On the Taiwan question: China refuses rule out use of force in reunification bid

Updated on Aug 10, 2022 03:06 PM IST

China published its first white paper on Taiwan since Xi Jinping came to power, days after it held unprecedented military drills around the island in the wake of a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

An Air Force pilot navigates an aircraft next to a fighter jet under the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) during military exercises in the waters and airspace around Taiwan, at an undisclosed location on Tuesday. (REUTERS)
An Air Force pilot navigates an aircraft next to a fighter jet under the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) during military exercises in the waters and airspace around Taiwan, at an undisclosed location on Tuesday. (REUTERS)

China on Wednesday, in its first white paper on Taiwan since President Xi Jinping came to power, said it will not “renounce” the use of military force to bring the self-governed island under its control, reiterating the threat to use force as its armed forces continued to hold the largest ever exercises around the island.

The military exercise announced last week in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit have extended well beyond the initial four-day schedule it had announced last week, indicating that China is in no mood to relent from its aggressive posturing. Beijing hasn’t announced when the current series of drills will end.

For nearly a week now, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been firing missiles, while its fighter jets and warships have entered into Taiwan’s air and water space, crossing the notional media line on the Taiwan Strait.

Chinese state media has said the unprecedented military drills as a practice for the final “reunification” of Taiwan with the mainland and a blueprint to blockade it.

Against the backdrop of rising tension in the region, the Chinese government’s latest policy paper on Taiwan released on Wednesday reiterated Beijing’s tough stance even as it talks about peace.

China will seek “peaceful reunification,” but “will not renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures,” said the white paper titled The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era. It was released by Taiwan affairs office of the state council (China’s Cabinet) and its information department.

“This is to guard against external interference and all separatist activities. In no way does it target our fellow Chinese in Taiwan. Use of force would be the last resort taken under compelling circumstances,” it added.

“We are ready to create vast space for peaceful reunification; but we will leave no room for separatist activities in any form,” the policy paper said.

Without naming the US, the white paper criticised “external forces” for instigating provocative action in the region. “

“External forces have encouraged and instigated provocative actions by the separatist forces; these have intensified cross-Straits tension and confrontation, and undermined peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” it said, in what appeared to be referring to Pelosi’s visit and Washinton’s support for Taiwan, despite having no official ties with the island given that US backs the “one China” principle.

The white paper said ”one country, two systems” principle will work in maintaining Taiwan’s “distinct social systems and ideologies”.

“To realise peaceful reunification, we must acknowledge that the mainland and Taiwan have their own distinct social systems and ideologies. The ‘one country, two systems’ principle is the most inclusive solution to this problem,” it said, referring to the mechanism of partial autonomy under which Beijing governs Hong Kong and Macau.

Beijing has come under strong international criticism in the ways it has diluted the system in Hong Kong after quelling pro-democracy protests in the city and ensuring that mainland loyalists now govern it.

China’s white paper on Taiwan also entirely glossed over the opinion of many on the island who are against merging with the mainland but in favour of continued close economic cooperation.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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