As milestones go, the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is filled with grief, for it marks a full year of killing, destruction and agony.
In the 21st century version of a David versus Goliath battle, Kyiv’s successful sabotage of Moscow’s attempt to erase it from the map — in terms of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s leadership and the Ukrainians’ strong defiance — has inspired the global community.
The invasion has prompted a number of policy shifts unseen in years, as in the case of Japan, South Korea and European countries. Nations began taking bold action to bolster defenses, increase military spending and form new alliances, and the conflict has served as a stark reminder that cross-border invasions are not a thing of the past.
When the war broke out, lawmakers and military experts around the world were concerned that the move could embolden China to carry out its long-standing threat to annex Taiwan.
A year later, China is urging the world to stop drawing parallels between Ukraine and Taiwan, an attempt to distance itself from Russia and pose as a neutral force. Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) dismissed links between the issues of Ukraine and Taiwan, saying that “Taiwan is not Ukraine,” and “Taiwan has always been an inalienable part of China. This is an indisputable legal and historical fact.”
Whether Taiwan is analogous to Ukraine has been a hot topic since the start of the war. Taiwan and Ukraine are on primary geopolitical fault lines and threatened by bellicose neighbors. However, the similarity stops there.
Taiwan is not Ukraine. Taiwan is more significant to the global community than the former. Taiwan is technologically more crucial than Ukraine, as it is an IT center and plays an indispensable role in the global supply chain of semiconductors.
Geopolitically, if Taiwan is taken over by China, the US would lose control of the first island chain, while Japan would lose the lifeline of the Taiwan Strait for its energy transport security. Taiwan is therefore extremely important to global security.
Instead of relying solely on foreign support, Taiwan has launched a series of reforms over the past year in response to the Ukrainian lesson. From the extension of mandatory military service, procurement of arms from the US, and increased visits and exchanges with delegations and officials, Taiwan has been seeking to reinforce alliances while boosting its military prowess with the adoption of a “porcupine strategy.”
While more countries have shown signs of supporting Taiwan’s cause, and US President Joe Biden has — on more than one occasion — stated the US’ intention to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, some skeptics are still intent on isolating Taiwan and sowing dissent.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) never misses an opportunity to oppose US aid or doubt the US’ commitment to defend Taiwan. Aside from using Ukraine as an example to illustrate the hellish state of war or oppose the extension of military service, the deep pan-blue faction’s actions are often in line with Chinese ideology: keep the US and other countries at arm’s length while placating China.
As war in Ukraine enters a second year, it is crucial that Taiwan sees Ukraine as an invaluable lesson. It must continue boosting its military strength and differentiate allies from foes. It is also equally important that the public develops the discretion and judgement to counter cognitive warfare.
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