The US and West underestimate China’s will to reunify at their own peril
Published: Jan 19, 2023 06:14 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The Center for Strategic and International Studies' (CSIS) war games continue unabated. Their fatal shortcoming remains the evaluators' determination to score conflict outcomes in terms of personnel, weapons and equipment losses. Such quantification ignores the intangible, but far greater measure of combat power in the wills to fight of the respective opponents.

In messaging, the US implies Taiwan island is a sovereign country distinct from China. By this US logic, any Chinese military projection across the Straits and over the island's shores must be perceived as an attack. This illusion is used by Western media and politicians to justify arming secessionists, stoking in them a false nationalism, and convincing less-informed publics of the propriety of military intervention by the US and its allies.

In contrast, all Chinese take for granted that the island province has been a contiguous extension of Chinese territory since the year 230 AD. As China-US relations deteriorate, it is critical for Americans to grasp the non-negotiable realities. To correct Western historical errors, in August 2022 China released a white paper titled "The Taiwan Question and China's Reunification in the New Era."

US' China hawks will disagree claiming the white paper merely parrots the Chinese leadership's talking points. They assume the citizens of the People's Republic of China perceive an independent nation in Taiwan. China-averse American elites will confidently insist those mainland citizens long for the island's liberal democratic system to replace socialism with Chinese characteristics.

That is a dangerously mistaken view and foreshadows the violent consequences of continued imperial US and Western ignorance of China's true perspectives.

The citizens of the PRC have a generally favorable view of Americans. They assume that it is common knowledge that Taiwan island is and has been part of China. They also recognize and are comfortable with the "one country, two systems" model, based on Hong Kong's success. The last thing that China's citizens want is a war with the US over an interior Chinese matter that has been an organic civilizational reality for 2,000 years.

For a Chinese citizen, the notion that any of China's provinces would declare independence and split from China is absurd. That nonsensical scenario is perceived as equivalent to a rebellious State of Hawaii declaring its independence from the US, encouraged by Japan's saber-rattling and threatened intervention.

Yet, if China's citizenry senses territorial partitioning by rebellious secessionists, aided by an armed foreign power, they will react as the self-respecting people of any sovereign state under the same circumstances. China's congenial view of the US and its allies will change dramatically, as if a switch were flipped.

US pundits will scoff at such a view. They will insist that the island's 98 percent Han residents have rejected its Chinese ethnicity and founded a new identity divorced from the real world.

Other nations have attempted to rewrite history with propagandistic gymnastics. US pundits also hold that any Chinese victory will be a "pyrrhic victory" wherein China's severe material and personnel losses will negate the value of China's preventing Taiwan's secession using all available means. But the US knows better. China's victorious rout of UN forces in North Korea is celebrated today as a heroic milestone just after the fledgling PRC's founding.

In battle the inadequately armed Chinese infantry were victorious while suffering severe losses, in some cases 25 PLA soldiers for every one American loss. 

Far from "pyrrhic," China's underdog victory in Korea Peninsula fuels its indomitable self-narrative today. CSIS comparative ledgers will mean little when factoring in the steeled Chinese character defending its homeland at any cost.

It is clear that Americans do not yet understand China's uncompromising quest to reunify One China. Before it is too late, the US must realize that what fuels the Chinese' resolve to reunify is both intangible and deeply emotional. China seeks no decision through a military offensive. But the nation will defend itself as a formidable civilization and sovereign territory determined to survive intact.

Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu said, "He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks." 

More than an army we will confront the animated and unbreakable will of 1.4 billion Chinese citizens who are becoming ever more skeptical of US regional designs.

The author is a retired Marine Corps infantry officer. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn