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China's law could force local unity
China's "Anti-Secession" Law has created a strong public reaction in Taiwan and unease throughout the international community. Apart from deceptive language dealing with United Front warfare, the ambiguity of "non-peaceful means and other necessary measures" gives the Chinese authorities too much room for interpretation and could mean war.
War is of course a straightforward application of non-peaceful means, but "non-peaceful means and other necessary measures" is in fact a metaphor for the unlimited warfare that China has been promoting.
The book Unlimited Warfare published in 1999 by the People's Liberation Army divides unlimited warfare into three types -- military, super-military and non-military. The three categories include more than 20 specific kinds of warfare, but China has also in recent years studied and developed terror warfare, electronic warfare and Internet warfare, media warfare and economic and commercial strategies.
Meanwhile, Chinese military researchers have suggested that Taiwan be beaten to a pulp and then rebuilt, shameless Taiwanese politicians have been sympathetic to Chinese propaganda and hacker attacks have become part of the daily routine.
The Anti-Secession Law is not only a blank check for China to wage war, it also provides a "legal basis" for doing so, making the law a Damocles Sword that hangs over the heads of Taiwanese.
It has had a direct effect on President Chen Shui-bian's middle-of-the-road policies. The most controversial aspect of the meeting two weeks ago between Chen and People First Party Chairman James Soong was the issue of national status.
Chen's concessions were an expression of goodwill to both the pan-blue camp and China, and incited anger among parts of the pan-green camp who felt that Chen betrayed them.
China, however, saw Chen's conduct as weak, so it took a foot instead of the inch he gave, just as it did after the DPP failed to win a majority in December's legislative elections, declaring that it would pass the Anti-Secession Law.
Chen has no way of escaping China's mounting pressure. He has no choice but to fight. At the very least, a follow-up to the Lunar New Year cross-strait flights will be put on the back burner. Calls for Taiwan to distance itself from China are growing louder. Even if pan-blue camp politicians are forced by Chinese pressure to choose between Taiwan and China, would they -- with the exception of a few shameless individuals -- dare to publicly make such a choice?
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had already planned a trip to Beijing to initiate cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party, but I wonder if it will dare defy public opinion and go through with that plan.
As with the protest on the anniversary of the March 19 assassination attempt on Chen and Vice President Annette Lu, this shows the KMT's total disregard for the Taiwanese people.
Taiwan's government must take action to restrict the effects of the law. This could mean enacting legislation, amending the Constitution, holding a referendum or speeding up the review of the arms-procurement bill.
China-friendly legislators are also under pressure to revise their stance. On March 4, the legislature passed a resolution demanding that Beijing reconsider its position and stressing that the Republic of China is a sovereign and independent country. It said that any unilateral action changing the cross-strait status quo or belittling Taiwan's sovereignty would be against the wishes of the Taiwanese people and the international community.
Several years of fighting between the government and the opposition have made unity and harmony a rare thing, and it appears we have China to thank for it. Now that calls for unity have gone unheeded and that China is doing as it pleases, we have to wait and see what the legislature's next move will be.
However, if the reaction to the law is properly handled, it would offer a good opportunity for cooperation between the government and the opposition, and would be a touchstone for who cares for this country and who doesn't.
Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.
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