A Chinese military strategist has warned that the coronavirus pandemic should not be seen as a chance for Beijing to take back Taiwan by force, saying that was not the top priority and the focus should be on the “national rejuvenation” dream. Qiao Liang, a retired air force major general who is seen as a hawkish voice in China, made the remarks as nationalistic sentiment is rising in the mainland, with calls for Beijing to take action on issues like pro-independence forces in Taiwan and Washington’s criticism over the pandemic. “China’s ultimate goal is not the reunification of Taiwan, but to achieve the dream of national rejuvenation – so that all 1.4 billion Chinese can have a good life,” Qiao, a professor at the PLA National Defence University in Beijing, said in an interview on Monday. “Could it be achieved by taking Taiwan back? Of course not. So we shouldn’t make this the top priority. If Beijing wants to take Taiwan back by force, it will need to mobilise all its resources and power to do this,” he said. “You shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, it’s too costly.” Beijing sees the self-ruled island as part of its territory that must return to the mainland fold, and calls for reunification are growing louder. Some retired military leaders have suggested the United States is not in a position to defend Taiwan at present because all four of its aircraft carriers in the Indo-Pacific have been hit by Covid-19 outbreaks. But Qiao – who co-wrote the book Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Master Plan to Destroy America in 2004 – has sounded the alarm against the rising tide of nationalism. US President Donald Trump’s former political adviser Steve Bannon has said the book, which was revised in 2017, helped him conclude that “China was engaging in economic warfare against us” . In it, the authors call for China to defeat a technologically superior opponent like the US through economic and diplomatic means and strategies, rather than focusing on direct military confrontations. In a social media post on Monday, Qiao said nationalism appeared to be driving some proposals being raised in China, and that they would harm the country. “It’s undeniable that the US has been in a hurry to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, and its military strength is reduced … however [the virus crisis] just creates a short tactical window [for China] which is not big enough to solve the strategic dilemma it will face in the future – unless it’s almost certain that Covid-19 will lead to the collapse of the United States,” he wrote on WeChat. Qiao said while a move by the PLA to take Taiwan by force may not prompt Washington to declare war, it could join forces with its allies in the region to use their sea and air advantages to cut off Beijing’s maritime lifeline in the South China Sea. He said other Western countries may also be convinced to impose sanctions on Beijing that would curb the country’s economic development. He said Washington’s move to label Beijing as a strategic competitor had informed his views on the direction of US-China relations. Qiao added that Beijing should make clear that its top priority was not to take Taiwan back but to achieve its long-term goal of “national rejuvenation” – President Xi Jinping’s so-called Chinese dream of becoming a fully developed nation by 2049. “The Taiwan issue is actually a key problem between China and the US, even though we have insisted it is China’s domestic issue,” he said. “In other words, the Taiwan issue cannot be completely resolved unless the rivalry between Beijing and Washington is resolved.” Tsai Ing-wen under pressure amid pro-independence push for constitutional change in Taiwan Qiao also noted that the Chinese economy was still heavily reliant on the US dollar, and said a war over Taiwan would be a massive economic blow for China that would see capital flooding out of the country and many companies being forced to close. “This would just be a huge price to pay and it would jeopardise China’s goal of national rejuvenation,” he said.