BEIJING — China unveiled a law Tuesday authorizing an attack if Taiwan moves toward formal independence, ratcheting up pressure on the self-ruled island while warning other countries not to interfere. Taiwan denounced the legislation as a “blank check to invade.”
The proposed anti-secession law, read out for the first time before the ceremonial National People’s Congress, doesn’t say what specific actions might invite a Chinese attack.
“If possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ nonpeaceful means and other necessary measures to protect
China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Wang Zhaoguo (search), deputy chairman of the NPC’s Standing Committee, told the nearly 3,000 legislators gathered in the Great Hall of the People.
Beijing claims Taiwan, split from China since 1949, as part of its territory. The communist mainland repeatedly has threatened to invade if Taiwan tries to make its independence permanent, and new law doesn’t impose any new conditions or make new threats. But it lays out for the first time legal requirements for military action.
The United States has appealed to both sides to settle Taiwan’s status peacefully, with no unilateral changes by either side. Washington is Taiwan’s main arms supplier and could be drawn into any conflict.
Until recently, China’s military was thought to be incapable of carrying out an invasion across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait. But Beijing has spent billions of
dollars buying Russian-made submarines, destroyers and other high-tech weapons to extend the reach of the 2.5 million-member People’s Liberation Army.
Chinese leaders have appealed in recent months for Taiwan to return to talks on unification. But they insist that Taiwanese leaders first declare that the two sides
are “one China”, a condition that Chen has rejected.
China has maintained for years that it won’t tolerate a formal declaration of independence, even if it doesn’t protest too loudly about Taiwanese de facto independence. It seems that this is the reason they are spelling things out his explicitly:
…China’s foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing, warned the United States and Japan not to include Taiwan within the scope of their military alliance, saying Beijing would not permit interference in what it considers an internal matter.
“Any practice of putting Taiwan directly or indirectly into the scope of Japan-U.S. security cooperation constitutes an encroachment on China’s sovereignty and interference into China’s internal affairs,” Li told reporters in Beijing.
The two countries angered China last month when they reaffirmed their security arrangements and said they wanted to see the “peaceful resolution” of Taiwan’s status.
This new Chinese law is all too likely to lead to a formal declaration of independence by the Taiwanese, to demonstrate their defiance. This is especially the case because the Taiwanese can feel quite confident to have American and Japanese help in any armed conflict. Unfortunately the Chinese can’t be relied on to feel deterred from acting against their ‘rogue’ province, for China’s gerontocrats might fear the loss of face from backing down more than military defeat.
Even if things don’t go that far, the world economy would take a real hit from any prolonged stand-off. Taiwan is a vital supplier of electronic equipment, especially computer components, depends on Chinese good will to keep its production going, while China is an increasingly important player in world trade and an important supplier of goods and services in its own right.
It would be best if China could be persuaded to withdraw its law, while Taiwan should be convinced that a formal declaration of independence would be foolish and hugely damaging for itself. I think the America should better try this approach instead of unconditionally backing Taiwan, at least as far as formal, rather than de facto, independence is concerned.