Beijing was not happy about Premier William Lai (賴清德) reiterating his support for Taiwanese independence at the legislature on Friday last week. The state-run Global Times published an editorial lambasting Lai for his “presumptuous” words. It also suggested the Chinese government consider initiating a new avenue of attack against Taiwanese independence advocates.
Taiwanese commentators have criticized what they feel is the excessive nature of this suggested approach, and of its implications for free speech and sovereignty. However, what is also interesting is the editorial’s frank description of the context of Beijing’s “united front” strategy.
The editorial calls for Beijing to issue an international arrest warrant for Lai, as part of the next step in “united front” warfare consisting of “precision strikes” against individual pro-independence Taiwanese politicians. Lai would then be prosecuted under China’s criminal code and its “Anti-Secession” Law.
Since the “Anti-Secession” Law is pertinent to the context and assumptions of the “united front” tactics informing the editorial’s premise, certain details are worth pointing out.
First, it is based on the principle that Taiwan is not a sovereign country and belongs to China. Article 4 says that accomplishing unification is “the sacred duty of all Chinese people, the Taiwan compatriots included.” If you want presumption, look no further than that.
Second, it states that peaceful means to achieve this are preferred.
Third, it explicitly states the way this is to be achieved. Article 6 lists measures to promote cross-strait relations, including encouraging and facilitating personnel exchanges, economic exchanges and cooperation, as well as exchanges in education, science, technology, culture, health and sports, and cooperation in combating crimes.
While these sound harmless, indeed desirable, their presence in the law, constituting one-fifth of the entire text, suggests that they are intended to lay the groundwork for eventual unification, rather than being desirable ends in themselves.
Which makes perfect sense when you read the rest of the editorial.
It says that, following the development of closer cross-strait ties and “the mainland’s” continuously expanding influence on “the island,” China’s encircling of Taiwan is almost complete.
It then talks of how China’s sanctions against pro-independence Taiwanese entertainers and artists have clearly borne fruit, evidenced by how their ability to perform in Taiwan has been curtailed.
The time is ripe to tighten the grip and exert similar sanctions — “precision strikes” — against specific pro-independence Taiwanese politicians, the editorial says.
“Following the increasing “mainlandization” of economic and social life within Taiwan, we can surely now find or pro-actively initiate ways to sanction” these politicians and “to create an entirely new battlefront,” it says.
Lai will be the first, and he will serve as an example to cow not only other pro-independence politicians, but any Taiwanese with independence leanings who desire in any way to develop their business or career in the Chinese market, the newspaper said.
Previously, the two-pronged approach of a state to exert influence in the world has been the combination of soft (cultural, social and economic) and hard (military) power. Add to this now a third category, that of sharp power: The attempt to penetrate the political and information environments in certain countries.
Beijing is effectively presenting traditionally soft power approaches as a desirable alternative to hard power interventions, but intentionally exploiting the environment cultivated by this soft power to encircle, strangle, penetrate and strike.
The Global Times editorial is a prefect summary of how it has gone about this.
Taiwan has never had a president who is not from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Could next year’s presidential election put a third-party candidate in office? The contenders who have thrown their hats into the ring are Vice President William Lai (賴清德) of the DPP, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) of the KMT and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). A monthly poll released by my-formosa.com on Monday showed support for Hou nosediving from 26 percent to 18.3 percent, the lowest among the three presidential hopefuls. It was a surprising
On April 26, British Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly gave a speech on diplomatic strategy at Mansion House in London. He said that if a war broke out in the Taiwan Strait, it would not only become a human tragedy, but destroy global trade and the economy, which is worth US$2.6 trillion. He said that every year, half of the world’s container ships pass through the Taiwan Strait, emphasizing that Taiwan is a crucial point in the global supply chain, particularly its role in providing advanced semiconductors. If China invades Taiwan, it would be
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has nominated New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) as its candidate for next year’s presidential election. The selection process was replete with controversy, mainly because the KMT has never stipulated a set of protocols for its presidential nominations. Yet, viewed from a historical perspective, the KMT has improved to some extent. There are two fundamental differences between the KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP): First, the DPP believes that the Republic of China on Taiwan is a sovereign country with independent autonomy, meaning that Taiwan and China are two different entities. The KMT, on the
A Beijing-based think tank last week published a poll showing that the majority of Chinese consider “international military intervention in Taiwan” one of the top threats facing China. Arguably, the sole purpose of the poll, which was conducted by the Tsinghua University Center for International Security and Strategy, is to serve as propaganda. A poll conducted in China, where freedom of speech is curtailed, cannot accurately reflect public opinion. Chinese would be reluctant to publicly express their true opinion, especially when it contradicts the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) narrative, as doing so would likely be construed as subversive behavior. RAND