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 China set deadline for annexation of Taiwan: 2007

For immediate release. March 2, 2000

“China Tightens the Noose Around Taiwan’s Neck?”

“Marry me or I’ll kill you,” was the implied threat to Taiwan in China’s recently released White Paper.  The South China Morning Post’s Willy Wo-Lap Lam writes that there seems now to be a specific timetable to the message - “Marry me by the year 2007, or I’ll kill you.”

  Jiang Zemin clearly has “recovering Taiwan” on his legacy schedule.  Since there will be a “pivotal 17th Party Congress” in the year 2007 and Jiang will supposedly step down, Lam says the deadline for Taiwan’s “reabsorption” has thus been set at 2007.
  Lam’s article is chilling both because of the timetable given as well as the reported military strategy being prepared. Lam reports that a “Kosovo model” is being considered – surgical air strikes that will bring Taiwan to its knees so quickly that there will be no time for the U.S. to respond.

  "The offensive will be over before the US Government and Congress will have time to react," Lam quotes an Asian diplomat as saying. "Moreover, the CCP leadership is gambling that because there is no physical occupation of Taiwan territory by the mainland army, Washington may find it difficult to convince the US public it should come to Taiwan's aid by opening hostilities against the mainland."

“It is unclear to me whether Lam is speaking for the Chinese leadership or not,” stated Chen Wen-yen, FAPA President.  “What is clear is that China’s threats against Taiwan are quite real.  A strong U.S. response is needed and we think passage of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act fills the bill.  It is in the United States’ interest to support the twenty-two million people of democratic Taiwan and help them keep the peace in East Asia.”


Published on Wednesday, March 1, 2000 WILLY WO-LAP LAM

“Dual edge to 'liberation' timetable.” All wars are avoidable - except those that do break out. This truism says much about a particularly disturbing aspect of the Taiwan Strait crisis. In theory, the chances of bombs and missiles flying across the strait are still low. Yet the possibility of war being unleashed especially by irrational factors is blood-curdlingly real. Consider these alarming developments within the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

First, a deadline for the reabsorption of Taiwan not only exists but has been moved forward.

Last week, Beijing hurled a so-called paper missile at the administration of Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui by announcing that perpetual refusal to negotiate with the mainland constituted a criterion for the use of force against the island. The corollary of this threat, contained in a WhitePaper on Taiwan, is that Beijing will soon announce a "liberation timetable".
 Partly to calm the global furore this show of force has ignited, various cadres including Taiwan scholar Li Jiaquan have hinted the deadline will not come due until the year 2020. A Beijing source said the time-frame of 2020 first appeared in party documents about two years ago. The  deadline, however, was moved forward at recent meetings on Taiwan called by President Jiang Zemin.

The source said the majority of Mr Jiang's advisers now favoured 2007, the year when the pivotal 17th Party Congress will be held. This conclave will mark the retirement from the scene of the so-called third generation of the leadership with Mr Jiang at its core. "Jiang will supposedly bid farewell to all leadership roles by 2007, when he turns 81," the source said.

"The President has reiterated he wants the Taiwan issue settled when he is still around."  Second, a near-consensus has been reached by Mr Jiang's aides and the generals on the mode of warfare  against Taiwan - as well as ways of dealing with the United States and world opinion. Most civilian strategists and PLA officers favour the so-called Kosovo model, a reference to how Nato troops tried to emasculate the Yugoslav regime via "surgical airstrikes". Thus, missiles will be used to destroy military facilities on Taiwan. Civilian installations such as oil depots, power plants, and highways will also be paralysed. The action will be finished in 48 hours or less, after which, Beijing is convinced, Taipei will be forced to not only begin real reunification talks but acquiesce to the CCP's terms.

An Asian diplomat familiar with Beijing's Taiwan policy said this gameplan was recommended for two reasons. While China's navy cannot even enforce a blockade of Taiwan, its missiles are up to world standards. Moreover, this strategy does not involve the occupation of Taiwan by PLA soldiers. "The offensive will be over before the US Government and Congress will have time to react," the diplomat said. "Moreover, the CCP leadership is gambling that because there is no physical occupation of Taiwan territory by the mainland army, Washington may find it difficult to convince the US public it should come to Taiwan's aid by opening hostilities against the mainland."

Separately, a team of Jiang advisers consisting of economic officials is working on ways to handle an anti-China embargo that will likely be imposed by the US and other Western governments. An informed source said Beijing did not expect the embargo to be  more severe than the one put in place after the June 4, 1989, massacre. Given Beijing's improved economic and diplomatic capacities, mainland authorities believe they can weather the setback more easily than in the early 1990s. Third, the CCP has assembled top experts on international politics and law to dress up a rationale for  using force.

The White Paper on Taiwan unveiled last week was the result of an elaborate theoretical exercise that lasted more than a year. A mainland scholar thus explained the need for a deadline: "There was a timetable for the solution of the Hong Kong and Macau problems. The same goes for Taiwan."

 Beijing's policymakers on Taiwan, who cannot mention President Lee without much gnashing of teeth, have even asked top jurists to gather evidence that can convict Mr Lee of high treason. "If mainland agents can lay their hands on Lee after reunification, there is little question the Taiwan leader will receive a death sentence in Beijing courts," the scholar said. Finally, why issue the quasi-ultimatum now? Much has been written about the fact that Beijing wants to hit the presidential candidate of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, Chen Shui-bian.  The theory is that every time the CCP leadership rattles the sabre before Taiwan elections, DPP candidates stand to lose.

However, the real targets of the White Paper may be Lien Chan, the Kuomintang' presidential hopeful - and Mr Lee. It is no secret that Beijing's Taiwan experts think Mr Lien will win on March 18. But they fear that irrespective of whether the vice-president can emerge from the shadow of Mr Lee, Mr Lien will continue to follow his mentor's procrastination tactics. The reality of the Taiwan Strait is that, no matter who leads the island, they will lack sufficient popular backing for starting reunification talks with the CCP.

Popular enthusiasm for reunion with the mainland wanes with every day that goes by.
According to official statistics, while 44 per cent of Taiwan residents considered
themselves "Chinese" in 1992, the figure dropped to 12.7 per cent last year. By contrast, the percentage of the populace who considered themselves "Taiwanese" rose from 16.7 to 36.9 in the same period. Moreover, polls have shown that anti-mainland feelings  on the island invariably surge each time Beijing bares its  fangs. For the 73-year-old President Jiang, who is desperate for an achievement that will make him an equal of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in the history books, time is fast running out. Pessimists fear the tough warnings issued by Washington in the past week may not be enough to rein him in.

Willy Wo-Lap Lam is a Post Associate Editor.

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