramatic stakes for the world.
China’s President Xi Jinping has vowed that Beijing will “reunify” with the island – if necessary, by force. A large majority of people in Taiwan say they don’t want reunification. The United States is increasingly clear that it would intervene to defend Taiwan from any attack.
How did it come to this – and what happens next?
In this special analysis, DW’s Richard Walker uncovers the roots of the dispute over Taiwan, in part 1 tracing how the diplomatic breakthroughs of the 1970s between the US and China left unfinished business that has festered ever since.
Part 2 tracks why these tensions have now burst into the open, with accusations of betrayal in all directions. And part 3 projects trends in China, the United States and Taiwan forward into the future to assess where the dispute is heading – and if there is any way of avoiding war.
Leading US authority on Taiwan, Shelley Rigger warns: “I think the danger is greater today than it has ever been before. The US and China are in this spiral of threat and counter threat, and Taiwan is caught in the middle.” Retired People’s Liberation Army Senior Colonel Zhou Bo explains the scenarios under which China would use force. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd sets out ideas for a diplomatic solution that he admits both China and Taiwan would “hate.” CNAS think tank Chair Michèle Flournoy sets out her bottom line: “The key thing is for Beijing to recognize that if you go to war to seize Taiwan, you lose.”
The film includes further interviews with Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu; retired Senior Colonel in China’s People’s Liberation Army, Zhou Bo; former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; Center for a New American Security Chair Michèle Flournoy; Enoch Wu of the Forward Alliance NGO; Meia Nouwens of the International Institute for Strategic Studies; German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock; German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck; and Till Steffen of the Berlin-Taipei Parliamentary Friendship Group.
04:47 Part 1: Origins
05:58 The “grand chessboard movement”
07:55 The secret mission
09:00 The “One China principle”
10:10 The diplomatic “fig leaf”
11:40 Taiwan isolated
12:40 “Hell, no!”
13:30 Strategic ambiguity
15:00 Diplomatic gymnastics
16:05 “Permeated with distrust”
16:45 Part 2: The Undoing
17:20 Chinese military pressure
18:00 Crossing the “median line”
18:30 Pelosi lands in Taipei
19:30 “The United States provoked China
20:30 Western lawmakers stream to Taiwan
21:20 Parallels to Ukraine
22:00 Preparing Taiwanese citizens for war
23:12 Taiwan’s growing sense of self
24:30 The US keeps the weapons flowing
25:25 PLA modernization
26:00 “We will become as strong as the US”
27:40 The US would defend Taiwan
28:43 “Hollowing out One China”
Part 3: Collision Course?
31:27 “We should not divide the world”
32:40 “There’s no hotline”
34:20 China’s preparations for war in the 2030s
35:30 “National rejuvenation”
37:37 China’s 3 invasion scenarios
39:30 One thing stands in China’s way
41:00 US focus on semiconductors
42:30 Timelines shrinking fast
43:30 Warnings from Europe
44:26 “Deterrence is the name of the game”
45:03 “America’s intention is to contain China”
46:20 “Taiwan is caught in the middle”
47:20 The front line of the front line
48:30 Asymmetric warfare
49:30 Training for resilience
50:45 Opposition calls for dialogue
51:40 Any chance of a breakthrough?
53:40 How long can the tension hold?
55:10 Taiwan’s greatest hope?
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