China threatens to 'dock' warships in Taiwan's harbors

China's hawkish 'Global Times' outlined what to expect in response to US-Taiwan military exchanges, or any constitutional referendum

China's Liaoning Aircraft Carrier

China's Liaoning Aircraft Carrier (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – On Jan. 1 of 2018, editors at China’s state-backed “Global Times” published an opinion piece entitled “What can China expect in 2018.”

Quite tellingly, the first item addressed in the piece was the concern that Taiwan would continue to go its own way in the coming year, stating that the Tsai government has pushed the situation to a potential “precipice.”

After stating that they hope for peace across the Taiwan Strait in 2018, the editors at the “Global Times” go on to say that if Taiwanese authorities try to pass a referendum, or engage in joint military “exchanges” with the United States, then several military options should be considered in response to “punish” Taiwanese Independence.

Among the options to “keep increasing military pressure” on Taiwan, the piece asserts that Chinese military may be forced to cross the midway point of the Taiwan Strait, send warplanes to“fly over” the island, or that Chinese warships may need to “dock” at Taiwanese harbors.

The structure of the sentence makes it clear that the first of the three "options" has been done in the past, and intones that the PLA is imminently capable of carrying out the last two, if it should choose to do so.

The use of quotations around the term translated as “dock”or "moor" (停靠) is itself a curious choice on the part of the editors.

The piece also discusses the North Korean nuclear program and heightening tensions between Pyongyang and Washington. Somewhat ominously, the paper states that the North Korean nuclear issue will very likely be resolved in 2018.

The paper urges caution and restraint on the part of both Pyongyang and Washington, and to work towards a peaceful solution. It emphasizes that military provocation from either side will increase the danger of the regional situation dramatically.

While that may seem at first like an echo of the discourse coming from Washington DC at the moment, further down in the piece, the article says that while China hopes for stable relations with the US, should America take military action against North Korea, then the US should be cautious of a potential Chinese response.

In the very passive aggressive tone which pervades the entire piece, the “Global Times” says that if America threatens China economically, takes undue military action against North Korea, or if it seeks to upgrade military relations and cooperation with Taiwan, then it will be “necessary for China to make a strong response.”

The term translated as “strong” (強烈) may also be translated as “intensely” or “violently.”

Given the current climate in the region, and the two very different perspectives Taiwan and China have towards the future of their relationship, it seems that the world is in need of some very adept diplomats to maintain a peaceful situation over the coming year.

A map illustrating Chinese PLA naval (blue) and air force (yellow/red/brown) activity in 2017 (Image: CNA)