The People’s Republic of China yesterday began a mock naval blockade of Taiwan and other islands and islets of the unrecognized Republic of China. Beijing responded in this way to the inauguration, on Monday, of the new sovereignist president, Lai Chingte. The new president declared that “in the face of the many threats and infiltration attempts from China, we must show determination when it comes to defending our nation”. Something that the Government of Xi Jinping has considered “a provocation”.

The “punishment”, according to Beijing’s words, consists of a maritime blockade of the archipelago that will last two days. To the “interference” in waters that Taipei considers to be under its jurisdiction is also added that of airspace with warplanes. The military maneuvers are massive but, by calculation, barely a fraction larger than those that unfolded two years ago, when the punishment was triggered by a visit to Taiwan by the then-Speaker of the US House of Representatives , Nancy Pelosi. A year later, when the then president of Taiwan, Tsai Ingwen, returned from a visit to Washington to Pelosi’s successor, China launched some new intimidating maneuvers.

Defense officials in Taiwan, which has an impressive arsenal, mainly acquired in the United States, have considered the mainland retaliation “irrational and destabilizing.”

Several observers point out that the Chinese threat of a permanent naval blockade is a highly deterrent weapon for the authorities in Taipei as it avoids a new civil war of bloody consequences. The People’s Republic of China, which has not entered into any war for forty-five years, considers the reintegration of the former Formosa as an unrelinquished objective. A goal that President Xi Jinping has rewritten in red paint.

Lai, who was vice-president of the more charismatic Tsai, had promised to follow her path, consisting of “resisting without provoking”. Nevertheless, he is seen from Beijing as an even more radical “separatist” president, who also accepted as his vice president the American citizen – for almost his entire life – Hsiao Louise Bikhim Cooley, recent “ambassador” in Washington.

The pro-independence party won 40% of the vote in January’s presidential election in Taiwan, but only secured second place in Parliament, behind the historic Kuomintang, a Chinese nationalist party in favor of improving relations with Beijing. The fact that the Taiwanese did not put all their eggs in one basket is a symptom that the world has become much more dangerous than during Tsai’s absolute majorities while China’s relative power continued to grow.

Taiwan is now a democracy and most of its young people have trouble recognizing themselves in mainland China, under communist tutelage, despite the fact that lifestyles are slowly converging again. In any case, for most of its history split from mainland China, Taiwan was either a dictatorship under the protection of the United States or a colony occupied militarily by Japan. A wound that the rest of China does not forget.

Likewise, in Taiwan, as in South Korea, the calamitous example of Ukraine and the consequences of confronting a much larger neighbor, with nuclear deterrence, has not gone unnoticed. To top it all off, the Taiwanese economy is highly dependent on mainland China, which has an economy that is growing much more vigorously. China continues to offer Taiwan something similar to “one country, two systems” with which it is cauterizing – not without disputes – four centuries of colonization in Macau and one and a half in Hong Kong. Naturally, reservations about the Chinese Communist Party persist in Taipei, which in any case is crossing its fingers that, of the two systems, theirs continues to be the more prosperous, and the longer the better.

Despite Donald Trump’s anti-China rhetoric, it has been under President Joe Biden that the United States has sent officials of an unknown rank to Taipei since 1979, when it consummated its recognition of the People’s Republic of China to the detriment of the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan. Apart from Paraguay, also the Vatican, a handful of Pacific islands and little else, the whole world considers the Government of Beijing as the legitimate representative of the Chinese nation. However, most countries also reject a violent change of the status quo.