Sun, Sep 16, 2007 - Page 8 News List

China's cross-strait military mindset

By Paul Lin 林保華

Chinese President and General-Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) told US President George W. Bush at this year's APEC summit that the next two years will be "a highly dangerous period" for the Taiwan Strait.

Late last month, the Chinese government pointedly expressed, through pro-Chinese media in Taiwan, its strong opposition to a Taiwan UN referendum. The report said that Hu had emphasized at a meeting of the CCP leadership that waging war against Taiwan was the only task of the Chinese military. He also proposed five phases in the CCP's use of force against Taiwan: preparation for military battle, engagement of military threats, blocking off the Taiwan Strait, all-out attack on Taiwan, and landing on Taiwan.

In the meantime, however, he also addressed six major concerns over the use of force against Taiwan: next year's Beijing Olympics could be affected, coastal business in southeast China could be harmed, China's diplomatic image could be tarnished, introduction of foreign investments could be thwarted, the risk of military casualties and a slowdown of the modernization of China.

Judging from the first part of Hu's speech, the CCP's use of force against Taiwan seems to be pending. But the statement that waging war against Taiwan is the only task of the Chinese military is a huge lie, which is only used to threaten Taiwan and comfort domestic forces. There is no way the CCP would concentrate all its military forces on the Fujian Province front line, ignoring other possible military threats. And the military also needs to cooperate with police to suppress large-scale civil uprisings in the country.

Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) had already imitated the second phase of military threats against Taiwan, which proved to be ineffectual. Would Hu dare jump directly to the third, fourth or even the fifth phase?

Hu's six major concerns poured cold water on the Chinese military and the "angry youth," or youth displaying a high level of Chinese nationalism. His concern that war could result in huge military sacrifices serves as a direct warning to the generals who are busy making money and enjoying the fruits of a corrupt life.

There are reasons why Hu brought up his concerns. First of all, between 60 percent and 70 percent of Taiwanese consider themselves Taiwanese rather than Chinese. Even with China's opposition, more than half of Taiwanese support Taiwanese independence. It is this cohesion that deters China from invading Taiwan.

Secondly, the US government says it has a responsibility to defend the security of Taiwan.

Thirdly, the top officials in the CCP's political bureau are all civilians. If they launch a war, power will fall into the hands of the military.

Hu still has some problems controlling the armed forces. As a result, a big personnel shuffle in the armed forces was launched in the run-up to the CCP's 17th National Congress next month. The commanders in five of China's seven military regions have been replaced, while many of the generals with practical control over the forces have switched places with generals in charge of military schools in order to prevent them from holding military power for too long.

This, however, doesn't mean that the CCP will not attack Taiwan. If China's bubble economy collapses after next year's Olympics or the 2010 World Expo, the Chinese government could use external war to divert domestic focus. By that time, however, extensive civil uprisings in China might be possible, which could open the door for Taiwan to become a new country.

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