Beijing has long needed a reality check on its Taiwan policy. Recently, that is what it got from both Taipei and Washington.
Massive Taiwanese protests against closer economic ties with China make it clear that peaceful unification under Beijing’s present rule will never be acceptable to the Taiwanese people. Having discarded an anti-Communist dictatorship, they have no intention of welcoming the Communist Party variety.
At the same time, the U.S. Congress celebrated the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). It reaffirmed America’s commitment to Taiwan’s security and continued existence as a free, democratic country. While the resolution does not have the force of law the iconic TRA does, it reflected Americans’ deep emotional and strategic connection to Taiwan. No U.S. Congress, with the power to authorize war, will ever tolerate a Chinese attack on Taiwan without mandating an overwhelming American response. Even a reluctant U.S. administration would be under enormous pressure to react with decisive military action—which, despite current budget constraints, it has the full capability to execute.
Strategic thinkers in Beijing—who are known for looking back centuries while planning decades ahead—need to return to the drawing board on China’s long-term relationship with Taiwan. The bottom line: China cannot be both “reunified” and authoritarian. It can choose to retain its current style of government and write off Taiwan as anything but a limited economic partner. Yes, that would be contrary to sixty-five years of Chinese dogma about Taiwan as an integral part of the People’s Republic.