China to resolutely fight back Tsai’s official contact with US officials
Published: Mar 29, 2023 09:46 PM Updated: Mar 29, 2023 11:33 PM
Tsai Ing-wen Photo:AFP

Tsai Ing-wen Photo:AFP

China on Wednesday warned of resolute measures to fight back if Taiwan regional leader has contact with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during her transit in the US, as China firmly opposes any form of official interaction between the US and the Chinese island, opposes the visit of the regional leader to the US in any name or under whatever pretext and opposes the US' violation of the one-China principle. 

While some Western media outlets said that the reported meeting between the regional leader Tsai Ing-wen and McCarthy has drawn anger from the Chinese mainland and touches a flashpoint in the US-China ties, Chinese experts said since the then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi's provocative visit to Taiwan in August 2022 changed the status quo of the Taiwan Straits, the mainland has remained vigilant about any interaction between the US and the island and is fully prepared to take any instant reaction any time. Tsai's trip will also likely draw firm responses from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), experts said.

Tsai left on Wednesday for a trip to Central America and she is scheduled to transit through New York first and Los Angeles on the way back, Reuters reported. While not officially confirmed, she is expected to meet McCarthy while in California, the media report said. 

"If Taiwan's regional leader Tsai Ing-wen meets with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, it would be a provocation that seriously violates the one-China principle, undermines China's sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as damages peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits. And we will take resolute measures to counter this," a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council remarked on Wednesday.

Tsai's transit through the US is in essence a provocative act of "seeking independence by relying on the US" and seeking opportunities to sell out the idea of Taiwan secession to the international community as well as solicit support from anti-China forces in the US, said Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

Some US media outlets noted that the trip comes at a sensitive time as US-China relations have been at a low point after the US blatantly shot down a Chinese unmanned airship for civilian use last month and has continued curbing China's high tech development. Delayed high-level talks between Washington and Beijing also weigh on the already strained bilateral ties. 

"The attitude of the US and its level of reception are very sensitive. The DPP authorities understand that such a move is playing with fire but they have to be obedient to Washington in playing the 'Taiwan card,'" Zhu Songling, a professor at the Institute of Taiwan Studies of Beijing Union University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Given the overall political will and the anti-China hostilities inside the US government, Washington will continue playing the "Taiwan card," which won't be helpful for the China-US relations, Zhu said. 

Monitoring closely

Despite repeated warnings from the Chinese side, the US has been making excuses for Tsai's transit. For example, senior US officials were quoted as saying in media reports ahead of her departure that such transits are routine and the Chinese side should not "overreact." 

Some US media also listed the previous six transits of Tsai through the US between 2016 and 2019, while a senior US official said that the past transits had engaged in a range of activities including meetings with members of Congress. 

"A major difference is that since Pelosi's provocative visit to Taiwan last year, the US has unilaterally changed the status quo of the Taiwan Straits. Since then, the Chinese side has been maintaining high vigilance about any interaction between the island and the US," Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

China will pay attention to any detail, small moves and every sentence if Tsai meets with US officials, and we believe that the US has felt such vigilance and China will react instantly anytime, Lü said. 

China has repeatedly protested against the US side on Tsai's so-called stopover in the US. Past mistakes do not justify any new mistake. Repeating a mistake does not make it legitimate, Mao Ning, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told at a press conference on Wednesday. 

The trip is not so much a "transit," but an attempt to seek breakthroughs and propagate "Taiwan independence." The issue is not about China overreacting, but the US egregiously conniving at and supporting "Taiwan independence" separatists, she said. 

The ones who are creating problems and making provocations are not China, but the US and the "Taiwan independence" separatists, Mao said. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry urged the US to abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, earnestly deliver on its leaders' commitment of not supporting "Taiwan independence" or "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan," stop all forms of official interaction with Taiwan, stop upgrading its substantive exchanges with the region, stop fudging and hollowing out the one-China principle, and stop undermining the political foundation for bilateral relations while stressing the need to put "guardrails" on the relationship. 

"China will closely monitor the developments and firmly defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Mao said. 

"The US should not compare the past with the present as Pelosi's visit stepped on the red line on the Taiwan question. Since then, the tolerance of the Chinese side has been largely reduced," Lü said. 

Military preparation 

Intensive activities of the PLA have already been observed shortly before Tsai's trip, including those in the Taiwan Straits, the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

From Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning, 16 PLA aircraft and four PLA vessels were detected operating around the island of Taiwan, with 11 of the detected aircraft including an H-6 bomber escorted by fighter jets entering the island's self-proclaimed southwest air defense identification zone, the defense authority on the island said on Wednesday in a press release.

In the East China Sea, PLA naval activities were reported by Japan's Ministry of Defense Joint Staff consecutively on Monday and Tuesday, with press releases from the Japanese side saying that a PLA warship flotilla entered the East China Sea from the West Pacific on Sunday, and a PLA electronic reconnaissance ship entered the Sea of Japan from the East China Sea on Monday.

An amphibious landing detachment affiliated with the PLA Southern Theater Command Navy recently organized a flotilla consisting of the Type 075 amphibious assault ship Hainan as well as Type 071 amphibious landing ships the Kunlunshan and the Qilianshan in a realistic combat-oriented exercise in the South China Sea, the PLA Daily reported on Tuesday. These amphibious warships are expected to play key roles in a potential reunification-by-force operation on the island of Taiwan as they provide multidimensional landing capabilities, analysts said.

A brigade of the PLA Navy Marine Corps recently organized multiple types of armored vehicles including Type 15 light tanks, Type 11 wheeled assault guns, Type 05 amphibious armored vehicles and Type 09 self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery in a live-fire shooting exercise in an unfamiliar location, the PLA Daily reported on Wednesday. The Marine Corps is considered a main force in amphibious landing missions.

Fu Qianshao, a Chinese mainland military expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the PLA is expected to make countermeasures should she meet with McCarthy.

When Pelosi provocatively visited the island of Taiwan in August last year, the PLA responded by a series of large-scale military exercises that completely locked down the island of Taiwan.

This has deterred the "Taiwan independence" secessionists and the US, so this time Tsai has chosen to travel to the US instead of having McCarthy come to the island of Taiwan, fearing an escalation in PLA countermeasures, Fu said.

However, this does not change the fact that Tsai's trip still crossed the red line, and the PLA will still very likely respond, Fu said, listing enhanced combat patrols and military exercises as possible options.