China rages at 'provocative' UK visit to Taiwan
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A conflict in the South China Sea could lead to supply chain issues, goods shortages and heavy sanctions from the West.
A senior Whitehall official said: “If you scale up to any sort of worsening relationship with China there isn’t a single organisation whose supply chains will not be significantly to catastrophically affected where we’re talking about sanctions and difficulties in trading.
“I’m not sure we’ve really understood a future in which we are up against some of the greatest chess players in the world.”
Alicia Kearns, chairwoman of the foreign affairs select committee, warned any decision to impose sanctions on China would affect every family in Britain.
She said: “If we think about the impact of the war in Ukraine on people in Britain that would be nothing compared with any conflict over Taiwan.”
Taiwan makes 65 per cent of the world’s semiconductors and almost 90 per cent of the most advanced chips used in telecommunications and computers.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said Britain had “never been so dependent economically upon one country” who was not an ally “as we are upon China right now”
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said his country will extend compulsory military service to one year from four months starting in 2024 because of the rising threat the democratically governed island faces.
China sent 71 air force jets and drones into the island’s air defence identification zone within 24 hours on Monday – the largest reported incursion to date.
President Tsai said: “As long as Taiwan is strong enough, it will be the home of democracy and freedom all over the world, and it will not become a battlefield.
“Taiwan wants to tell the world that between democracy and dictatorship, we firmly believe in democracy. Between war and peace, we insist on peace. Let us show the courage and determination to protect our homeland and defend democracy.”
Conscripts will also undergo more intense training, including shooting exercises and combat instruction used by US forces.
Since 2013, Taiwan has required men over 18 to serve four months in the military, with the first five weeks in a basic training boot camp.
The new plan will put mandatory recruits on eight-week basic training.
President Tsai said: “This is an extremely difficult decision, but as president, as the head of military forces, it is my unavoidable duty to defend national interests and our democratic way of life.
“No one wants war, Taiwan and Taiwanese people are the same, and the international community is the same.”
Taiwan has become a flashpoint in US-China relations because of the island’s close ties to Washington.
US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are understood to have discussed the issue when they met at the G20 summit in November.
Following the meeting, Mr Biden said he did not believe China had “imminent” plans to invade Taiwan.
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