A Peaceful China-Taiwan Reunification Is No Longer Possible – OpEd


Since the nationalist forces established a government on the island of Taiwan in 1949, all Chinese leaders have adhered to the reunification of the motherland based on the priority of political and military actions. The only thing that has changed over the past decades is China’s military capability through which it can now attack Taiwan and objectify united China.

But China’s concern, apart from the western alliance, is the young people of Taiwan who show more anti-Chinese tendencies and emphasize their Taiwanese identity more than before. These young people do not find China’s approach and economic incentives attractive, despite the fact that the economies of Taiwan and China are deeply intertwined and China accounts for more than 40% of Taiwan’s exports.

Still, Beijing’s strategic position is to prioritize the political options over the military ones. It is still political rather than military considerations that mainly shape the calculations of Chinese leaders. But the basic question is how long will political considerations endure? From Xi’s point of view, the problem of Taiwan should not be passed on from generation to generation, and reunification is an integral part of the larger political project of reviving the great nation of China, which is supposed to be completed by 2049, marking the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

Of course, Taiwan is not threatening any component of China’s national security but President Xi’s credibility is at stake as he emphasized in his speech at the opening of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party that Beijing will never commit to abandoning the use of force to reunify with Taiwan. As part of his legacy, Xi is trying to complete the reunion in a much shorter time frame than the law allows.

In the anti-secession law in 2005, China specified three conditions in which it would resort to non-peaceful methods to achieve reunification. These conditions are Taiwan’s official pursuit of the policy of separation from China, international developments leading to Taiwan’s separation from China, and a situation in which the possibility of peaceful reunification is completely eliminated. The Chinese military had also warned in the past that Taiwan’s independence referendum could be considered a reason to start a war.

The political and military measures that the United States has taken in the Taiwan Strait in recent years are another stimulus to speed up China’s military aggression. Arms sales by the United States to Taiwan have been steadily increasing in recent years, and the Chinese have expressed their concerns over Taiwan becoming independent in defending itself.  

The US political tension creation has also fueled serious disturbances. For example, Mark Esper and Mike Pompeo, former members of the Trump administration’s cabinet, gave a speech in Taiwan and asked the United States to officially recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty by abandoning the policy of strategic ambiguity. Based on the proposal of Senator Jack Reed, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, it was decided that the US military aid to Taiwan reach 10 billion dollars.

Also, a few days after US Secretary of State Blinken’s statement that Beijing is seeking to speed up the reunification project, Admiral Philip Davidson, the former commander of the US Navy’s Indo-Pacific Division told the Congress that China is seeking to upgrade its military capability to attack Taiwan by 2027. Admiral Gildey is not the only American official who has warned against a premature Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Admiral Mike Gildey, the commander of US naval operations, recently said in Washington that it is possible that Beijing will attack Taiwan in early 2023 or 2024. He emphasized that his assessment is not based only on speech but also on the performance and behavior of China. Based on the experience of the last 20 years, America has found that the Chinese have always fulfilled their promises ahead of schedule. According to Admiral Gildey, when the Chinese talk about the 2027 timeframe, it should be reduced to 2022 or 2023 to prepare for a quick response, and this is a possibility that cannot be ruled out.

Even Blinken, in his recent speech at Stanford University, emphasized that the US policy of containing China in the issue of Taiwan has proven to be incredibly successful for decades as preserving peace is more important than trade interests. But as China’s approach towards Taiwan has changed, the continuation of the status quo or maintaining peace is not a desirable option. Therefore, the US commitment to defending Taiwan in the event of an attack by Beijing is considered a necessity due to the changing conditions and the increase in the level of threats in Southeast Asia.

Such statements by the US authorities can be considered by Beijing as a bitter event that makes the possibility of peaceful reunification impossible. In fact, in such an atmosphere, China’s turn from political action to military action can become very costly due to foreign support such as Russia’s attack on Ukraine. But it should not be forgotten that comparing the fourth crisis in the Taiwan Strait and Beijing’s reaction to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan reveals the differences. Although China reacted to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan with military maneuvers and missile tests, few people in Washington believed that Beijing was really planning to attack Taiwan due to China’s lack of military capability.

But today things are different in Taiwan. The military budget is increasing and China now has the world’s first missile force, second navy, and third air force. In fact, by increasing its military capabilities, Beijing has automatically challenged the deterrence of the United States in East Asia to such an extent that Washington avoids any display of military power and merely condemns Beijing’s actions.

Although developments are leading it to the conclusion that diplomacy will not work, China is well aware of the fact that the United States and its allies in Southeast Asia are more determined than before to defend Taiwan as well. They have lined up against China’s military invasion. Therefore, based on the prevailing conditions, the general process for the peaceful reunification of China and Taiwan does not seem possible. Washington’s increasing training and equipping of Taiwan will definitely lay the groundwork for Beijing to act as soon as possible.

In fact, China will undoubtedly attack Taiwan. It is only a matter of time. International developments, US intervening measures, and Taiwan’s growing defense power might advance it. Given the circumstances, the next crisis after the Ukraine war will be in Southeast Asia, and the world might witness a third world war outside of Europe for the first time.

Timothy Hopper

Timothy Hopper is an international relations graduate of American University.

One thought on “A Peaceful China-Taiwan Reunification Is No Longer Possible – OpEd

  • March 16, 2023 at 3:13 am

    Of course that war will be a nuclear war with the Taiwan response to a PRC attack taking the form af a large scale nuclear attack on Beijing Shanghai and Shenzhen in the first strike.


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