Fifteen years ago, many people in Taiwan would have thought that the next war of this magnitude would break out in Taiwan or on the border to North Korea, not in Ukraine. However, I believe in Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong one day. That was true for Hong Kong, and it is true for an invasion from China. The only question is when it will happen.
What happened in Crimea could happen similarly in Jinmen, a group of islands that mostly belongs to Taiwan but is geographically closer to the mainland. Many people there feel closer to the People’s Republic. Like the pro-Russian residents in Crimea, they could serve as a pretext for China to justify an invasion.
As a dictator, Putin is the perfect role model for Xi Jinping. Putin has taken the sanctions into account from the very beginning. They are harsher than those against Chinese cadres in Hong Kong, but many Taiwanese, like the people in Ukraine, think that sanctions are not enough of a deterrent. We see that Western countries are not providing direct military assistance in the form of troops to Ukraine, but are at best supplying war material. The consensus in the West: This is all that can be done.
China will find it much harder to take Taiwan
Now that many Taiwanese see that neither the United States nor the United Kingdom is providing military aid to Ukraine, the government is trying to reassure its people. The situation in Taiwan should not be overly confused with the situation in Ukraine. Taiwan is of greater geopolitical importance than Ukraine. If Taiwan falls, the USA will lack an important base in the Pacific region. This is also how most media and opinion leaders communicate it. Moreover, it looks like Russia cannot win this war as easily as it thought. And this is even though the Russian forces do not even have to cross a strait or any other natural obstacle. Therefore, many Taiwanese believe that it will be much harder for China to take Taiwan.
While China could cripple infrastructure with targeted missile strikes and wreak the maximum amount of destruction, controlling the island will be a considerable challenge, as the people would resist. But like Ukraine, Taiwan is not a member of any international security alliance. Unlike Ukraine, Taiwan is not even a member of the United Nations. We do have mandatory military training, but it is not very structured, and only the healthiest are drafted. However, I think that, like in Ukraine, most Taiwanese would volunteer for national defense in one way or another. People may then do things that they can’t imagine doing now. Like in Hong Kong, if you had told people ten years ago that they would throw a Molotov cocktail at the police, they certainly wouldn’t have believed it.
I don’t have any great expectations of Germany when it comes to Taiwan. We thought there would be stronger support for us after the change of government. But although Germany now even has a green foreign minister, nothing has happened. After talks with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, she even said that they wanted to intensify cooperation in various areas. Of course, we are disappointed about this. But this is the trend all over the world: people talk a lot, regret the situation, but do not act. This is how dictatorships have been able to grow stronger and stronger around the world over the past 20 years. Recorded by Fabian Peltsch