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China puts Taiwan ‘reunification’ strategy at heart of national revival plans

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 07/07/2022 Amber Wang
  • The plan will promote reunification as part of national rejuvenation, according to cross-strait affairs official
  • Beijing strives for peaceful reunification but will take 'all necessary measures'

Beijing's top official for cross-strait affairs has outlined a framework for a Taiwan strategy, saying tensions with the island would gradually be resolved as mainland China's strength grows.

In an article published in People's Daily on Thursday, Liu Jieyi, head of the Taiwan Affairs Office, said one focus of the strategy would be preventing and resolving major risks and hidden dangers in the Taiwan Strait, creating a "favourable environment" for national rejuvenation.

"Our growing comprehensive strength and significant institutional advantages continue to be transformed into efficiency in work related to Taiwan issues and push forward the process of national reunification," Liu said.

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Reunification should be promoted as part of the country's rejuvenation, and this would serve as the "main goal" of Beijing's new plan on Taiwan, while solving the Taiwan issue based on the mainland's development would serve as the "strategic idea", Liu said.

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It is the first time Liu has laid out the framework of a strategy for dealing with Taipei.

In November, the Communist Party adopted a historical resolution that raised the idea of an overall strategy on Taiwan. The resolution did not give specifics but said the strategy would be based on President Xi Jinping's remarks on Taiwan issues since he took power in 2012.

Liu said the threat from "Taiwan independence forces" was the biggest obstacle to reunification and a serious hidden risk to national rejuvenation. He vowed that Beijing would punish those forces and crack down on foreign interference.

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Beijing regards the self-ruled island as a breakaway province and has vowed to take it back by force, if necessary. For years, it opposed formal relations between the island and other nations, and in recent years has stepped up military activities near Taiwan.

But Liu said Beijing's overall strategy would still adhere to the principles of "peaceful reunification" and "one country, two systems".

"We do not promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures. The purpose is to safeguard the prospect of peaceful reunification of the motherland and the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation, including Taiwan compatriots," he wrote.

The peaceful development of cross-strait relations would remain the "main method" in Taiwan affairs, the official said.

The article appears to be part of a push by senior officials - including provincial party secretaries and ministers - to offer pledges of loyalty to Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of party's national congress in the autumn, which is expected to mark the start of Xi's third term in power.

Tensions in the strait remain high. Beijing officials have criticised Washington's increasingly close relationship with the island and its sales of defence equipment to Taipei. Meanwhile, US officials, including Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, have repeatedly warned against provocations after the People's Liberation Army stepped up activity around the island.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has also prompted discussions and debate about whether Beijing might mount a similar attack on the island.

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Zhang Wensheng, deputy director of the Taiwan Research Institute of Xiamen University in the southeastern province of Fujian, said Liu's remarks indicated that Beijing was patient about retaking the island, and a peaceful resolution was still the best solution.

He said it was the first time for Liu to outline an overall strategy towards Taiwan, which might be further elaborated in the report of the party congress.

Zhang said that promoting reunification as part of national rejuvenation meant that mainland China would strive for peaceful reunification, but would not reject the use of force.

"If Taiwan [seeks to] split or provoke, or if foreign forces interfere, we have to use force, and we must assure we have the ability to solve it by force," he said.

"But in the short-term, our goal is to advance the development of the country" and the approach to Taipei would have to serve this "overall situation", he said.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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