Beijing, Aiming To Chill Warming Ties Between India and Taiwan, Scolds Modi For Taking Congratulatory Call 

Such rhetoric, however, cannot obscure the fact that Taiwan’s trade with India has risen phenomenally in recent years.

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Prime Minister Modi and President Xi on September 4, 2016, at Hangzhou, China. Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Tut, tut, Mr. Modi, what do you think you’re doing cozying up to Taiwan, which isn’t even a country?

That was the essential message from Communist China to India after India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, entering his third five-year term, dared to thank Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, for congratulating him on his election by a highly divided Indian parliament.

“China reminds Indian side not to violate one-China principle,” headlined the Chinese mouthpiece, Global Times, after Mr. Modi told Mr. Lai, “I look forward to closer ties as we work towards mutually beneficial economic and technological partnership.”

The Chinese reaction, of course, reflects much more than simple indignation over any country showing the slightest sign of dealing with Taiwan as an independent state rather than a breakaway Chinese province. 

In the contest between the world’s two most populated countries, India’s 1.44  billion people versus China’s 1.43 billion face one another over contested Himalayan borders where Chinese forces have been bullying the Indians for more than 70 years.

Most recently, India-China relations “suffered a hit following the Galway Valley clash in 2020, which resulted in the death of over 20 Indian and 4 Chinese troops,” according to the China-Global South Project. “Efforts to normalize relations,” it said, “have been strained by repeated border skirmishes.”

On top of which, “Beijing’s close military and defense relationship with Pakistan,” said the Global South Project, remains “an enduring thorn in India’s side” – the more so as a highway built by the Chinese across the Himalayas, down through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea, ranks as the showpiece of a belt-and-road initiative linking China to the middle east and Africa.

Lecturing Mr. Modi as if he were an errant schoolboy, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Mao Ning, said India “is supposed to recognize, be alarmed about and resist the Taiwan authorities’ political calculations,” the Global Times reported.

Above all, India must “refrain from doing things that violate the one-China principle,” she said. “China opposes all forms of official interaction between the Taiwan authorities and countries that have diplomatic relations with China.”

Such rhetoric, however, cannot obscure the fact that Taiwan’s trade with India has risen phenomenally in recent years.  China to a large extent is to blame for Taiwan’s burgeoning ties with India in which Taiwan enjoys a highly favorable trade balance.

“India has emerged as a pivotal focus for Taiwan’s external engagement efforts,” according to a report by Taiwan’s Global Taiwan Institute. “India-Taiwan relations have undergone a significant transformation.”

Taiwan “has emerged as a key economic partner for India in developing its semiconductor ecosystem,” said the report. With India “positioning itself as an alternative supply chain hub and bolstering its manufacturing sector,” it said, “Taiwan could play a pivotal role in helping India attain these goals.”

The numbers are incredible. Taiwan exports to India, mostly electronic products, including semiconductors, reached $8.3 billion in the fiscal year 2023, up from $4.6 billion in fiscal 2019, while its imports from India remained steady at $2.6 billion.

India’s Economic Times summarized the Taiwan factor: “Besides this, the ensuing China-US trade war and escalating costs in China have made the Indian economy more lucrative to Taiwan as the world’s fastest growing emerging economy.”

Against which, Ms. Mao’s repetition of the old Chinese claim that “the one-China principle is a universally recognized norm in international relations and a prevailing consensus in the international community” appeared almost irrelevant in terms of everyday India-Taiwan relations.


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