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Are China’s actions in the South China Sea a harbinger of things to come for Taiwan?

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Off the coast of Palawan in the Philippines lies the Second Thomas Shoal, housing the Sierra Madre, a decaying World War II-era vessel, pivotal to Philippine control.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 ruled in favor of the Philippines, rejecting China's historic rights claim over most of the South China Sea. China, defiant of the ruling, intensified island construction, using its massive coast guard – the world's largest – to confront Philippine vessels attempting to resupply or repair the Sierra Madre.

The Philippines' race to maintain control over the Second Thomas Shoal has drawn U.S. attention, particularly due to its alliance with pro-American leader Ferdinand Marcos Jr. President Biden emphasized the U.S.'s "ironclad" defense commitment to the Philippines, pledging support in case of any attack. China's use of its coast guard as a power projection tool raises concerns, not only in the South China Sea but potentially against Taiwan.

As Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections approach on January 13, China's coast guard may play a role in exerting pressure. If Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party wins again, advocating Taiwan's sovereignty, China might escalate tensions. Even if the more China-friendly Kuomintang prevails, it may not align with Chinese expectations for swift unification, prompting further Chinese assertiveness.


Metis Insights: Taiwan Strait


China's coast guard, with the authority to use lethal force in claimed waters, presents a challenge for Taiwan and the U.S. Navy. The potential deployment of these sizable coast guard ships around Taiwan creates a dilemma: how would the U.S. or Taiwan respond to non-military vessels not firing shots? The coast guard also enables China to coerce foreign companies in Taiwan by imposing customs inspections or flight plan demands.

China's frequent air and naval operations near Taiwan, gray zone activities, and challenges to U.S. ships in the Taiwan Strait signal an escalating situation. As Taiwan's allies confront this challenge, they may need to reassess their effectiveness in countering China's actions in and around the democratic island

Source: CNN