China "Debates" Anti-Secession Law

China's National People's Congress will be discussing this week a new law introduced on Tuesday 8 March, which formally authorizes a military strike against Formosa in the event of a move toward formal independence. Taiwanese leaders are understandably alarmed:
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (search), which handles the island's China policy, said the law gives China's military "a blank check to invade Taiwan" and "exposed the Chinese communists' attempt to use force to annex Taiwan and to be a regional power."

"Our government lodges strong protest against the vicious attempt and brutal means ... to block Taiwanese from making their free choice," the council said in a statement.
Leaving aside the question of whether or not Taiwanese would vote for independence, particularly while in the crosshairs of Silk Worm missiles, the law in and of itself is nothing special. China has always reserved the right to use military means to force re-annexation of Taiwan, and it has often trotted out military displays in order to hammer home its point, most famously with the missile launches in the 1996 direct presidential elections. The spectacle did not work the way China intended. While the Taiwanese electorate never handed "pro-independence" parties enough power to declare de jure independence, the resort to conspicuous sabre-rattling made China look bad.

Despite the fears of the pan-Blue coalition, Taiwanese voters are in no hurry to formalize independence as long as the military threat from China remains. One might even argue that, if China were ever to come under the sway of a regime that did not rattle sabres at Taiwan in hopes of coercing re-annexation, that regime might well prove to be progressive enough to lure Formosans into contemplating re-annexation without coercion.

Regardless, this time around, the formalization of official policy into "law" is, as all formal processes in Chinese politics, a very big deal. (Just as China protested against the formal independence of Taiwan, which has enjoyed de facto independence since the defeat of the Chinese Nationalists in 1949, so too do the Taiwanese protest against the formal declaration of an intent to resort to force of arms to accomplish the goal of re-annexation.)

In response to these actions, both Taiwan and the United States are upping the ante. Taiwan's Premier, Frank Hsieh (???) (DPP), has suggested that he would not be opposed to allowing a mvoe to amend the Constitution of the Republic of China to reflect its status as an independent government with sovereignty over Formosa, Quemoy, Matsu, and the Pescadores. Until that time, the Executive Yuan would abide by the current Constitution, but the threat has been issued.

In the mean time, not only have the United States and Japan agreed to include the area around Taiwan as a "common strategic objective", but the United States has also dispatched a military delegation to Taiwan, nominally for research into technology that Taiwanese industry might be able to provide to the Pentagon. The timing is interesting, to say the least.

Simon opines that the anti-secession law really means very little, quoting Johnny Lau Yui-sui of Hong Kong that "In the case of wars, laws are just 'wrappings'. Laws are usually put aside and it's the political situations that decide [whether to resort to force]." With all due respect to Simon, Chinese people get worked up over the smallest symbols, so don't completely rule this out as a point of major contention.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds and Naruwan Formosa]

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