Nervous anticipation hangs heavy in the corridors of power from Singapore to Washington as China's lawmakers prepare to unveil a document of war and peace. Governments are fearing the worst, even though the exact wording of the so-called anti-secession law is still not known. Concern in Taiwan is so great that its defence minister has already called for increased military spending to fend off a mainland attack anticipated in the wake of the law's passage. Although officials in Beijing have denied the law is intended to heighten already volatile tensions, much will depend on the wording. So far the only details of the wording have been given by National People's Congress chairman Wu Bangguo last Tuesday and it is not clear whether Beijing will reveal the full text after the law is endorsed by the NPC today. Rarely has a secret been so badly kept - hence the fears. Regular leaks since talk of the formulation of the law began last December have ensured that government officials, politicians and analysts know that it authorises military force if any part of China opts to declare independence. Taiwan, deemed by the mainland to be a rebel province, is the target. The consistent leaks to Taiwanese and American media has suggested a carefully thought-out strategy by Beijing, aimed at giving the publicity surrounding the law maximum impact. As a result, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity, statements from governments and street protests. The US, Taiwan's main ally, last week labelled the proposed law 'unhelpful' and sought China's reconsideration. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: 'We view it as unhelpful and something that runs counter to recent trends towards a warming of cross-strait relations.' Taiwan's Premier Frank Hsieh Chang-ting claimed the law threatened the foundations of efforts by his president, Chen Shui-bian, to broker peace with the mainland. The island's defence minister, Lee Jye, increased the tension by calling for increased military spending to ensure a military attack from the mainland could be fended off. Given that the US, through the 1980 Taiwan Relations Act and three communiques, is obliged to militarily protect Taiwan, such comments only amplify rhetoric. The director of the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, Chen Yunlin , went to Washington in January to meet outgoing US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and the incoming national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, for talks on the law. The following month, Taiwan's President Chen held a landmark meeting with political rival James Soong Chu-yu. Both sides symbolically vowed to work together for peace. A joint statement after the meeting said that the president 'will not declare independence, will not change the national emblem, will not push for the inclusion of the so-called 'state-to-state' description in the constitution, will not promote a referendum to change the status quo in regards to the issue of independence or unification'. Just weeks earlier, Mr Soong, chairman of the second biggest opposition group, the People First Party, was also in Washington, meeting State Department officials and members of think-tanks. On March 4, Taiwan's legislature united to issue a joint statement urging Beijing to rethink the law. President Hu Jintao opened the NPC the following day saying that the law would prevent the island from ever becoming independent. He said the law reflected the 'strong determination of the Chinese people to ... never allow secessionist forces working for Taiwan independence to separate Taiwan from China'. The director for Asian studies and senior fellow for China with the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, Elizabeth Economy, last week described China's tactics as 'yet another move on the chess board'. 'Taiwan, in many respects, is making all the moves while Beijing, except for some rhetoric, is being rather passive,' Dr Economy said. 'This is Beijing seeking an element of control and trying to put down a marker as Taiwan moves towards its constitutional revision process.' Mr Chen has long earned the mainland's ire for harbouring what it terms 'nationalistic tendencies', but the Taiwanese president upped the ante last year by suggesting a referendum be held on the issue. He has since backed off the suggestion, although he is pushing for a new constitution which pundits believe could be centred on the issue. A constitutional referendum is likely next year. Dr Economy put Beijing's concern over Mr Chen's intentions down to the timing. 'President Chen Shui-bian has been re-elected and has not shown a lot of moderation, but there has been nothing convincing that he's moving onto a new tack,' she said. She, and other analysts, suggested the law may also be a way of President Hu consolidating his power. But it was not the power base of the leadership, but China's territorial control that was apparent in a claimed version of the draft law published last week by Taiwan's United Daily News. It called for the use of 'non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity' if all else failed. This would be necessary 'in the event that the 'Taiwan independence' forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan's secession from China'. China security specialist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Michael Swaine, said the wording was not less important than the fact that such an anti-succession law would soon exist in China. He felt the situation was being over-hyped. 'It doesn't commit China to the use of force as some pundits are claiming,' he said. 'The leaked content goes out of its way repeatedly to emphasise the priority of peaceful resolution of the issue. It also talks about dealing with the two parties on an equal basis and has no mention of the one country, two systems formula. It speaks of a desire for peaceful reunification under all conditions, with force or non-peaceful means only to be used as a last resort.' But observers in Taiwan and elsewhere in east Asia were not taking such a calm view. They saw the pending introduction of the law with either caution or concern, depending on proximity to the Taiwan Strait. The secretary-general of Taiwan's Chinese Council for Advanced Policy Studies, Andrew Yang Nien-dzu, said Beijing was setting in stone its approach towards the island. Whereas for the 56 years since nationalist leaders had fled there after the communists' victory on the mainland, Beijing's policy had been dependent on its leaders, now it would be formalised in law. 'The difference when compared with China's previous policies is that through legislation they will institutionalise and legalise the non-peaceful means to deal with the so-called independence issue in Taiwan,' Dr Yang said from Taipei. 'It doesn't change anything, but the impression given to Taiwan's people is that this will be a continuous, long-term process.' Beijing need not worry, though, he believed, because few Taiwanese supported independence. Instead they were supportive of keeping the status quo and in such circumstances, it would be difficult for lawmakers to 'push forward any drastic or provocative constitutional reform'. Japan, a long-time US ally embroiled in a row with China over disputed islands in the East China Sea, is as nervously awaiting the law as Taiwan. China analyst with the Institute for International Policy Studies in Tokyo, Shinzo Kobori, said tension was high in Japan because some believed the law may 'allow China to easily come to military action'. 'We feel China should stop this law, although that may be an impossible dream,' the Tokyo-based researcher said. 'We would like to have some sort of influence in the process.' The legislation was not, as China was portraying, an internal, domestic matter, but rather an issue that had international implications. 'It's in the interests of the international community to urge mainland China to be more disciplined in the implementation of the law,' Dr Kobori said. 'But it's also important for Taiwan to keep calm and not take a confrontational approach.' Taiwan's leaders, pushing for increased international prominence, are not being perceived as doing that by the mainland, observers said. The director of the National University of Singapore's East Asia Institute, Wang Gungwu, described Taiwan as being seen by Beijing as trying to 'push the packet'. 'From Taiwan's point of view it's understandable - they want to increase their international space and eventually win a place on the United Nations,' Professor Wang said. 'But to do that, they will be violating the Chinese provision. So pushing the envelope in Taiwan, no matter what the justification, threatens the peace in the region.' East Asia, however, wanted the situation to stay as it was, as did the US, European nations and perhaps, even officials in China, he believed. Tomorrow will likely dawn with the new law in place. Perhaps, though, what the final version says will be of less importance to how Taiwan and its allies react.