Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives of the US Congress, made her trip to Taiwan on the night of Aug 2 despite the strong objection of the Chinese people as well as their government and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Her provocative act was met with days of large-scale live-fire joint military drills by the PLA Air Force, Navy and Rocket Force in six target zones around Taiwan Island. The Chinese government also responded to Pelosi’s provocation with a white paper — “The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era” — on Aug 10.
It is common knowledge that policy white papers and large-scale military drills take a long time to draft, plan and prepare. That is why some observers speculated that: First, Beijing had made accurate predictions about Washington’s encouragement and support for “Taiwan independence” and plans to deal with any interference step long before it was taken; and second, Washington would have resorted to other provocative moves to escalate the tension across the Taiwan Straits with or without Pelosi’s visit. It could be said that Pelosi’s selfish bravado lit the fuse. In a sense, her provocative move prompted Beijing to speed up the reunification process for Taiwan.
The Chinese government previously published two similar white papers. One is “The Question of Taiwan and China’s Reunification” in August 1993, and the other is titled “The One-China Principle and the Question of Taiwan”, published in February 2000. The one published on Aug 10 is the third white paper of this nature, with an unmistakable fundamental principle and some significant changes.
The consistent fundamental principle lies in the emphasis on the fact that Taiwan is a part of China brooks no challenge or alteration, and the complete reunification of the nation is essential to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
The significant changes from the previous white papers include 1) Beijing clearly declares this time that it will not wait indefinitely and will accelerate the process of national reunification; 2) Beijing leaves it an open question whether the favorable terms previously offered to Taiwan will still be applicable if reunification is achieved by force.
The fundamental principle illustrated throughout the three white papers tells the international community that the will of the Chinese government, the Chinese people and the PLA to achieve the complete reunification of the motherland is unshakable. This rock-solid resolve has been repeated by China’s incumbent defense minister twice in meetings with his American counterpart: The reunification of the motherland and intolerance toward “Taiwan independence” are beyond any doubt or question, just as the US chose civil war to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity in the 1860s.
The Chinese government has reiterated over the years that “peaceful reunification” and “one country, two systems” serve the best interest and well-being of Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, but Washington has stepped up its efforts to contain China on all fronts since it openly declared China as its top strategic rival in early 2018. One of Washington’s tricks of choice against China is “using Taiwan to contain China”, which features the incremental arming of Taiwan to bolster the “pro-independence” forces on the island. Washington knows very well the Chinese government and PLA as well as 1.4 billion Chinese people would never let Taiwan break away from the motherland, but that has not prevented Washington politicians from conspiring to duplicate the Russia-Ukraine armed conflict in the Taiwan Straits in its attempt to weaken China.
Some people have suggested that Beijing can and should reject Washington’s play by insisting on a peaceful reunification of Taiwan with the motherland. That means the Chinese side should have refrained from strongly reacting to Pelosi’s provocative move, allowing the US to continue with its ploys to encourage “Taiwan independence”. Obviously there is no way the Chinese government, the Chinese people or the PLA would ever accept that kind of notion. It is safe to assume the probability of peaceful reunification, at least in the foreseeable future, is diminishing, as opposed to the use of force in some fashion.
It is fair to say that Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan marked a turning point in the reunification process. Beijing now has to step up preparations for reunification by nonpeaceful means while still upholding the basic policy for peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question.
The Aug 10 white paper states, “After reunification, foreign countries can continue to develop economic and cultural relations with Taiwan. With the approval of the central government of China, they may set up consulates or other official and quasi-official institutions in Taiwan, international organizations and agencies may establish offices, relevant international conventions can be applied, and relevant international conferences can be held there.” It is the first time the Chinese government has presented to the world a clear vision of how Taiwan will maintain its ties with foreign countries after reunification with the motherland.
China’s pursuit of complete reunification has won the understanding and support of more than 170 countries around the world. That is undeniable proof of justice where it is due, while the opposite is true with the US and its die-hard followers’ support for “Taiwan independence”. If the US tries to hinder China’s complete reunification with military intervention, it will be defeated for sure.
The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS