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Establishing "One China" Policy Could Be Peaceful or Forceful

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2003 – The People's Republic of China would prefer to resolve the issue of Taiwan's independence peacefully, even as leaders of the communist country seek military options to enforce its policy of "One China," cites a Defense Department report.

The Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China released to Congress July 30 states that both mainland and island seek a peaceful resolution to the unification issue. But China continues spending billions to modernize its military, which "casts a cloud" over resolving differences with Taiwan through peaceful means.

Taiwan, located off the mainland China coast, claimed independence from the communist country in 1949. Taiwan formed its own democratic government. Since then, China has sought to reunify Taiwan under its rule. Taiwan has 21 million people.

China is a communist state set up after World War II, establishing a dictatorship and imposing strict controls on everyday life. After 1978, market- oriented reforms and decentralized economic decision making were gradually introduced. Political controls remain tight even today, while economic controls continue to be relaxed. China's population numbers 1.3 billion, largest in the world.

China, claiming sovereignty over the tiny island, sees Taiwan as a renegade province and has threatened to use military force if Taiwan declares independence.

The report notes that China refuses to renounce the use of force against Taiwan and says that the country would take military action under these circumstances:

  • Taipei, Taiwan's capital, declares independence;
  • foreign countries intervene in the country's internal affairs;
  • the acquisition of nuclear weapons; or
  • there is internal unrest.

China's leaders also have indicated that indefinite delays in the resumption of talks between capitals Beijing and Taipei could justify the use of force.

These statements, coupled with the China's ambitious military modernization program, may reflect an "increasing willingness" by China to consider using force to achieve unification, the report states. The guise of a powerful military may also convince or deter Taiwan from moving further toward independence.

China continues to develop military capabilities that could expand its options for an armed conflict against Taiwan, an option China hopes will make Taiwan see "increasing reasons to unify, or at a minimum, to avoid movement toward independence."

The report states that China's military capabilities improve as each year and that Beijing announced a significant increase in defense spending in 2002 to modernize its military. According to the report, that spending could double its announced defense spending by the year 2005.

Beijing's military exercises have taken on an "increasingly real-world focus" over the past few years, attracting U.S. interest. The report notes China's has emphasized "rigorous practice and operational capabilities," while improving incrementally the military's actual ability to use force.

These actions are aimed not only at Taiwan, but pose risk to U.S. military forces and to the United States itself in any future Taiwan contingency, the report states.

The report also points out that China may have reservations before using military force in the region. The country's leaders reportedly believe that failure in any military undertaking against Taiwan could threaten survival of Communist Party rule.

Another key factor is Taiwan's will to resist. The reports notes that Beijing must consider its military capabilities against Taiwan, which also has a competent military. In addition, China must factor in U.S. or "outside powers" intervention on Taiwan's behalf.

The report notes that China is also "sensitive" to the potential political and economic fallout that could occur, and that China "recognizes that the use of force against the country could severely damage China's regional and global interests." China has avoided activities that might threaten its economic growth and access to foreign markets, investment and technology, the report emphasized.

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