Authoritarian regime heightens danger of China invading Taiwan

It can hardly be said to be behavior befitting the leader of a major power if Chinese President Xi Jinping flaunts his absolute power and does not conceal his ambition to unify Taiwan with China by force. His endless quest to build a strong China is accelerating and is a matter of concern.

The quinquennial National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party has begun. In a speech outlining achievements to date and future policies, the country’s supreme leader Xi, who is the party’s general secretary, indicated his willingness to stay in office, saying that the next five years will be crucial for achieving the policy he has set of making China a strong nation.

Following this latest congress, Xi will enter his third term in office, breaking the conventional two-term, 10-year limit on the presidency, and is certain to establish an exceptionally long regime.

What cannot be overlooked is that in his speech, Xi stated that China would make the “utmost effort” to achieve a peaceful unification with Taiwan based on the principle of “one country, two systems,” but at the same time stressed “we will never promise to renounce the use of force.”

Taiwan has little room to accept Xi’s vision of peaceful unification. This is because it has witnessed how the policy of one country, two systems in Hong Kong has been undermined by Beijing’s authoritarian regime.

Xi’s remarks hinting at the possibility of using force, while calling for peaceful unification, can only indicate that what he has in mind is forcefully unifying Taiwan with China. In his speech, Xi also said, “Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese, a matter that must be resolved by the Chinese.” Xi seeks to exclude the United States and other countries from intervening.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the international community is concerned about situations in which one major power after another tries to change the status quo by force. Being extremely wary of China invading Taiwan is only natural.

Under these circumstances, it is not convincing for Xi to say that he does not advocate hegemony. Shouldn’t he be aware that his hard-line statements have undermined confidence in China and harmed the country’s national interests by causing the United States, Europe and Japan to curtail trade with China?

Xi reiterated his policy of achieving the national goal of making China “a great modern socialist country” by the middle of this century. This means putting China on par with the United States in terms of its military, science and technology.

While striving to work on national development is not something that other countries have any right to criticize, the problem is the method to achieve it. Trampling on universal values such as human rights and the rule of law and attempting to rewrite the international order so that it is centered on China should not be tolerated.

Xi praised himself for his “tremendously encouraging achievements” such as eradicating poverty in China and curbing novel coronavirus infections through the zero-COVID policy.

However, the numbers clearly show widening disparities between the rich and poor that have accompanied growth, and a sluggish economy caused by extreme measures against the virus. Under Xi’s authoritarian regime in which no one can correct his mistakes, there may be limits to development.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 17, 2022)