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The American Congress’ Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has today (2/8/22) landed in Taiwan, against China’s wishes. China is therefore about to start “live fire” military exercises around Taiwan.

In Comparative Politics, what are the main similarities and differences between the present China and the present Ukraine political situations?

Note that the question is asking for a comparison of two political situations, not a comparison of two different countries.

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    Too broad, you want us to compare 2 completely different situations. Where to start with? History, legal status, geography, international recognition and support, economy? But the main difference is that one is an active, shooting war and the other is not.
    – SJuan76
    Aug 3 at 4:16
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    @SJuan. I specially mentioned the political situation, so that would have to be the main focus. Aug 3 at 4:44
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    Too broad indeed. I suppose the visit of Pelosi is seen here as a provocation similar to suggesting that Ukraine joins NATO. Aug 3 at 16:02
  • You can likely narrow down the focus of the question by just asking for similarities. As the situations are almost nothing alike, asking for differences is asking for a text book.
    – uberhaxed
    Aug 3 at 18:47
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    Couldn't understand the motive of this question, these two nations are currently in totally different political situations, what one could gain from their comparison I can't understand. I guess the answer given does more appropriate comparison upvoting the answer but downvoting the question Aug 7 at 8:47

3 Answers 3

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As a counterpoint to @Constantthin's answer, I would say that it makes much more sense to compare China with Russia, and Taiwan with Ukraine:

  1. China's official stance is that Taiwan is not a country, but part of China, and historical arguments are often presented in support of that view. Similarly, Russian president in his 2022-02-21 speech presented historical arguments for Ukraine being part of Russia. That speech marked beginning of a full-scale attack on whole Ukraine, which can be understood as de-facto revocation of recognition of Ukraine. Russia is also considering de-jure revocation of recognition of Ukraine. Moreover, Russia already annexed Crimea in 2014, and considers annexing several other Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine. China, on the other hand, legally claims whole Taiwan, but doesn't currently occupy any of its parts.

  2. Both China and Russia are nuclear superpowers, which means that attack on what they consider their territory carries risk of nuclear escalation.

  3. Both Taiwan and Ukraine have complicated history of relationships with China and Russia, respectively:

  1. Both Taiwan and Ukraine used to be under influence of other neighbours in the past, and currently have good relations with those neighbours. Taiwan used to be a Japanese colony, and large parts of Ukraine used to belong to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Currently Taiwan has bad relations with China and good relations with Japan, and Ukraine has very bad relations with Russia and good relations with Poland.

  2. Both Taiwan and Ukraine are democratic (though some freedoms in Ukraine have been suspended due to the war), and both China and Russia are authoritarian.

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In addition to the other answers:

  1. Dissimilarity

    • Ukraine became part of the Russian empire when Catherine the Great annexed part of Ukraine in 1793. Ukraine was also part of the USSR, a communist republic.

    • On the other hand, Taiwan became part of mainland China in 1683 when Qing Dynasty started to rule Taiwan. However, it was never part of communist China.

  2. Similarity

    • Neither Ukraine nor Taiwan was an independent nation historically. They became independent in the 20th century.
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In comparing the present China and the present Ukraine political situations, in the spirit of “Comparative Politics”, two main similarities stand out:

  1. As China wants Taiwan back, so Ukraine wants Donbas/Crimea back; and

  2. Neither Taiwan, nor Donbas/Crimea wants to be reunited with their respective big brother.

Two minor similarities are:

  1. Both China and Ukraine are nuclear powers. While China is a nuclear power in its own right, Ukraine has potential nuclear power backing by being a proxy of NATO; and

  2. Taiwan and Donbas/Crimea both have a big, nuclear armed, friend, because as the US is the big friend of Taiwan, so Russia is the big friend of Donbas/Crimea.

The two main differences between the two political situations are:

  1. The political situation in Ukraine right now is hot, while that in China is, although warming up, still cold; and

  2. The two breakaway regions have different motives for wanting to remain separated from big brother; for Taiwan it is mainly for cultural reasons, while for Donbas/Crimea it is mainly for linguistic reasons.

Consequently, in comparing the similarities and differences in the present political situations in China and Ukraine it becomes evident that gross disrespect has been directed towards regional ethnic minorities, in both the two cases.

As far as minority suppression goes, China has a bad track record with Tibet as probably its biggest trophy. And Ukraine probably should have shown little Donbas as much grace as big brother Russia showed them between 1991 and 2014.

*“the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.” (Oxford Languages)

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  • Another key difference is that Donbas/Crimea has a father that's even bigger than their big brother, while China is as big as they get.
    – HK-51
    Aug 5 at 16:08
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    This seems mostly accurate, but it's pretty wrong to say that China and Taiwan are culturally detached. Taiwan had been a part of the mainland monarchies for centuries. Likewise, the entirely of Ukraine (and most of Eastern Europe) has been a part of the Russian empire for centuries, well before the USSR and have been speaking Russian because of hegemony.
    – uberhaxed
    Aug 5 at 19:11
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    The current conflict in Ukraine is not limited to Donbass and Crimea, and while China is considered to be a military (super)power with nuclear weapons, Ukraine is not. It would make much more sense to compare China with Russia, and Taiwan with Ukraine.
    – michau
    Aug 6 at 15:16
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    @uberhaxed Regarding your comment about cultural similarity, remember that Taiwan and the PRC controlled areas have been politically separated for most of the last 125 years. Additionally the government policies they have dealt with have been radically different. Those governments kept a very strong separation, no communication or travel, for nearly 40 years. And during that time the PRC had a cultural revolution that radically removed many parts of Chinese traditional culture. Also Taiwan had heavy Japanese influence for 50 years in the first half of the 20th century.
    – Readin
    Aug 6 at 22:16
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    @HK-51 During the Cold War the US wasn't always first, the US and the USSR were more or less equal in military power for a long time. Right now we still cannot say that the US and China are equal.
    – michau
    Aug 7 at 7:31

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