China’s leader Xi Jinping used his biggest agenda-setting speech in half a decade to warn the US against further support for Taiwan, berating “external forces” over rising tensions across the Taiwan Strait. and suggesting that they would be guilty if Beijing felt compelled to do so. attack the country.
“Faced with severe provocations from Taiwan independence forces and interference from outside forces, we resolutely carried out a great fight against separatism and interference,” Xi said in a keynote address at the 20th Chinese Communist Party congress on Sunday. .
Reiterating Beijing’s priority of seeking peaceful unification but refusing to renounce the use of force, Xi, who did not specifically name the US, most of Taiwan’s compatriots.
The comments reflected Beijing’s growing sense of urgency over what it perceives as US attempts to attack.
“While the United States and China are embroiled in [a] competition between great powers, Beijing is now increasingly focused on pushing back what it sees as external intervention in the Taiwan issue,” said Chang Wu-yueh, a professor at Tamkang University in Taipei.
A Chinese government white paper released in August claimed that outside forces were trying to exploit Taiwan to contain China, prevent the Chinese nation from achieving complete unification, and halt the process of national rejuvenation.
Xi has linked his legacy to unification, describing it as integral to his plan to achieve a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049, a century after the party first set its sights on Taiwan.
As the congress prepares to make Xi the first party leader since Mao Zedong to stay in power beyond two terms, policy experts believe Beijing may seek to accelerate progress toward that goal.
China “firmly clings to the leading role and initiative in cross-Strait relations,” Xi told congress delegates.
“Beijing will not wait for Taiwan,” said Chao Chun-shan, one of Taiwan’s foremost China experts who has advised the last four presidents on cross-strait policy. “Xi has said that the Taiwan issue cannot drag on without a resolution, so they are taking the things they can handle themselves and doing them first.”
There is already ample evidence of that effort. Over the past three years, Beijing has unleashed a series of initiatives that resemble Taiwan’s post-unification planning and suggest to the public that this era is imminent.
These include a rail link between the coastal city of Fuzhou and Taipei in a plan for national transportation network projects to be completed by 2035. Chinese citizens are also being given advice on social media about buying property in China. Taiwan after unification, while The conferences have warned online opinion leaders that the country is moving towards unification.
The driver is Xi’s suggestion, first put forward in January 2019, that “the Chinese on both sides of the world [Taiwan] Strait” begins to look in more concrete terms at the “one country, two systems” framework originally developed for Taiwan but first applied in Hong Kong. He has proposed that they “explore a two-system formula for Taiwan and enrich the practice of peaceful unification.”
The Chinese leader’s concept for that process is what he calls “integrated development.” According to research papers by Chinese scholars who specialize in Taiwan politics, the approach envisions bringing the island closer to China through a web of personal and business interests, and gradually winning Taiwanese over to Beijing’s vision of a great nation unified through educational exchanges and propaganda.
In Taiwan, however, that push is going nowhere. Since early 2020, pandemic visa and travel restrictions imposed by both Beijing and Taipei have severely impeded the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to attract Taiwanese students, businessmen, religious communities, grassroots officials and even gang leaders.
Even if cross-strait travel is reopened, the outlook is bleak. The Taiwanese government is rejecting deeper integration with China, and leading opposition politicians refuse to discuss unification because the vast majority of the population wants to retain the country’s de facto independence.
Xi is now turning from the more patient approach of his predecessor Hu Jintao to a policy that emphasizes progress toward unification. “During Xi Jinping’s first term, our Chinese counterparts remained focused on preventing moves toward formal independence from Taiwan,” said Wen-Ti Sung, a professor in the Taiwan studies program at the Australian National University. “But now, his investigative and propaganda efforts have moved to the next step of promoting unification.”
The fact that Beijing combines political efforts with increasingly threatening military maneuvers has stoked suspicions that Xi intends to take over the country by force.
Following a visit by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, to Taipei in August, the People’s Liberation Army held unprecedented exercises in Taiwan. Since then, Beijing has sent fighter jets, drones and warships to the island every day.
But analysts believe warnings from US military and intelligence officials of an impending invasion are overblown. “Beijing still has strategic patience and that is an opportunity for Washington,” Colonel Zhou Bo, a former Chinese Defense Ministry official and senior fellow at Tsinghua University, wrote in an article in the South China Morning Post last month.
Other experts have argued that Beijing prefers to use military force for intimidation, deterrence and coercion rather than war. “There are only very few scenarios where Xi would pursue unification at all costs,” said Chao, Taiwan’s senior adviser to China.
“Although for him, unification must be achieved along with China’s great rejuvenation, this is a dialectical relationship. He will not give up the use of force to achieve unification, but achieving unification must not harm rejuvenation, the ultimate goal.”