CHENNAI: The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) congress, which concluded late last month, has put Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the peak of his power, with political opponents swept aside and Xi’s governing doctrine at the core of CCP policymaking. During Xi Jinping’s 10 years in power, Beijing has taken an aggressive stance on “reunifying” Taiwan with mainland China. The CCP considers the democratic, self-ruled island as part of China’s territory. At the congress, the CCP enshrined into party doctrine a statement, “resolutely opposing and deterring separatists seeking ‘Taiwan independence.’” Xi also reiterated his goal of achieving “peaceful” unification with Taiwan, with the use of force remaining an option to achieve the task, if necessary.
“Xi talked about firm resolve and strong capabilities to oppose Taiwan’s independence, but he didn’t talk about intent, plan, or timetable,” said Wen-Ti Sung, a lecturer in Taiwan Studies at the Australian National University (ANU).
Wen added that Xi intends to make the timeline and urgency of his plans for Taiwan “ambiguous.” However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said late last month that a decision has already been made in Beijing to “speed up reunification.” US navy officer Adm. Michael Gilday told a think tank event last month that it is impossible to rule out a Chinese invasion of Taiwan in the near future. “I don’t mean at all to be alarmist by saying that. It’s just that we can’t wish that away,” Gilday told the Atlantic Council. In a speech to the Institute for China-America Studies last week, Chinese diplomat Jing Quan said that Beijing has no timeline for achieving unification with Taiwan, adding that the Chinese government doesn’t want to “use force against the island” but needs to have the capability to deter Taipei from declaring independence.
Part of this “deterrence” includes a military buildup of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), along with regular air sorties over the Taiwan Strait, including massive coordinated military exercises around the island in August. Despite rhetoric of a “peaceful reunification,” Beijing’s moves in recent years have made working with Taipei on building ties towards “one China” politically unfeasible.
“There’s almost no prospect for peaceful politically-driven unification between China and Taiwan as it now stands because Beijing is completely unwilling to adopt a different approach that takes into account the interest of the people of Taiwan,” said Drew Thompson, a visiting senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore.
One proposal from Beijing on Taiwan has been the so called “one country, two systems” model used in Hong Kong, with which Chinese sovereignty is recognized, but semi-autonomous aspects of local governance are kept in place.
However, China’s crackdown on civil liberties and democratic institutions in Hong Kong over the past several years have shattered any illusions in Taiwan about accepting this model. “One Country, Two Systems is rejected by both major political parties in Taiwan,” Thompson told DW. “That leaves China with the option of coercion, which Beijing has been imposing through economic, diplomatic, and military means. It’s pursuing those with great vigor,” said Thompson, who is also a former US defense official covering China. “There is no peaceful resolution on the table right now, and as a result, I think the likelihood and probability of a military conflict across the Taiwan Strait are heightened,” he said.
The analyst added that debates following the CCP congress about a timeline on Beijing taking Taiwan are missing the point, as China has been modernizing its military with Taiwan in mind for over 20 years.
This article was provided by Deutsche Welle