Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
Not long after Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen had a phone call with US President-elect Donald Trump, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, passed by the Obama administration, supported the US Department of Defense to promote military exchanges with Taiwan. The moves fuelled tensions between Taiwan and the mainland, making the relations across the Straits the center of attention.
As the situation between the two sides worsens, it is suggested that the Chinese mainland make efforts on the following aspects.
First, the mainland should improve efficiency in its Taiwan policy. Many of the mainland's policies toward Taiwan have seldom benefited the middle and lower classes. Therefore, the mainland should pay more attention to these groups' interests so as to obtain their support.
Second, it is necessary for the mainland to take measures to punish those who support Taiwan independence. Economic sanctions and diplomatic containment are needed.
Some Taiwan people have the illusion that there is no price for advocating independence. The mainland must let them know the consequences of their actions.
Third, carrying out military preparations and exercising the obligations in the Anti-Secession Law are essential in case of emergency.
In regard to the recent moves of Washington, it shows the US is trying to use Taiwan as a bargaining chip to contain China.
In the past, the US has an overwhelming advantage over China in military power, thus it has few worries about China. However, China has become capable of challenging the US within the first island chain. With fewer leverage to balance China's influence, Washington plays the "Taiwan card" to impose pressure on China.
However, the US should know that taking advantage of the Taiwan situation is very dangerous. The Chinese mainland holds a firm stance on the Taiwan question and there is no negotiating space as the issue is related to Chinese sovereignty.
With the successful implementation of military modernization, the Chinese mainland has largely improved its ability to deal with the Taiwan question. The mainland has comprehensive industrial and military systems.
In military strength, the mainland far surpasses Taiwan, putting Taiwan's pro-independence parties in a very difficult position.
They have relied heavily on US protection in case of military conflicts between the mainland and Taiwan. But now, it is almost impossible that the US will confront the mainland militarily to protect Taiwan. In the past, the US military strength is much stronger than that of Chinese mainland.
However, due to the mainland's development in recent years, the US military advantages are shrinking.
A confrontation between the two will lead to a great loss for the US. Therefore, the US will be hesitant about military confrontations against the mainland.
In a few years, after China's overall national strength and military power rise to a new level, the US will not be able to have a military confrontation with the mainland over the Taiwan question as it is not only useless but also causes huge losses to the US. It can be said that the stronger the mainland's military power is, the less likely the US will be to intervene in and provide military protection for Taiwan.
Given the situation across the Taiwan Straits, it is possible that the mainland will unite with Taiwan through military force. It was once estimated that the mainland and Taiwan are likely to come into military conflicts in Tsai's second term. However, with the new development in Taiwan and the behavior of Tsai authorities, the time for the conflicts may come earlier than expected.
The author is vice director of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China. firstname.lastname@example.org