In a flustered response to the unprecedented phone call between U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Trump's subsequent statements calling into the question the "one China" policy, a major Chinese state-run tabloid suggested that the time may have come to use force to achieve "reunification" with Taiwan.
The Chinese government was severely agitated by Trump's direct phone call with the president of Taiwan, breaking with decades of US-China diplomatic protocol going back to 1979, for which it had issued a formal complaint. Scarcely a week later, it was broadsided by his subsequent interview with Fox News questioning why he should be bound by the "one China" policy, again breaking with U.S.-China protocol dating back to the Shanghai Communique of 1972. For the regime in Beijing and the Tsai administration in Taiwan, his next comment was ominous: "unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade."
Both sides of the Taiwan Strait interpreted this to mean that the usage of the term "one China" and by extension Taiwan itself, would become a bargaining chip.
Time will tell after Trump's team takes over the US, whether it will willfully utilize the one-China policy as leverage to blackmail Beijing or restrain itself in actual practice.
Trump's unpredictable behavior worries the communist regime as they now believe he could "activate the Taiwan card in a crude manner at any moment." This unfamiliar position of no longer being in the driver's seat when it comes to the "one China" policy makes Beijing concerned over whether the policy will be "attacked unexpectedly" again. The op-ed suggests that China has already sunk too much of its time and resources into a peaceful resolution of the "Taiwan problem," with prospects of unification of the two nations less likely now that the the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party leader Tsai Ing-wen is now at the helm.
Given the massive defeat by the pro-China KMT party in recent elections, Tsai's refusal to recognize the 1992 consensus, the limited impact China's attempts to "punish" Tsai's for this, and now Trump's apparent tactic to use Taiwan as a bargaining chip, the article suggests it may be time for China to take action before the window of opportunity closes:
If the Chinese mainland won't pile on more pressure over realizing reunification by using force, the chance of peaceful unification will only slip away.
There is a fear in Beijing of the growing self identity among Taiwanese youth with a study released in March by the United Daily News showing 73% of people living in Taiwan consider themselves "Taiwanese," rather than "Chinese," and that the country is becoming overly influenced by Western powers such as the U.S.
The article indicates that Beijing is considering recalibrating its approach to Taiwan and that it might be time to "make the use of force as a main option and carefully prepare for it." China is also still very suspicious of Tsai's intentions and wants to reiterate to her that any act that could be interpreted as seeking independence for Taiwan would be met with full-scale invasion.
Once Taiwan independence forces violate the Anti-Secession Law, the Chinese mainland can in no time punish them militarily. Moreover, getting ready to achieve reunification through the use of force can pose a serious deterrence to Taiwan independence.
In the meantime, Beijing seems to hint at larger scale and more provocative military exercises in the waters and airspace surrounding Taiwan to "display its resolution to recover Taiwan by force."