Xi warns US over support for Taiwan secessionism, ‘Whoever plays with fire will get burnt’
Published: Nov 16, 2021 11:53 PM Updated: Nov 17, 2021 12:50 AM
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with US President Joe Biden via video link, in Beijing, capital of China, on November 16, 2021. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with US President Joe Biden via video link, in Beijing, capital of China, on November 16, 2021. Photo: Xinhua

 Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday at a virtual meeting with US President Joe Biden that China will be compelled to take resolute measures, should the separatist forces for "Taiwan independence" "provoke us, force our hands or even cross the red line," and he also warned that the intention of some Americans to use Taiwan to contain China is "just like playing with fire" and that "whoever plays with fire will get burnt." 

This is the first time China's top leader has sent such a tough, resolute and direct warning to the US via the virtual meeting on the Taiwan question since the latest tension in the region sparked by a series of provocations from the Taiwan separatist authority toward the Chinese mainland, as well as increasing interactions between the US and the island in recent years. 

Some low-level officials of the Biden administration have also been scheduled to attend two talks with the island of Taiwan on Tuesday and Wednesday, and this just proves that the US stance on the Taiwan question will not see any substantial change, but experts said these little tricks with no concrete effects are actually for the US to pacify nervous Taiwan secessionists.  

Experts said the mainland will strengthen its countermeasures to respond to any new provocation from the US and attempts from the US and secessionist attempt from the Taiwan authorities, as Washington is unlikely to stop using Taiwan card to contain China and will continue its duplicity policy. 

Warning sent

Xi noted the new wave of tensions across the Taiwan Straits and ascribed the tensions to the repeated attempts by Taiwan authorities to seek US support for their "independence" agenda as well as the intention of some Americans to use Taiwan to contain China. "Such moves are extremely dangerous, just like playing with fire," Xi said. "Whoever plays with fire will get burnt."

The one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués are the political foundation of China-US relations, Xi said, noting that previous US administrations have all made clear commitments on this.

The true status quo of the Taiwan question and what lies at the heart of one China, Xi pointed out, are as follows: There is but one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China, and the Government of the People's Republic of China is the sole lawful government representing China.

During the meeting, Xi expressed a clear and strong determination for national reunification to Biden, and drew a clear red line to the US on the Taiwan question.

Calling achieving China's complete reunification an aspiration shared by all sons and daughters of the Chinese nation, Xi said, "We have patience and will strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and efforts." But if "the separatist forces for 'Taiwan independence' provoke us, force our hands or even cross the red line, we will be compelled to take resolute measures," Xi warned.

Li Fei, a professor at the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University, said that Xi's remarks have sent both Taiwan and the US a "head-on" warning that if the US pushed the "pawn" of the Taiwan separatist authority "over the red line on the chessboard" to exert impact on China's peaceful development, then the Chinese mainland will be forced to solve the Taiwan question once and for all by all means at any cost.

The Xi-Biden meeting has brought great impact to the island of Taiwan and the Taiwan secessionist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authority remains provocative and sticks to its secessionist stance to resist the shared aspiration of the Chinese nation on China's complete reunification.

Not naive

Biden, at the meeting, reaffirmed "the US government's long-standing one-China policy," and stated that the US does not support "Taiwan independence" and expressed that peace and stability should be maintained in the Taiwan Straits.

Biden reiterated that the US has no intention to enter into conflict with China, that the US does not seek to change China's system, and the revitalization of its alliances is not anti-China, according to Xinhua.

However, in the readout on the meeting published by the White House, "Biden's opposition to Taiwan secessionism" was not mentioned, "so this means the Biden administration is deliberately softening its tone to cater for US domestic hostility against China," Li said.

Chinese analysts said the US' credibility is low as always on the question as it sells weapons and sends vessels and military aircraft to the region. It encourages secessionists on the island politically on one hand and keeps saying the US will insist on the so-called "one-China policy" to the Chinese mainland on the other hand. 

Shaw Chong-hai, a columnist and former head of the school of social sciences at Chinese Culture University in Taiwan, told the Global Times that "Biden's commitment to the one-China policy" should not be seen as a "change of attitude," and that China should be cautious of such vague terminology.

China will not be naive to trust that the tension would ease immediately just because of one meeting, and China is fully aware that the US' "one-China policy," which combines the three China-US communiqués and under-the-table promises to the Taiwan authorities as well as US domestic "law" that offends China's sovereignty, is not the same as the one-China principle that is widely recognized among the international community, experts noted. 

So it will keep strengthening its preparation for the worst scenario and will retaliate against new provocations from Washington, because China understands that strength and determination are key to solving the Taiwan question, rather than believing in US "commitment," said mainland analysts. 

Chang Ya-chung, a Taipei-based political scientist and member of the KMT told the Global Times on Tuesday that the secessionist DPP authority may be disappointed now as "Beijing and Washington are trying to slam the brakes on the Taiwan question," because the DPP prefers tense China-US ties. 

Although the US will not stop using the island to contain China, neither does Washington want the situation to spiral out of control. The Biden administration needs China to offer cooperation on trade, economy, climate change and other global issues to help it save its declining approval ratings, therefore the US might choose to be less provocative after the meeting, said some experts. 

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times that secessionists on the island will be worried and nervous after the Xi-Biden meeting, because they know they are just "pawns on the chessboard" which could be abandoned or sold when the US believes it is necessary to do so. 

To offset such positive signals about easing China-US tension, the Taiwan DPP authority will try to use recent or upcoming interactions with the US to hype the so-called US "commitment to protect" the island and "friendship" with secessionists, Chang noted.

Taiwan local media reported that so-called "Political-Military Talks" and "Defense Review Talks" will be held in Washington from Tuesday to Wednesday. It will be attended by Jessica Lewis, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, and others.

The DPP secessionists will be encouraged by these events, and use them to cheat their supporters by hyping ties with the US, but in fact, the level of US officials participating in the talks is actually very low, so this means Washington wants to keep a low profile to avoid infuriating the mainland just after the Xi-Biden meeting, and pacify its puppets or proxies on the island at the same time, said experts. 

Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said on Tuesday that "we warned the DPP authority that we will be forced to take resolute measures to counter any attempt to separate the country, any provocation and any behavior that crosses the red line."