Beijing warns of pro-independence turmoil in ties with Taipei in 2018
Head of mainland’s Taiwan policymaking body says there is a heightened risk from ‘separatist’ forces, amid strained cross-strait ties
Beijing’s top policymaking body on Taiwan says the situation facing cross-strait relations will be “grave” this year as risks created by the island’s pro-independence movement heighten, but Beijing will be firm in fighting against separatism.
The warning came after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to boost the island’s defence budget and Taiwanese prosecutors searched the homes of four pro-unification party officials in December. They were said to be witnesses in a national security investigation.
The director of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhang Zhijun, wrote in an article published on Monday in Cross-Strait Relations that last year was tough for cross-strait ties.
“[In the past year] the Taipei government refused to endorse the ‘1992 consensus’, obstructed and limited cross-strait exchanges and indulged the pro-independence forces to further push the de-Sinicisation process,” Zhang said.
“In the new year, we will not hesitate to oppose any kind of ‘Taiwan independence’ activities … we will never tolerate separatist movements, nor will we sit idly to let them erode the basis for peaceful reunification.”
Relations between Beijing and Taipei have deteriorated since Tsai from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party became the island’s president in 2016.
Beijing has been dismayed by what it says is Tsai’s refusal to accept the “1992 consensus”, an understanding that there is only one China, although each side can have its interpretation of what “China” stands for. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province.
Tsai says she wants peace with the mainland, but she will also defend Taiwan’s security and way of life.
China has stepped up military exercises focusing on the island, with advanced bombers and fighters conducting “encirclement” patrols.
Taiwan affairs experts said Beijing would use all means available to suppress pro-independence movements in Taiwan.
“Zhang’s wording showed that Beijing will be more focused on the small but incremental activities in the island that might eventually let the island go independent, instead of solely focusing on the big obvious moves like formally declaring independence,” said Ji Ye, a Taiwan affairs expert at Xiamen University. “As China becomes stronger and its global sway bigger, Beijing has lots of cards to put pressure on Taipei, which includes economic, political and even military means.”
Chen I-Hsin, a cross-strait affairs observer at the Chinese Culture University in Taipei, said Beijing might liaise more closely with Washington, Taiwan’s biggest arms supplier, to limit the island’s diplomatic influence.
“The US is a big factor behind cross-strait relations. If Taipei lost support from the US, it’s pro-independence movements would lose steam,” Chen said.