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Taiwan becomes an increasingly painful thorn in Xi Jinping’s pressure for “unification”

As Chinese President Xi Jinping oversees 100th anniversary celebrations of the Communist Party of China (CCP) across the country this week, ruling party officials continue to warn to stay away from “the Taiwan”. This is a long-standing problem, but so far Beijing has not found an ideal solution to realize its “unification” ambition.

Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China (ROC), has a rich history from before the Japanese occupation and before the post-war period. The then-ruling Kuomintang party (KMT) moved the capital to Taipei in 1949 – the last year of the Civil War, and the beginning of a 38-year divisive martial law period, which had profound effects on continues to this day.

Separated from the then newly formed People’s Republic of China by the Taiwan Strait, the island nation underwent significant changes, including the loss of important diplomatic allies and democratic transition. into a multi-party state in the 1990s, unleashing its own unique potential and identity.

Meanwhile, officials in Beijing have never given up on their ambition to “reunify” Taiwan into China. It’s a constant topic of conversation among leaders from Mao to Xi. In particular, Mr. Xi paid great attention to this issue.

The Chinese leadership insists it pursues “peaceful reunification”, but at the same time refuses to rule out the use of military force to settle disputes in their favor. Observers note the importance of this policy stance as Taiwan’s democracy-loving public has grown increasingly hostile to Beijing’s “carrot” offers, which China has frequently resorted to. “stick.”

But as the CCP hailed Mr. Xi as the country’s new supreme leader as he will most likely serve an unprecedented third term at the 20th Party Congress next year, many have pointed out how to proceed. Xi’s hardline approach to cross-Strait relations and “wolf warrior” diplomacy is why it is difficult for Taiwan to accept Communist Party rule.

In a speech in January 2019, Mr. Xi praised the advantages of China’s “one country, two systems” model, used in Hong Kong and Macau, and said that the Cross-strait division should not continue for another generation. A year later, President Tsai Ing-wen of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan was re-elected with a record number of votes as the public expressed their anti-China sentiment.

The Chinese government describes Tsai and the DPP as advocates of independence, despite her victory in a double election tasked with maintaining the status quo across the strait. As of 2020, Beijing’s response has been to increase economic, diplomatic and military pressure on Taipei.

Most analysts agree that Mr. Xi, despite his tougher tone and increasingly colorful threats, is seeking to block Taiwan’s legal independence rather than usurp it. island – at least in the short term. But China’s increasingly aggressive actions on Taiwan have attracted the attention and sympathy of international partners and the press, seemingly leaving Beijing with no choice but to increase coercion to solve the problem.

There is no better illustration of this in recent years than the United States and Japan, Taiwan’s most important neighbor and international ally in Asia.

With the administrations of U.S. presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden, as well as Japanese prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga, both Washington and Tokyo have shown unprecedented levels of support for Taipei despite not having a relationship yet. official diplomatic system. At the same time, countries have also resisted a wave of protests from Beijing, what some see as pressure on Mr. Xi to make good on promises to Taiwan that he and his officials have made in public. .

Sense Egbert Hofstede, a doctoral student in ‘Comparative Asian Studies’ at the National University of Singapore, argues that understanding of Taiwan in China is indeed “extremely limited.”

He told Newsweek in a recent interview: “Any attempt to show understanding or even just to explain Taiwan will be battered by the government, and aggressive nationalists. smashed to pieces.”

“Chinese ‘scholars’ and officials on Taiwan rely solely on their work and pro-China publications … to create reality,” he said.

Sense said China has created “high expectations” on the Taiwan issue. Beijing has been an adventurer in the past, he noted, but starting an invasion of Taiwan would be a much more serious problem than anything that has happened before.

Neighboring countries around the Taiwan Strait communicate through specialized government agencies rather than their respective foreign ministries, as neither officially recognizes the other. But the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) in Taipei and the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) in Beijing have held no meaningful high-level talks since Tsai took office in 2016.

Each side blamed the other for the deadlock. This has so far continued despite Tsai’s attempt to restart dialogue by appointing a new MAC minister in February.

Taiwan’s Minister for Mainland Affairs Chiu Tai-san called on Beijing to share the “warmth of spring” and then called for “constructiveness” vaguely on the sovereignty issue. Both proposals were rejected by TAO. TAO insists that Taipei recognize the so-called “1992 Consensus” and the “one China” principle, which declares Taiwan a province of China.

According to Shan-son Kung, an analyst at the Institute for National Security and Defense Studies (INDSR) in Taipei, two major changes in Xi’s second term have led to the current cross-strait stalemate. .

“The first is that people on both sides of the strait have increasingly different views on the issue of unification. The victory of the DPP in 2016 shows that the people of Taiwan are not satisfied with the KMT government’s approach to China policy,” he said.

“Secondly, former President Trump started a new confrontation between the United States and China and increased support for Taiwan. This makes Taiwan more inclined to favor the US than China,” he argued.

Kung said that the stalemate in the Taiwan Strait will remain, and that as Xi continues to wield political power, “China’s Taiwan policy will continue to be tough.”

The DPP and the main opposition KMT party should continue to try to persuade China to engage in meaningful dialogues for “peaceful coexistence” without provoking each other, he said.

Kung noted the need to replace Beijing’s ‘one China’ principle, saying the principle is “no longer accepted by the people of Taiwan.”

Faced with growing military pressure from across the strait, Taiwan has publicly voiced its determination to defend itself, regardless of the reunification timeframe China threatens.

Behind the scenes, Tsai’s administration has continued to purchase defensive weapons from Washington and follow their strategic advice. This includes implementing structural reforms in the island’s armed forces, especially its reserve forces, which observers say are inherently unmotivated and untrained.

Another important issue is to better understand the enemy. Taiwan’s first Ministry of National Security-backed INDSR was established in 2018 to complement this goal.

Aside from coastal military build-up, forced “gray zones,” political obstruction, and continued disinformation campaigns, it remains unclear how China intends to win Taiwan’s hearts. In any discussion of Taipei, Beijing’s most common response is to emphasize Taiwan’s inviolability as part of mainland China, as well as the inevitability of reunification.

When asked if Taipei would congratulate the Chinese Communist Party on its 100th anniversary, MAC told Newsweek: “The Communist Party’s dictatorship has no respect for democracy and human rights, and lacks the ability to historical reflection. There is a big difference between the CCP and the values ​​shared by the international community.”

“When the Chinese Communist Party turns one hundred years old, it will continue its political war and military threats against Taiwan,” the council said. This is not conducive to healthy cross-strait relations and interactions.”

The statement continued: “We urge the Communist Party of China to respect historical reality, recognize the Republic of China, and respect the insistence of the 23 million people of Taiwan on the development of cross-border relations. strait, democracy and freedom; renounce the imposition of political frameworks and forceful repression of others; and manage differences through constructive dialogue so cross-strait relationships can begin on a path of healthy interaction.”

“We call on the Chinese Communist Party to face the challenges of this ‘new era’, implement democratic reforms as soon as possible, and return power to the people,” the council added.

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