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  • China tells Taiwan not to secede – Might this lead to war?

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on March 9th, 2005 (All posts by )

    This isn’t a real surprise:

    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.

     

    6 Responses to “China tells Taiwan not to secede – Might this lead to war?”

    1. Fred Says:

      I can’t understand the mainland obsession with Taiwan. The stupid island was under JAPANESE formal adminstration for longer than it was ever under any Chinese governance.

      What could it possibly matter 2 cents worth if it were independent? It would become a happy Finland-like client state in about 35 secs if the mainland would shut up and leave it alone.

      If they invade they have a resentful offshore province with a lot of damage that would have people agitating in exile for decades.
      How great would that be?

      Idiots.

    2. Richard Heddleson Says:

      This new Chinese law is all too likely to lead to a formal declaration of independence by the Taiwanese, to demonstrate their defiance.

      Why? This law changes absolutely nothing. Mainland China has always claimed Taiwan is a province in rebellion and Taiwan has always ignored them.

      This is especially the case because the Taiwanese can feel quite confident to have American and Japanese help in any armed conflict.

      On what is this conclusion based? The U. S. has said it opposes independence for Taiwan unless it is mutually agreed to. It also opposes the use of force to resolve the issue. Were Taiwan to declare its independence, the US would act to have the declaration rescinded in order to prevent violence. Should Taiwan not rescind it, it is not clear what the US would do.

      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.

      China does not have the ability to invade Taiwan, though it could bomb it. But that would gain little in world opinion.

      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.

      This stand off is entering its 56th year. While they may hyperventilate at eachother, it’s hard to see either side actually doing something stupid.

      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.

      I sure would like to know when the US has promised to unconditionally back Taiwan, formally, informally or otherwise.

    3. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      I’ve been worried about for a while that Henry Kissinger’s policy of deliberate ambiguity regarding the status of Taiwan was reaching the end of its’ useful life. The PRC is infinitely stronger and more capable than it was 30 years ago.

      Imagine Manhattan declaring themselves an independent nation during the Civil War. That’s how China sees Taiwan. I don’t like the Chicom government, but I see their point regarding what they feel is their territory.

      I’ll say straight out that I do not want see the US get dragged into a war with China. We should make it crystal clear to the Taiwanese that if they declare themselves sovreign they’re on their own.

    4. Robert Schwartz Says:

      China is not starting a war with Taiwan. First, they are now the proud owners of $6*10^11 in T-bonds. If a war were started those bonds would be frozen. Second, you don’t piss off your largets customer like that. Third, all of those Chinese parents who are depending on their only son (one child policy) to care for them in their old age, would riot.

      Its bluster designed for internal consumption.

    5. Ralf Goergens Says:

      Richard,

      I’m not as optimistic as you.

      Point is, a direct threat of war is different from the former status quo, so Taiwan might very well show its defiance by formally declaring independence. I also can’t imagine that Taiwan will really be on its own in this case. And finally, the Chinese leadership isn’t asa rational as you think.

    6. Don Says:

      The roaring Chinese economy has yet to experience its first full blown recession. Wait till times turn ugly inside and the Falklands option becomes as tasty for the Chinese dictatorship as it was for the Argentine.