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What We Learned About China-Taiwan From Beijing’s Drills On The Island

Story Highlights
  • According to recent polls, a sizable and growing majority of Taiwanese identify as "Taiwanese" rather than "Chinese," and the vast majority of them oppose any kind of unification with China.
  • Leaders in Taiwanese business, many of whom have large stakes on the Chinese mainland, are also being directly threatened by China.

The hardliners at the top of the Chinese Communist Party would likely be pleased with the results of Nancy Pelosi’s visit.

They took advantage of the window Ms. Pelosi provided. Now, a number of harsher military actions in the vicinity of Taiwan are considered “acceptable”.

These actions, like as shooting missiles over the island, have come to be regarded as “legitimate” by the international community not because they were sanctioned but rather because Beijing got away with them.

This becomes the new norm every time the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) sends fighter jets closer or in greater numbers over the Taiwan Strait.

In addition, a growing number of Chinese people now view the possibility of a mainland China invasion on Taiwan in the future as a likely possibility.

Again, those who want it to happen see this as a victory.

Other, more peaceful methods of attaining Taiwan’s “return to the motherland,” as stated by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, are not currently being addressed, at least not in any depth.

This impressive live-fire display by the PLA has also had the unintended side effect of accelerating the idea that China’s military rise is irreversible, which may terrify South East Asian neighbours who have competing claims to the South China Sea.

These extensive military drills would have required significant preparation. It is difficult to believe that the generals had them all of a sudden when word spread that Ms. Pelosi intended to visit Taiwan.

The more plausible scenario is that they had the blueprints prepared and took them out of the drawer when the chance arose.

Thanks, comrade Pelosi, as one giggling nationalist in Beijing said when he was interviewed on the street last week.

However, it would be risky if the Chinese government allowed itself to become too engrossed in its own militant rhetoric and began persuading itself that taking and retaining Taiwan could be very simple rather than a difficult, deadly, and disastrous affair.

According to some commentators, these war drills have helped the US and Taiwanese militaries develop defence plans to stave off any attacks from the mainland.

However, the government under President Xi Jinping felt that the exercises fell short. China’s cooperation with the US on narcotics trafficking and marine safety has been put on hold, according to a Friday night announcement from the foreign ministry. Additionally, all high-level military discussions between the US and China have been put on hold.

The US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, have called China, but they have not received a response, according to American media.

It is important to note that Beijing has stopped working with Washington on climate change. The top carbon producers in the world are silent.

After Ms. Pelosi’s visit, tensions have undoubtedly risen, but the Mr. Xi leadership appears to like it that way for the time being.

The military fireworks that have been taking place all across Taiwan over the past few days have gotten a lot of attention. However, the statements issued from Beijing in conjunction with the drills are just as significant.

The “Taiwan separatist forces,” as Wang Yi, the foreign minister of China, has dubbed a small handful of Taiwanese lawmakers, have been identified.

Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, is at the top of this list. She is the target of particular criticism. She was referred to as a “unworthy descendant of the Chinese nation” by Minister Wang, which is code for traitor.

Beijing asserts that the majority of Taiwanese people are not the enemy, and it wants to distinguish them from a small “clique” that it believes is attempting to sever Taiwan from the rest of China.

This depiction of Taiwan is entirely at variance with reality, which presents a difficulty for Beijing. According to recent polls, a sizable and growing majority of Taiwanese identify as “Taiwanese” rather than “Chinese,” and the vast majority of them oppose any kind of unification with China.

Wang Yi asserts that this is as a result of Tsai Ing-“all-out wen’s administration’s effort to push de-Sinicization” and efforts to forge “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan.”

For this reason, the Chinese ambassador to France reportedly stated that Taiwanese citizens “would need re-education” following Taiwan’s “reunification” with China. They have been “brainwashed” into thinking they are not Chinese, he claims.

Once more, this is wholly inconsistent with reality. Taiwan is an open society where people are free to read, believe, and vote for whomever they like.

What effect will all of this have, we wonder now?

Beijing wants to scare Taiwanese voters into rejecting President Tsai’s party in the 2024 election. They favour the return of the more China-friendly KMT (Kuomintang).

Leaders in Taiwanese business, many of whom have large stakes on the Chinese mainland, are also being directly threatened by China. They are being instructed to “choose the right side.”

These strategies haven’t worked out too well for Beijing in the past when they’ve tried them. Beijing’s penalties will have a negative impact on many Taiwanese industries, especially its fruit growers. China’s ban on mainland visitors to Taiwan is already harming the tourism sector.

But if recent events are any indication, Taiwanese attitudes toward Beijing appear to be ready to become much more rigid.

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