BEIJING – A retired Chinese People’s Liberation Army officer said the Chinese central government in Beijing would only use force as a “last resort” to reunify Taiwan.
“The PLA is getting stronger, and we have geographical proximity,” said Zhou Bo, now a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Strategic Studies at Tsinghua University.
“This does not indicate that we will use force easily because that would be a last resort,” he said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.” “We sincerely wish you to be reunited with our compatriots in Taiwan through peaceful means.”
Taiwan is a democratically self-governing island that Beijing considers part of its territory.
On Monday, US President Joe Biden said he would be willing to use military force to defend Taiwan, in an apparent departure from Washington’s tradition of remaining deliberately vague about whether the United States would provide aid to the island if China invaded.
Biden and the White House then said those comments did not reflect a shift in policy.
“China expresses strong dissatisfaction and strong opposition to the remarks of the US side,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in response, according to an official English-language transcript of a press briefing on Monday.
Wang stressed that the Taiwan issue is an internal affair. “No one should underestimate the strong resolve, determination and ability of the Chinese people to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. “No one should stand up to 1.4 billion Chinese.”
China pay to respond
Dennis Wing, assistant professor of political science at Sam Houston State University, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Wednesday that Biden’s comments about military power are “testing China” for its response, so US allies will know how to respond.
Wong said the US desire to defend Taiwan was based on the condition that China change the “so-called status quo.” “If China does not change the status quo, the strategic uncertainty will remain.”
For more than 40 years, the US “one China policy” has recognized Beijing as the only legitimate government in China. Henceforth, the United States maintains informal relations with Taiwan, with a policy of ensuring that the island has the resources to defend itself.
It is important to remember that Biden was describing a “hypothetical situation,” in the words of Susan Thornton, a retired senior US diplomat and senior fellow at Yale Law School Paul Tsai China Center.
“It’s unfortunate that everyone keeps talking about invading Taiwan, militarizing this situation,” Thornton said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Wednesday. “There shouldn’t be an impending crisis in Taiwan and the more we talk about it, the more we strive for it, in my view.”
Beijing has said it aims for a peaceful reunification with Taiwan. On Tuesday, Zhou cited China’s “Anti-Secession Law” as the conditions under which Beijing would use force.
“Unless and until Taiwan declares independence, unless and until an outside force separates Taiwan from China, or unless and until the possibility of peaceful reunification is completely exhausted, otherwise we will not use force,” he said.
“Of course, if the Taiwan authorities [are] Of course we have to be well prepared, Zhou said against the possibility of this indefinite reunification. We do not regret it.
China’s commercial power
Biden was in Tokyo this week as his administration seeks to build political ties in the region as part of countering China’s growing weight.
The United States on Monday announced the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework with 12 other partner countries in the region, including Australia, Japan and the Republic of Korea. The framework is not a trade agreement, but rather an agreement to set international standards on issues such as the digital economy and working conditions.
Taiwan and Beijing are not part of the first participating group.
“We should seek cooperation with all countries in the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific, not just a part of it,” said He Weiwen, a senior fellow at the Beijing-based Center for Research on 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 15 countries that took effect in January. The United States is not a member, while China is a member.
On Tuesday, he said on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” that China’s trade with the other 14 members of the RCEP far exceeded the United States’ trade with those same countries.
He, a former trade advisor at the Chinese embassy in New York and San Francisco, said the New Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF, “appears to cover all the major trade topics of the 21st century.” “But it is still not a trade agreement. It remains a concept for now and we have to wait and see how it develops. “
CNBC’s Su-Lin Tan contributed to this report.