Is Beijing planning to take Taiwan back … by force? SCMP

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Sharing comments of mine  on articles by Minni Chan in South China Morning Post SCMP of 15 March 2018, along with my latest update on the issue as on 20 March 2018.

When US President Donald Trump approved a travel bill allowing American representatives to meet their counterparts on the self-ruled Taiwan calling itself “Republic of China”, he was very much conscious of their ‘One China Policy’ and the likely reaction of Chinese, which would have been well thought through. This is sequel to newly declared Trade War by US, slapping over $ 60 billion USD trade tariff on China. The travel bill has been quickly followed by visit of Alex Wong, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, visiting Taipei in next two days for discussions.

This year NPC  made President Xi Jinping the strongest power centre after Mao Zedang, with no limit on his re-election, demanded rhetoric to prove that he is the strongest leader. In this context his next round of coercive speech during closing session targeting Taiwan, Hong Kong and US is obvious response. His nationalistic messages including a promise to crush any efforts to “divide the nation”, or “Every inch of the territory of our great country cannot be separated from China,” did amuse the domestic population, but has not stopped US official from being there. In Taiwan the DPP Government did not seem to be intimidated, indicating symbolic move of Liaoning coinciding with the Xi’s speech, as ‘Business as usual’. 

The issue is an old one but the article seems to be in context of President Xi becoming stronger power-center than earlier years. I wish to highlight few points to suggest that China may not find it worthwhile to take Taiwan by Force.

  • Bulks of Taiwan’s investments are already in China. Roughly 25 percent of Taiwan’s trade is now with China, which is its largest trading partner. China has replaced US as No 1 destination for Taiwanese export accounting for approx 40% of total exports (Hong Kong included), with Taiwan having a trade surplus of approximately US $ 30 billion with China. A cross Strait War is therefore not in the economic interest of both.
  • It will amount to crossing red line of US, which although follows One China Policy but treats Taiwan no less than an ally. China has to cater for the repercussions in its strategic calculations. The North Korean Issue is not yet settled and starting another warlike controversy may not be in its national interest at this point of time. Moreover Chinese redline of “Taiwan going nuclear/declaring independence” has not been crossed).
  • China has enough missile arsenals to destroy Taiwan, but such a destruction of Han Chinese, who have relations, investments and inseparable linkages with their relatives in mainland will not go well with domestic population of mainland. Over one million Taiwanese live in China, mostly in Coastal areas, and over 20 percent have married This will also destroy Chinese and Taiwanese economy, which does not suit Chinese leadership struggling to revive its economy with trade war on its door steps.
  • Chinese amphibious capabilities to capture Taiwan are suspect, more so if US aircraft carriers are around. US is unlikely to give a walkover leaving Taiwan to its fate, because a Taiwan aligned to US is in their strategic and economic interest.   
  • Although President Xi has become stronger in China, but he cannot bulldoze every other country on the globe and hope that China will grow and fulfill its dream. We need to recall history that when Hitler thought that he can rule the world, he pushed rest of the world together and brought Germany to a historic disaster.
  • Getting Taiwanese (who are used to democracy) under its wings will also bring a fresh democratic wave in China which CPC may not be used to handle, with Hong Kong also echoing similar voices. Bulk of Taiwanese people do not want to sacrifice their democratic freedom , and prosperity, and are not interested in fighting China. Status quo ante is the most popular choice of their people.

Major General S B Asthana can be reached as Shashi Asthana on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ and on website

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