A Chinese general has warned that Beijing will not rule out the use of force to take control of Taiwan, as the Chinese Communist Party closed its annual National People’s Congress in Beijing.
General Li Zuocheng, the chief of the Joint Staff Department and member of the Central Military Commission, said Friday that while peaceful diplomacy is preferred, China will consider using force to establish control over Taipei as part of its “One China” policy.
“If the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost, the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to resolutely smash any separatist plots or actions,” Li said, according to Reuters.
Taiwan, officially called the Republic of China (RoC), sits 80 miles from the Chinese coast across the Taiwan Strait.
It has been independent for more than 70 years, having emerged from the last bastion of the nationalist forces that lost the Chinese Civil War to the CCP. It became the RoC capital in 1949.
China does not consider Taiwan to be an independent nation and has repeatedly vowed to bring the island under its control. Taiwan is currently led by President Tsai Ing-wen—elected for a second term in January—who heads the liberal and nationalist Democratic Progressive Party.
Beijing considers Tsai a pro-independence politician, and has consistently warned her administration not to pursue any kind of “separatism” or face consequences.
On Friday—the 15th anniversary of China’s Anti-Secession Law which gives the CCP the legal basis for military action against Taiwan if the democratic nation formally secedes from the mainland—Li said,
“We do not promise to abandon the use of force, and reserve the option to take all necessary measures, to stabilize and control the situation in the Taiwan Strait.”
Li Zhanshu, the head of the Chinese parliament and the third most senior CCP leader, also warned that Beijing would not rule out military force to retake Taiwan, though said peaceful means were preferred.
“As long as there is a slightest chance of a peaceful resolution, we will put in hundred times the effort,” Li said. Still, he warned Taiwanese independence advocates that their path “leads to a dead end; any challenge to this law will be severely punished.”
The ramped up Chinese rhetoric came as CCP lawmakers approved a new draft national security law for the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong, prompting protests in the former British colony and criticism from foreign governments.
The Taiwanese government has already vowed to provide support for pro-independence activists in Hong Kong that fall foul of the Beijing-backed local government there.
Original: NEWSSWEEK – David Brenann