All know dissidents were jailed. Special internet restrictions were applied. Tiananmen was cleared of all people except the army. Then the communist Party Congress began in Beijing this week.
“With China’s rapid rise and relentless military build-up, the ‘China threat’ is no longer confined to confrontation across the Taiwan Strait. In fact, it has already seriously impacted world peace,” said Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian on Oct. 10, 2007.
He urged the international community to “strongly demand that China immediately withdraw missiles deployed along its southeastern coast targeted at Taiwan, stop military exercises simulating attacks on Taiwan.”
Mr. Chen was kicking off Taiwan’s annual National Day parade. The parade featured, for the first time in 16 years, military troops and equipment. Yet Taiwan took out of the parade line up, at the last minute, its secret cruise missile, the HF-2E, that analysts say could reach Shanghai.
Said one China-watcher we spoke to on the phone from Shanghai: “We have to assume Taiwan just wanted to keep this missile from being photographed. Certainly President Chen’s remarks would provoke China but there was not too much new or surprising here. Chen has been outspoken before.”
President Chen accused Beijing of ignoring peace overtures and using “ever more belligerent rhetoric and military intimidation.”
At the Asia-Pacific regional summit on Sept. 7 in Sydney, Australia, President Hu Jintao of China reportedly told President Bush the next two years will be a time of “high danger” for Taiwan. “This year and next year are a period of high danger for the Taiwan situation,” Mr. Hu told Mr. Bush in bilateral talks, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
“We must give stronger warnings to the Taiwan authorities,” Liu Jianchao quoted the Chinese president as saying. “We cannot allow anyone to use any means to split Taiwan from the motherland.”
But Taiwan’s Mr. Chen has been unrelenting. In his National Day address, he said: “Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China are two sovereign, independent nations, and neither exercises jurisdiction over the other. This is a historical fact. This is the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.”
China doesn’t see it that way. China views Taiwan as a renegade breakaway province that needs to be returned to Beijing’s control. China has been beefing up ballistic missile and other forces facing Taiwan and has been promoting more senior military officers with experience in planning operations against Taiwan.
Within the last six weeks, China replaced its chief of general staff for the People’s Liberation Army. A commander once tasked with making war preparations against Taiwan, Chen Bingde, was named to run the day-to-day operations of the PLA.
China also recently again blocked Taiwan’s recognition by the United Nations — a sore point in Taiwan since 1949. “Only the people of Taiwan have the right to decide their nation’s future,” President Chen said.
Early last July a Defense White Paper from Japan expressed concern about China. “There are fears about the lack of transparency concerning China’s military strength,” the paper said. “In January this year, China used ballistic missile technology to destroy one of its own satellites. There was insufficient explanation from China, sparking concern in Japan and other countries about safety in space as well as the security aspects.”
That same week, Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard said, “The pace and scope of [China’s] military modernization, particularly the development of new and disruptive capabilities such as the anti-satellite missile, could create misunderstandings and instability in the region.”
What are the implications for the United States? The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act stipulates the United States will “consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area are of grave concern to the United States” but does not mandate intervention.
With the United States increasingly interlocked with China in trade and both nations seeking a successful Beijing Olympics next summer, it is increasingly important that the U.S. keep crystal-clear its foreign policy intentions with China and Taiwan.
John E. Carey is former president of International Defense Consultants Inc and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times. He covers China, Russia and foreign policy issues. The article above appeared in the Washington Times on October 16, 2007.