China Withdraws Promise to Not Send Troops to Taiwan if It Takes Control of Island

The Chinese government on Wednesday published a rare “white paper” adjusting its stance on Taiwan by rescinding a long-standing promise that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces would not be sent to garrison the island if Beijing takes control, by either political or military means.

Reuters explained on Wednesday that it has been 22 years since the regime in Beijing issued its previous white paper on Taiwan. The new paper envisions far less autonomy for the Taiwanese after Beijing takes control — something the title of the new paper implies will happen soon, as it refers to the “New Era,” a common synonym for the rule of current dictator Xi Jinping.

The previous papers included a promise that China “will not send troops or administrative personnel to be based in Taiwan” after “reunification,” but the new paper omitted that line.

China has long dangled the prospect of Taiwan “reunifying” under a “one country, two systems” model similar to Hong Kong. The Taiwanese were never terribly enthusiastic about the offer — and they became markedly less so after China tossed aside its promises of autonomy to Hong Kong in 2020, overriding the Hong Kong legislature to impose a nakedly authoritarian “national security law” and crush the 2019 pro-democracy movement.

Having watched the battered jalopy of Hong Kong autonomy barely make it out of China’s shady used-car lot before it blew all four tires and burst into flames, the Taiwanese have become highly resistant to the same sales pitch. Indeed, Taiwan wound up rethinking its offer of refuge to Hong Kong residents fleeing from Beijing’s tyranny because officials in Taipei worried there might be too many Chinese Communist spies and provocateurs mixed in with the refugees.

The Chinese white paper also declared zero tolerance for “separatist activities” in Taiwan, and said Beijing “will not renounce the use of force.”

“We are ready to create vast space for peaceful reunification, but we will leave no room for separatist activities in any form,” the paper said. “We will only be forced to take drastic measures to respond to the provocation of separatist elements or external forces should they ever cross our red lines.”

The paper menacingly implied those “red lines” are already in danger of breaching, because “some forces in the US are making every effort to incite groups inside Taiwan to stir up trouble and use Taiwan as a pawn against China.”

The new paper was also missing a line from the previous two editions that said “anything can be negotiated” as long as the Taiwanese do not seek independence.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) swiftly denounced Beijing’s new white paper as “full of wishful thinking, disregard for facts, and lies.”

The MAC “forcefully protested” the white paper as disregarding international law in favor of “the same old pro-unification cliches.”

“Taiwan insists that neither side of the Taiwan Strait has jurisdiction over the other and firmly rejects the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. This is the status quo and the current reality in the Taiwan Strait,” the MAC said.

The statement condemned the “large-scale military exercises” China launched in a tantrum after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last week as a “provocative use of force.”

“Taiwan has never been part of the People’s Republic of China. Only the 23 million people of Taiwan can decide Taiwan’s future,” the statement declared.

“Mainstream public opinion in Taiwan is firmly against the Chinese Communist Party’s saber-rattling to heighten tension in the region,” the MAC added on Twitter. “We will resolutely defend our nation’s sovereignty and stand with democratic allies to curb the expansion of the authoritarian regime.” 

The publication of China’s belligerent white paper came on the same day Andrew Hsia, deputy chair of the more Beijing-friendly Taiwanese opposition party Kuomintang (KMT), was rebuked by the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for visiting China in the middle of Beijing’s outrageous military drills.

“Not only is the timing wrong and the stance confused, it’s also letting down the military, which is working hard to defend the country,” the DPP said.

Hsia’s travel plans leaked over the weekend, prompting public outrage over a trip the KMT planned to keep quiet until Hsia was in China. Hsia is a former member of the Taiwanese cabinet but currently has no official status.

The MAC tried to get Hsia to cancel the trip after his itinerary was leaked, but he refused. Hsia denied rumors he would visit Beijing, while KMT claimed he was leading an “apolitical fact-finding” mission intended to show support for Taiwanese businesses working in China.

KMT said the trip was arranged before Pelosi’s visit and should be viewed as an effort to defuse tensions between Taiwan and China. Some KMT members, including New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih, expressed reservations about Hsia visiting China while the PLA was simulating a blockade of the island. Younger members of the party circulated a petition asking Hsia to cancel the trip.

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