The central government's bellicose tone against Taiwan indicates the mainland is losing hope of achieving a peaceful reunification with the island, analysts said yesterday. They said Beijing appeared to have no co-ordinated strategy to stop its moves towards independence, but still had options open. On Tuesday, the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office vice-director Wang Zaixi threatened war over what the mainland perceives as Taiwan's move to independence. If Taiwanese authorities 'openly engage in pro-independence activities and challenge the mainland and the one-China principle, the use of force may become unavoidable', he said. The statement was the latest verbal attack on the island and the first time in three years the mainland has forewarned of military action. The central government is believed to be particularly incensed by President Chen Shui-bian's plans to introduce a new constitution and hold referendums, which it fears might pave the way to formal independence. Li Yihu of Peking University's Taiwan Research Institute said the words were intended to warn Mr Chen to back down immediately before other means were used. Analysts said the hard line indicated a dramatic shift in the mainland's cross-strait policy. A mainland military analyst said: 'This is a signal that the government believes peaceful reunification may no longer be achievable. It is now seriously looking at the military option.' Analysts said Washington was partly to blame for the rise in tensions for granting Mr Chen unprecedented access during a recent US transit stop. But with the island's presidential campaign heating up, they said the mainland had not acted to counter Mr Chen's actions. The strategy of pushing economic and cultural ties 'was successful in putting Chen in his box during the governance period. But that does not work in elections ... the Chinese are terrible at manipulating democracy' said a US analyst. Since Mr Chen's election as president in March 2000, the central government has refrained from talking aggressively to Taiwan. However, the moves apparently did nothing to weaken the island's independence movement. For now, analysts said the mainland had only two options: to pressure Washington to reign in Mr Chen, or threaten military action. Following up the first option, mainland scholars are now in Washington meeting top US officials from the State Department and National Security Council. Last week, former vice-premier Qian Qichen met US President George W. Bush in the White House. It is believed Mr Qian delivered a message to Mr Bush on the Taiwan issue in preparation for next month's US visit by Premier Wen Jiabao.