China is not happy about Taiwan’s recent election results. With new president Tsai Ing-Wen winning by a landslide and her Democratic Progressive Party in control of the legislature, Beijing now faces a ruling party with a more pro-independence stance although it has long viewed the self-ruled island as part of Chinese territory.
One day after the election, Beijing stressed its opposition to “any form of secessionist activities seeking ‘Taiwan independence.’” Last week, an army of Chinese internet users jumped their country’s Great Firewall to flood Tsai’s Facebook page with anti-independence messages. But the toughest statement yet came from a retired Chinese major general, who warns a war between China and Taiwan is inevitable if Taiwan continues to seek independence.
“We have promised that ‘Chinese people will never fight Chinese people,’ but if ‘Taiwan’s separatist’ forces continue to press us into a corner, we will be left with no choice but to seek ‘reunification by force,'” wrote Luo Yuan, a retired People’s Liberation Army general in a commentary (link in Chinese) published Monday (Jan. 25) in the nationalistic state tabloid Global Times. The high-ranking ex-general’s prominent essay in a state newspaper is an apparent warning signal to Tsai.
Luo, 66, now serves as the vice head of China Strategic Culture Promotion Association, a self-proclaimed ”civil research group” on international and Taiwan affairs that is government-funded. A rear admiral in China’s navy, he is best known for his harsh stance on China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors.
“We will respect public opinions, but there are majority and minority public opinions,” Luo says. “Taiwan’s option for unification or independence can only be decided by the 1.3 billion Chinese people, including Taiwanese people.”
Luo warned Taiwan’s economy will be hurt by independence, citing its trade and tourism flows from China. Taiwan would have no chance of winning in a war against China, he said, comparing the military personnel and weapons of the two sides.
“Unification means peace and independence means war,” Luo says. This week, Taiwan held military drills on an island it controls just off the Chinese coast.
Back in 1992, China’s Communist Party reached an agreement with Taiwan’s Nationalist (Kuomintang) Party which states that both Taiwan and mainland China acknowledge there is only “One China,” but neither side recognizes the others’ legitimacy. Tsai Ing-Wen said she ”understands and respects” the agreement after winning the election.