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Home > East Asia > 

Chinese invasion highly unlikely
Paul Lin
8/11/2004

Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po newspaper has reported that former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, the chairman of the Central Military Commission, mentioned a new timetable for reunification, saying that it should be achieved before 2020.

This has caused an uproar among politicians and the media in Taiwan. For those who, deep in their hearts, support China against Taiwan, this is the sort of news to make them excited. Since there is virtually no popular support for their ideology, they rely on such statements to lift their morale.

Ever since the publication of T-Day, August 1995, such people have sensationalized news of a possible invasion like drug addicts, making the most of it as a "fix" to keep them going.

Prior to this most recent incident, the discussion had been whether China would invade in 2006. This news also emanated from Beijing.

Rumor had it that the reason for selecting this date to attack Taiwan was that China would still have two years to put matters right [with the international community], so as not to affect the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Early last month Vice Minis-ter of National Defense Tsai Ming-hsien, when being questioned on the possible invasion threat in 2006 by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) legislators, said: An assessment by the US Department of Defense indicates that by 2006 or 2008, China would pose a credible military threat.

Taiwan understands that such thinking exists, but neither accepts it nor rejects it. This statement was later turned into Tsai's own statement about the military situation.

If we compare this statement with the news about an attack around the year 2020 revealed by Wen Wei Po, the situation seems to be hopelessly confused. Does China intend to attack Taiwan in 2006, or in 2020? Such contradictory statements emanating from China can only indicate that they are in a quandary about what to do about Taiwan's growing awareness of national sovereignty. The reason for their indecision is that they know that they cannot deceive, nor can they frighten, the US into rejecting its commitment to support Taiwan.

The exposure given to news about China's military has reached such a level as to be no longer rational. Every military exercise, every military appointment, is now regarded as related to an invasion of Taiwan. Does this level of excitement indicate that such people love Taiwan, or that they love the idea that China will invade Taiwan?

Will China invade? To answer with an absolute negative is to be unrealistic, for China's leaders might have a moment of madness, and for this reason, this country should prepare itself for war. Apart from the annual Han Kuang military exercises, the public also has to be psychologically prepared, otherwise, if it comes to the worst, response will be uncoordinated and surrender will be the only option.

But there is not much probability that China will invade. China's leaders are now all big bosses, collecting the profits of capitalism.

If war breaks out, foreign investment will be withdrawn, and they will lose their opportunities for profit and corruption.

According to the Nanfang Daily, an official publication of the Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, figures released by the State Development Planning Council show that foreign direct investment in China exceeded US$500 billion at the end of last year. This accounted for over 40 percent of GDP, a level significantly higher than in developed countries or other countries in Asia. This already presents significant potential problems that cannot be ignored, let alone if there was a war.

The Chinese military wants a war, but the politicians don't. The central government wants a war, but the provinces don't. The generals want a war, but the soldiers don't. In the face of such internal contradictions, it will be difficult to launch an invasion.

There is also the cumulative popular anger over the gulf between the rich and the poor, heavy taxes and the scandals caused by loopholes in the financial system, which could also topple the government. This is a price the Chinese Communist Party is not willing to pay. And this does not take into account Taiwan's ability to counterattack and possible international involvement.

But fundamentally, China won't invade because the US still supports Taiwan.

The media has sought to make the most of China's military exercises off Dongshan Island, but we must also remember that the US is also conducting military exercises not far away.

If China's military exercise spills over into actual warfare, the US will have troops immediately on hand.

This is the most practical support that the US can give to Taiwan. Those people who devote themselves to undermining our relationship with the US may simply not love Taiwan. They should be criticized for helping Beijing undermine the Taiwan-US relationship and trying to give it an opportunity to invade.


Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.



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