China ends the maneuvers around Taiwan, but toughens its demand for reunification with the island | International
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Beijing has reaffirmed this Wednesday its determination to achieve “reunification with Taiwan”. For the first time in 22 years, the Chinese authorities have published an official report to emphasize that Taiwan is “an inalienable part of China” and demonstrate “the determination and commitment of the Communist Party and the Chinese people” to the unification of the island and the mainland. The publication of this white paper comes after a week marked by the escalation of tension in the Strait of Formosa, after the visit to the island of the leader of the US House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi. The Asian giant considers the trip an act of support for Taiwanese independence and, in response, launched unprecedented military maneuvers in the region last Thursday. The Chinese Army has announced, shortly after the text was published, the cessation of war drills, although it stressed that “the preparation for war and control operations” will continue, as local media had already anticipated.
The Taiwan Affairs Office – an administrative agency that answers to the Chinese State Council – published a white paper on Wednesday entitled: The Taiwan issue and reunification with China in the new era. In the text he speaks of taking “any necessary measure” in the face of any separatist activity, as well as to avoid alleged foreign interference.
It is the third time that the Asian giant has published a guide on the Taiwanese issue. The first, in 1993, came a year after the so-called 1992 Consensus, which served to promote rapprochement between the two shores. The second, from 2000, was published a month before the presidential elections in which Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party won for the first time, openly in favor of distancing from Beijing. “The new era” is the terminology associated with the mandate of President Xi Jinping, who is expected to be re-elected for a third five-year term – unprecedented since Mao Zedong – during the 20th Communist Party Congress, scheduled for autumn.
The latest white paper on Taiwan makes it very clear that the Chinese government’s tolerance levels for any hint of pro-independence activity are at a minimum. With a markedly assertive tone, drawing many more red lines than in the two previous texts, Beijing leaves everything on the way to an aspiration for “reunification” that is no longer seen on a distant horizon, but as something to be eagerly awaited. An example of Chinese concern is that, while in the Mandarin texts of 1993 and 2000 the idea of ”Taiwan independence” appears five times, in the current white paper it is read up to 36 times.
After what happened in the last week, Beijing has dropped on deaf ears certain guarantees with which, in its day, it tried to convince Taipei of unification. When the 1993 and 2000 reports explained the formula for One country, two systemsit was emphasized that the mainland would allow Taiwan to enjoy some autonomy if “reunification” occurred, ensuring that it would not send troops or administrative personnel to settle on the island, which functions as a state. de facto ―since the flight in 1949 of the nationalist leaders of the Kuomintag party after the civil war won by Mao Zedong’s communists―. In the latest version, however, that promise is gone. “The specific application of One country, two systems in Taiwan will weigh the actual situation in Taiwan, assimilate the opinions and suggestions of all sectors on both sides of the Strait, and fully take into account the interests and feelings of Taiwan compatriots.” The nuance that “it will be possible to negotiate” has also vanished as long as Taipei accepts that there is only one China and does not seek independence.
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The special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau are based on the model of One country, two systems, a principle devised by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s. The objective was to ensure conformity that there is only one China, but at the same time to guarantee that those areas that had developed their own economic systems and freedoms could maintain them after returning under Chinese domain. The idea, originally conceived for Taiwan, has never been accepted by the island’s political parties. In addition, the curtailment of freedoms that has been applied in Hong Kong as a result of the 2019 protests has increased the general mistrust of this principle.
In this time, the terms regarding “peaceful reunification” have also changed. In 1993 it was “a common aspiration of all Chinese” and would be achieved “through negotiation”; in 2000, the government hardened its tone, asserting that it was “an internal matter” and that it had “no obligation to renounce the use of force.” Beijing now continues without ruling out “any necessary measure to avoid external interference and any separatist activity”, which “in no case will be directed” at “Chinese comrades in Taiwan”. Furthermore, in the current report and for the first time, “foreign powers” are directly blamed for hindering and interfering in the unification process.
The Mainland Affairs Council, the Taiwanese executive ministry in charge of planning, developing and implementing policies between Taiwan and China, has criticized the new white paper, stating that: “It is full of lies based on wishful thinking; ignores the facts, and that the ROC [nombre oficial de Taiwán] It is a sovereign state”. “Only the 23 million Taiwanese have the right to decide on the future of Taiwan, and they will never accept an outcome set by an autocratic regime,” he notes.
Shortly after the publication of the text, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has announced the cessation of the military maneuvers that it has been carrying out around Taiwan for a week. The Army statement considers several tasks “completed”, although it reports that “the changes in the region will continue to be monitored” and that they will also continue with “training and preparation for combat” as well as with “regular patrols in order to to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Sources quoted by Reuters assure that on Wednesday several Chinese planes have flown over the area very close to the median dividing line, the unofficial border of the Strait of Formosa, while the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense affirms that Beijing’s fighters have crossed it as far as 17 occasions.
The last to join the official condemnation of the Chinese war exercises has been the British Foreign Secretary -and also a candidate to replace Boris Johnson as head of the United Kingdom Government-, Liz Truss, who summoned the Chinese ambassador to London, Zheng Zeguang, to explain “Beijing’s aggressive behavior and rhetoric in recent months.”
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