Beijing says Taiwan’s unification with China is ‘inevitable’ despite election result

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Beijing says Taiwan’s unification with China is ‘inevitable’ despite election result” was written by Lily Kuo in Beijing, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 14th January 2020 05.30 UTC

Beijing has said that anyone seeking to keep Taiwan separate from China would “leave a stink for 10,000 years” in its strongest remarks since the re-election of Tsai Ing-Wen, who opposes unification with China.

On Monday while on a tour in Africa, the foreign minister, Wang Yi, said: “The unification of the two sides of the strait is a historical inevitability,” Xinhua news agency reported.

He described those going against this trend as bound to “stink for 10,000 years” – an idiom to say one will go down in infamy.

Tsai’s landslide electoral victory on Saturday has been embarrassing for China, where state media spent most of the past year isolating Taiwan on the diplomatic stage, deriding Tsai and highlighting the popularity of her opponent, Han Kuo-yu, of the pro-China Kuomintang party.

Her win, after a campaign that leaned heavily on Hong Kong as a cautionary tale for Taiwan, is widely seen as a repudiation of Beijing’s attempts to draw Taiwan into its fold through military intimidation, economic incentives, cultural exchanges and other means. Beijing views Taiwan, a functionally independent country, as part of its territory.

Beijing has sought to downplay the election results which also saw the ruling Democratic Progressive party maintain its majority in the legislature, giving Tsai’s administration a stronger mandate over the next four years.

In an editorial on Sunday, Xinhua said Tsai’s party had used “dirty tactics”, including fake news, repression and intimidation. Mainland commentators said Tsai had “won by fear” while the Global Times blamed infighting within Han’s Kuomintang party.

“Yet no matter how much uncertainty there is across the straits, the fact that the Chinese mainland is getting increasingly stronger and the Taiwan island is getting weaker is an inevitable reality,” an editorial late on Saturday said.

Following the election, Chinese social media was flooded with comments from internet users calling for unification by force. But experts say Beijing prizes stability and would likely remain cool-headed in its approach to Taiwan.

“The ultimate goal for China government is to keep its power. Stability in the mainland is always much more important than the unification,” said Austin Wang, assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who focuses on East Asia.

“If China’s economy is good, it may harden its hardline policy and may raise more conflict against Taiwan,” he said. “But if China’s economy goes down, it may need Taiwan’s help… In such a scenario, China may be willing to engage with Taiwan.”

This week, Chinese authorities have tried to highlight the potential of economic links. On Tuesday the international version of the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the party, criticised the DPP for focusing on politics rather than Taiwan’s struggling economy, a common argument made by Beijing and pro-China groups in Taiwan that closer ties would help stagnant wage and job growth.

“The people of Taiwan must tighten their belts and continue to live a hard life,” the paper said. State media have also accused “external dark forces”, such as the US, an ally of Taiwan’s, of having a hand in the election.

Experts say China is likely to double down on its strategy of punishing Taiwan. During Tsai’s first term, Beijing cut off a dialogue mechanism, independent travel to Taiwan, and persuaded several of Taiwan’s few remaining allies to switch diplomatic recognition.

In her victory speech on Saturday, Tsai she was committed to maintaining peaceful cross-strait relations but said it was a responsibility to be borne by “both sides”.

“China must abandon threats of force against Taiwan,” she said. “ … Democratic Taiwan and our democratically elected government will not concede to threats and intimidation.”

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