For years prominent commentator (and my co-host on Current Affairs Taiwan) Michael Turton has pointed out that both the carrots and the sticks employed by the PRC are intended to portray itself as the victim. In their framing, in spite of all their peaceful efforts and generous offers to Taiwan “compatriots”, stubborn Taiwan “secessionists” colluding with the US continue to be ungrateful. They generally portray these “secessionists” as being a minority trampling on the wishes of the broad majority of Taiwanese, who naturally and intelligently see the “unstoppable tide of history” on the side of “inevitable reunification”.
None of this flies in Taiwan, whose people overwhelmingly reject being annexed by the PRC. The purpose of this sort of propaganda is for the domestic PRC audience. It is intended to establish the idea that a “reluctant” PRC may be “pushed to the limit” and have no other choice but to go to war to “reunify the motherland”. After all, “reunification” is “inevitable” and is the “unstoppable will of the Chinese people on both sides of the Strait”.
Similarly, in 2005 an “anti-secessionist law” was passed, which would require a forceful reaction should Taiwan change its formal name Republic of China to Taiwan. In other words, a law created by the Chinese Communist Party would force their armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), to have to act. No choice! We have to do it, it is required by law!
Over the last couple of days, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew military planes around Taiwan and across the median line on to Taiwan’s side in a threatening manner. From Focus Taiwan:
Chinese military aircraft crossed over the median line of the Taiwan Strait and into Taiwan’s airspace on Monday for the first time in nearly a year, as Beijing continued military maneuvers near Taiwan for a second straight day.
In a statement issued Monday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) identified the Chinese military aircraft as “a certain number of H-6 bombers and escorting planes.”
This from CCP mouthpiece Global Times entitled “PLA’s patrol encircling Taiwan island sends stern warning to secessionists: source”:
Naval and aerial forces of the PLA Eastern Theater Command systematically organized warships, bombers, fighters and early warning aircraft in a patrol on Sunday in which the troops tested their joint operation capability, said Senior Colonel Zhang Chunhui, a spokesperson for the PLA Eastern Theater Command, in a statement released on Sunday.
During the mission, the aerial forces cruised through the Bashi Channel and Miyako Strait and conducted real combat-oriented training, Zhang said.
Taiwan and its affiliated islands are inalienable parts of China, and the Chinese military’s combat-readiness patrol was a completely legitimate and necessary action aimed at the current security situation in the Taiwan Straits and safeguarding national sovereignty, the spokesperson said.
The troops were determined and capable of crushing any “Taiwan secessionist” activities, resolutely safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity and peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits, Zhang said.
Note several phrases used. “real combat-oriented training”, “determined and capable of crushing any ‘Taiwan secessionist activities” and “stern warning” are all intended to underline the PLA’s strength and abilities. Naturally, it couldn’t possibly be the PRC that could be in the wrong, because they are “resolutely safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity and peace and stability”. Clearly they are simply preserving “peace and stability”, and who could be against “resolutely safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity” like any other country’s military does? Of course, Taiwan isn’t part of the PRC’s sovereign territory and never has been, but in their framing they are simply the reasonable ones: “Chinese military’s combat-readiness patrol was a completely legitimate and necessary action aimed at the current security situation in the Taiwan Straits and safeguarding national sovereignty.”
So what brought this on? Again, from the Global Times article:
An authoritative source who declined to be named told the Global Times that Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party has been increasingly colluding with the US, attempting with the US to confront the Chinese mainland, planning Lai Ching-te’s US visit, seeking “independence,” and the PLA action is a stern warning in response to that.
The Taiwan authorities are also leveraging the novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP) outbreak to clamor for joining the World Health Organization (WHO), even claiming the NCP information related to Taiwan provided to the WHO by the mainland is false, and also prohibiting all people from the mainland visiting the island, despite the mainland’s efforts in helping Taiwan residents in the mainland return home.
Mainland military expert Peng Guangqian told the Global Times on Sunday that since Tsai Ing-wen was reelected as Taiwan’s regional leader, her ambition for “Taiwan independence” has further expanded and become increasingly undisguised, which is making cross-Straits relations drift away from solidarity.
Ah-hah! “Taiwan authorities” are “increasingly colluding with the US, attempting with the US to confront the Chinese mainland”. The nerve of these Taiwanese “compatriots” seeking to “confront” the PRC, and seek allies to defend themselves from annexation from a threatening neighbor. For domestic audiences in China this is quite an affront, that their “fellow Chinese” and “compatriots” are “colluding” with the US is nothing less than betrayal. So sad and so outrageous, what is the poor CCP leadership to do?
The sneaky Taiwanese “secessionists” are also trying to take advantage of tragedy, “leveraging the novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP) outbreak to clamor for joining the World Health Organization (WHO), even claiming the NCP information related to Taiwan provided to the WHO by the mainland is false”. How low can these people go? The CCP has nothing but the interests of the Chinese people at heart, and then these “secessionists” go and use a disease that is ravaging China to further their own “splittist” aims! Then to accuse the PRC of lying! The affront! That the PRC has created a world public health risk by marginalizing Taiwan, with its separate health system, isn’t mentioned. Nor that the PRC did indeed lie to the WHO.
And what is the Chinese public to make of “regional leader” Tsai Ing-wen’s “ambition” to split the motherland with her “Taiwan independence” that has become “increasingly undisguised” and causing a “drift away from solidarity” with their “fellow Chinese” on the “mainland”? Everyone knows that Taiwan’s “separation” from the “motherland” is the biggest, saddest remaining legacy of China’s “century of humiliation”, which of course happened because of the intervention of the Americans, with whom they are currently “colluding” to make the separation of the “Chinese people” and “inalienable territory” permanent.
The article goes on further:
“We have always been pursuing a peaceful reunification, but now it seems our sincerity for peace will not get proper responses from Taiwan. The Taiwan secessionist forces are already on a road of no return and the possibility for a peaceful reunification is becoming less and less,” Peng said.
So sad. The CCP’s best efforts and “sincerity for peace” are not getting “proper responses”. Clearly the people of China and the CCP can’t keep enduring these insults and delays to “reunification of the motherland” forever? Clearly the poor, put-upon CCP will have to–very reluctantly of course–take some kind of action if this goes on: “the possibility for a peaceful reunification is becoming less and less”. With “The Taiwan secessionist forces are already on a road of no return”, it is clear who the victim here is: The CCP and the Chinese people.
The CCP knows full well this article isn’t going to help its case with Taiwanese, who are very clear eyed in their desire to remain free and independent of the tyrannical CCP regime. Most Taiwanese identify as Taiwanese and view their nation state as Taiwan, a view more and more of the international community is supporting.
This article, and countless others like it, are building an elaborate excuse for war, should they decide to pull the trigger on that option. Few people desire war, especially if one’s own nation is the aggressor. The Chinese people are no more keen to sacrifice their children than people elsewhere, if anything less so after decades of a one-child policy. The CCP is doing what it can to paint itself as the victim so that if it chooses to attack, the Chinese people will view it as inevitable and justified.
Image courtesy of the Facebook page of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army