The tension between China and Taiwan has risen following Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island nation in August. International media closely followed Pelosi’s trip and the People’s Liberation Army movements. China responded with more military exercises, including rocket launches and air raids close to the median line dividing Chinese and Taiwanese waters. Now, Taiwan is preparing stockpiles of supplies for a possible attack or blockade of imports and ports by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
CCP harassment continues to increase
Fighter jet overflights over the Taiwan Strait are becoming more frequent, as are unmanned drone incursions over the island nation’s outer islands.
Taiwan recently shot down a Chinese unmanned drone for the first time when it flew over Kinmen Island without authorization and failed to respond to warning signals.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen criticized China’s use of drones and other “gray zone” tactics and urged the Taiwanese military to “protect the country without fear and with solid confidence,” and instructed Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense to take necessary measures to “defend the security of the national airspace.”
Import blockade, a threat to Taiwan’s stability
One of the retaliatory measures imposed by China to punish Taiwan for hosting Nancy Pelosi’s visit was a ban on the entry of some Taiwanese products into mainland China.
The products not allowed were citrus fruits, frozen fish, confectionery products, cookies, and bread. In addition, several Taiwanese brands used massively in China are restricted, such as Bakery, Guo Yuanyi Food, Weili Food, Weiquan Food, and Taishan Enterprise.
“[Taiwanese] companies are such an integral part of the Chinese value chain that it is difficult to put too much pressure on those trade routes,” said Zennon Kapron, director of Singapore-based financial sector research firm Kapronasia.
China’s tactic of suspending imports is not a novelty. In June, the Asian country banned the entry of halibut, citing “chemical contamination.” Last year it canceled Taiwanese pineapples and apples.
The real intention behind these bans is to damage the island nation’s economy. In addition, some experts on China pointed out that the CCP wants to influence Taiwan’s national elections, so one of its strategies is to attack the ruling party.
“Mainland China is likely to attack agriculture and small manufacturers in southern parts of Taiwan, where President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party has its main strengths,” said Chen Yi-fan, assistant professor of diplomacy and international relations at Tamkang University in Taiwan.
According to Reuters, last June’s halibut ban severely affected the fishing industry in southern Taiwan. Much of the industry is made up of independent fishermen and small groups. Since the restrictions, many of them have lost their primary source of income.
One affected told Reuters, “due to political issues and our government not having a communication channel; the Chinese regime is blocking our economy.”
A fishing factory owner in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan, commented, “fishermen here are indeed worried because they don’t know where to sell groupers (fish species).”
“People need to live. We don’t understand much about politics, but we just need a friendly and peaceful relationship between China and Taiwan and also to coexist,” he added.
Taiwan has food and energy reserves
This Wednesday from Taipei, Chen Chern-chyi, Taiwan’s deputy economy minister, said the country is stockpiling critical supplies to prepare for a possible blockade by China.
However, the vice minister said Taiwan couldn’t walk away from trade relations with the Asian country for the time being, despite the CCP’s constant harassment.
“China is our biggest trading partner, that’s a fact. It is the biggest factory in the world and the biggest trading country in the world [which are] also facts,” he said. “With those facts, I don’t see, frankly, that in the short term we can completely disengage from China. It’s not realistic.”
Furthermore, Chen added that Taiwan respects the free market and the autonomy of the country’s companies, so “we will continue to see our companies working with their Chinese counterparts for business activities.”
The vice minister noted that Taiwan had been building up stockpiles of supplies for some time. However, it was somewhat halted during the two years of the pandemic. However, with the return to everyday life, the country has been picking up the pace of stockpiling in recent months.
Chen added that the island nation is building up energy reserves, such as liquefied natural gas, coal, nuclear power, and renewable energy.
“With respect to a possible military conflict, we have made preparations for food, energy and critical supplies, including manufacturing supplies. We have a system in place: we take inventory every month,” Chen said.
“We want to make sure we have storage for a certain period in Taiwan, including food, and critical supplies, such as minerals, chemicals and energy, of course.”
These measures by Taiwan to counter China’s possible trade or logistics blockade reflect the country’s defense policy fundamentals. In this regard, in a pre-recorded message to a convention in Washington, President Tsai stated that “we will not rely on others to come to our own defense.”
“That is why I want to reiterate that Taiwan is fully committed to protecting our security and maintaining our democratic way of life. We are also working to adapt our defense strategy to the changing threats we face,” Tsai Ing-wen added.