Foreign Policy Blogs

Will China Activate its Anti-Secession Law in Taiwan?

Chinese embassy Minister Li Kexin (Central News Agency)

Chinese diplomat Li Kexin has warned Washington that Beijing could soon activate its Anti-Secession Law if the United States sent its navy ships to Taiwan.

The comments by Li, made in Washington on December 8 at a Chinese embassy event, were in reference to the passage of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act by the U.S. Congress in September.  The Act authorizes each country’s naval vessels to visit Taiwan and the U.S.

Li was quoted in Chinese media warning, “The day that a U.S. Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung is the day that our People’s Liberation Army unifies Taiwan with military force.”  Beijing’s Anti-Secession Law allows for attacks on the island should Beijing believe force is necessary to prevent the island from seceding from the mainland.  

The United States, despite having no formal ties with Taiwan, is its main source of arms and is bound by the Taiwan Relations Act to help the island defend itself.  The Act was passed by the U.S. Congress four months after U.S. President Jimmy Carter announced his decision to establish official relations with China, effective on January 1, 1979.

The reaction from Taipei was swift, with Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry saying the following day, “These methods show a lack of knowledge about the real meaning of the democratic system and how a democratic society works.”

Beijing is not getting along well with new Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, head of the Democratic Progressive Party, who has said she wants to peacefully defend Taiwan’s security.  The animosity between Beijing and Taipei has reached such levels that scholars like Ian Easton (a former student at National Chengchi University and now research fellow at the Washington-based think tank Project 2049 Institute) has warned Beijing has finalized a plan to invade Taiwan in 2020.  The attack would involve launching missiles, landing amphibious vehicles, and blocking Taiwan’s air and sea space.

A California-based think tank, the Rand Corporation, recently issued a report entitled U.S. Military Capabilities and Forces for a Dangerous World, which assesses Beijing’s capability to carry out such a threat.  “China’s pursuit of military capabilities suited to countering US power projection operations has been greatly facilitated by the proliferation of many of the sorts of technologies and systems that have given US forces such dominance over those of its regional adversaries in the post–Cold War era: systems for real-time reconnaissance, data transmission and processing, precision guidance, robotics, propulsion, and even stealth technology.

“As China has mastered these capabilities, it has been able to pose growing challenges to the ability of US forces to project power into its region. And this, in turn, has raised questions about the credibility of US security guarantees there.”

While Taiwan may be considered by many a sensitive issue between China and the U.S., as we witnessed during the call between U.S. President Trump and Tsai Ing-Wen, Trump is not backing down over military threats emanating from Pyongyang.  Which makes for another potential scary escalation of war rhetoric should the Trump Administration take the threat from the Chinese diplomat seriously and not merely intended for domestic Chinese consumption.

 

Author

Gary Sands
Gary Sands

Gary Sands is a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat, a crowdsourced consultancy, and a Director at Highway West Capital Advisors, a venture capital, project finance and political risk advisory. He has contributed a number of op-eds for Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, Washington Times, The Diplomat, The National Interest, International Policy Digest, Asia Times, EurasiaNet, Eurasia Review, Indo-Pacific Review, the South China Morning Post, and the Global Times. He was previously employed in lending and advisory roles at Shell Capital, ABB Structured Finance, and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation. He earned his Masters of Business Administration in International Business from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and a Bachelor of Science in Finance at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. He spent six years in Shanghai from 2006-2012, four years in Rio de Janeiro, and is currently based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. [email protected]

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