Push to absorb Taiwan ‘is growing’ on mainland

Adviser on cross-strait issues says more voices than ever are calling for legislation to reunite with breakaway island by force

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 March, 2017, 11:50pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 March, 2017, 8:44am

Voices calling for legislation to reunite with Taiwan by force are ­rising on the mainland amid mounting cross-strait tensions, a top mainland Taiwan affairs ­adviser warned on Friday.

Li Yihu, dean of Peking University’s Taiwan Studies Institute, said the mainland side saw Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen administration as trying to promote independence through tactical approaches, including culture and education and the appointment of pro-independence judges in 2019 to initiate constitutional interpretations.

“All those pro-independence moves will stimulate the mainland to take coercive steps to respond,” said Li, a deputy to the National People’s Congress.

He said that before passage of the Anti-Secession law in 2005, mainland academics and NPC delegates had been pushing for a “national unification law” for a forced reunification with Taiwan.

“The voices have become louder and the push for such legislation is stronger,” Li said, although he did not believe the issue would be raised until next year’s NPC session.

Premier Li Keqiang said in his policy report at the opening of the NPC session on Sunday that Beijing would “absolutely not accept anyone separating Taiwan from China in any way, shape or form”.

“Premier Li didn’t only want to warn Tsai’s administration, but also remind the Taiwanese people as well as US President Donald Trump that adherence to the one-China policy is Beijing’s bottom line,” Li Yihu said.

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He stressed that Beijing had no “timetable for reunification”, but wanted “a route chart” of meet President Xi Jinping’s goal of reunifying with Taiwan as early as 2021, the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party’s founding.

Wang Kung-yi, a professor of international relations at Tamkang University in New Taipei City, said Li’s remarks reflected the fact the voices for reunification by force were growing on the mainland. However, Wang said Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party would likely ignore this.

“To the DPP, if Beijing wants to resort to force, the military conflict will naturally involve other countries and even drag the entire region into tension,” he said.

“For the mainland to resort to war, it has to consider the reaction of other countries, especially the US, and whether it risks losing its economic growth of 30 years if it goes to war with Taiwan.”

Taipei-based political commentator Wang Shing-ching said Beijing had changed its long-standing Taiwan stance since the phone conversation between Tsai and Trump in January.

“Trump’s remarks, that the US should not be bound by the one-China policy ... further irritated Beijing,” Wang said. “I am pessimistic for cross-strait relations, because it’s the first time a mainland premier has used such strong words on Taiwan. And it’s a fact that Tsai’s policy is trending to pro-independence because of her pro-US and pro-Japan diplomatic strategies.”

Additional reporting by Lawrence Chung in Taipei