Call Taiwan a ‘last resort’ for China’s reunification, says former PLA official

BEIJING – A retired official of the People’s Liberation Army says the central Chinese government in Beijing will use force only as a “last resort” for Taiwan’s reunification.

“The Chinese PLA is getting stronger and stronger, and we have geographical proximity,” said Zhou Bo, now a senior fellow at Tsinghua University’s Center for International Strategy and Security Studies.

“It does not suggest that we will use force easily because that would be the last resort,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday. “We sincerely wish to be reunited with our compatriots in Taiwan in a peaceful manner.”

Taiwan is a democratically self-governing island that Beijing considers part of its territory.

On Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden said he would be willing to use military force to protect Taiwan, a clear break from Washington’s tradition of being deliberately ambiguous about whether the United States would help the island if China invaded.

Biden and the White House later said the comments did not reflect a change in policy.

“China has expressed strong dissatisfaction and strong opposition to the US side’s comments,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin was quoted as saying in an official English-language transcript of a briefing on Monday.

Wang reiterated that the Taiwan issue is an internal matter. “No one should underestimate the determination, determination and capability of the Chinese people to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. “No one should stand up against the 1.4 billion Chinese people.”

It is pressuring China to respond

Dennis Weng, an associate professor of political science at Houston State University, told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia on Wednesday that Biden’s comments about military power were “testing China” for his response, so US allies would know how to respond.

The United States’ desire to protect Taiwan is based on the condition that China change its “so-called stability.” “If China does not change its position, strategic ambiguity will remain.”

For more than 40 years, the US “One China Policy” has recognized Beijing as the only legitimate government in China. The United States already maintains informal relations with Taiwan, with a policy of ensuring that the island has resources for self-defense.

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It’s important to note that Biden was describing a “fictional situation,” said Susan Thornton, a retired senior U.S. diplomat and senior fellow at the Yale Law School’s Paul Sai China Center.

“It’s unfortunate that everyone is talking about an invasion of Taiwan, militarizing the situation,” Thornton told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Wednesday. “Taiwan should not have an impending crisis and the more we talk about it, the more we move towards it, in my view.”

Beijing has said it is aiming for a peaceful reunion with Taiwan. On Tuesday, Zhou noted China’s “anti-secession law” on the condition that Beijing would use force.

“Unless and until Taiwan declares independence, unless and until no external power separates Taiwan from China, or until and until the possibility of peaceful reunification is completely exhausted,” he said, “otherwise we will use force.” No. “

“Of course, if the Taiwanese authorities [are] Against this prospect of reunion indefinitely, we must be well prepared, “said Zhou.” We are not sorry for that. “

China’s trade power

Biden was in Tokyo this week as his administration seeks to build political ties in the region as part of a solution to China’s growing imbalances.

The United States on Monday announced an Indo-Pacific economic structure with 12 other partner countries in the region, including Australia, Japan and the Republic of Korea. The framework is not a trade agreement, but one to build international standards on issues such as the digital economy and working conditions.

Taiwan and Beijing are not part of the participating primary group.

“We should seek cooperation with all countries in Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific, not part of it,” said He Weiwen, a senior fellow at the Beijing-based think tank Center for China and Globalization.

Countries in the region are members of other groups, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, a free trade agreement between the 15 countries that went into effect in January. The United States is not a member, but China.

He told CNBC’s “Street Sciences Asia” on Tuesday that China’s trade with the other 14 members of the RCEP is much higher than with the United States.

The new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF, “seems to cover all major trade issues of the 21st century,” said a former trade adviser at the Chinese embassies in New York and San Francisco. “It simply came to our notice then.

– CNBC’s Su-Lin Tan contributes to this report.

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