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Chinese diplomat warns promoting Taiwan independence could end in a military conflict

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In strong remarks illustrating the escalating tensions between the powers over the fate of the island, China’s ambassador to US warned that the US and China could end up at war over Taiwan.

“If the Taiwanese authorities, emboldened by the United States, keep going down the road for independence, it most likely will involve China and the United States, the two big countries, in a military conflict,” said Qin Gang in his first one-on-one interview since arriving in the US last July.

Beijing has frequently blasted the US for its policy toward Taiwan, a self-governed island that China claims sovereignty over, but Chinese officials rarely discuss war outright. While Qin spoke of potential violence, he also stated that China aspired to peaceful union.

President Xi Jinping told Joe Biden in a virtual meeting last November that anyone campaigning for Taiwanese independence was “playing with fire.”

The US president stated that the two leaders must ensure that power competition does not “devolve into confrontation.”

Since 1979, when Washington transferred diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing, the United States has maintained a “one China” policy, recognizing Beijing as China’s only seat of government.

The Biden administration has eased limits on American officials engaging with their Taiwanese counterparts and shown strong support for Taiwan as it faces increased Chinese pressure.

According to Qin, the Biden administration is “playing the Taiwan card to constrain China” by hollowing down the “one China” policy.

According to Zack Cooper, an Asia researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, the Biden administration may see China’s behavior as damaging expectations for a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue.

“Both sides increasingly see the other as endangering the status quo, which is a recipe for danger in coming years,” said Cooper.

The Chinese military flew 39 fighter jets and other war planes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Sunday, as part of an intensifying campaign to put pressure on the Taipei administration while also training for future military action.

The United States maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” in which it does not specify whether it will defend Taiwan from any Chinese invasion.

The policy is intended to both caution Taiwanese officials from declaring independence, which would virtually surely result in a Chinese attack, and to make Beijing reconsider any military action.

The Financial Times reported last week that the Chinese navy had established a permanent presence between southern Japan and eastern Taiwan for the first time, highlighting the island’s growing military pressure.

Qin’s remarks, according to Bonnie Glaser of the German Marshall Fund, are consistent with those of other Chinese officials who “are signalling their displeasure with the trajectory of US-Taiwan relations and Taiwan’s policies”.

According to Former Pentagon official Elbridge Colby, it was a “pretty significant signal that Beijing’s new ambassador chose his first sit-down interview to issue a stern warning about Taiwan, and specifically emphasised Beijing’s willingness to use force”.

Image Credit: Getty

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