China and Taiwan clash risk rocket as Beijing baiting neighbour into active conflict

China and Taiwan tensions could get 'ugly' says expert

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Steve Tsang, Director at the China Institute at SOAS has warned tensions in the hot-disputed East China Sea archipelago could reach a tipping point after reports China is now conducting a massive dredging operation with multiple ships in territory claimed by Taiwan. The expert insisted that the operation by Beijing around the Taiwan-controlled Matsu Islands could force Taipei to move to confront China openly or risk losing sovereignty over the disputed territories. 

Mr Tsang told DW: “It does cause a bit of a problem for the government in Taiwan.

“Because if they don’t do anything, they are de-facto accepting the Chinese assertion of sovereign rights and jurisdiction over Matsu.

“That to them would be in fact accepting Chinese claims of sovereignty over Taiwan.

“Which they cannot possibly do.”

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The analyst continued: “Then you have the issue of if the Government in Taipei tries to respond.

“For example, by sending Taiwan’s coast guard to protect those waters.

“Then you are looking at potential confrontation between Chinese and Taiwanese authorities.

“That can get rather ugly.”

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The Chinese dredging operations has been referred to as a ‘grey-zone’ campaign, in which one force can wear down the resources of another without engaging in open war.

The sand dredging ships are reported to be ‘swarming’ around Taiwan-controlled areas such as the Matsu islands, where they are forcing the coast guard there to be on constant alert.

The Chinese ships can then use the sand they collect for construction projects back on the mainland.

However, Taiwanese officials and residents who live on the affected Matsu islands say the dredging, as well as being taxing for security resources, has other consequences.


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They have told Reuters the operations have been economically disruptive and damaging to undersea cables, while there are also fears marine life could be harmed.

The scale of the dredging campaign is such that last year, almost 4,000 Chinese ships were warned away from Taiwanese-controlled waters, Taiwan’s coast guard claimed.

It also represented a dramatic increase from the 600 vessels that were expelled the year prior.

It is thought more than 13,000 people live on the Matsu Islands.

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