By Yew Lun Tian
BEIJING -China has withdrawn a promise not to send troops or administrators to Taiwan if it takes control of the island, an official document showed on Wednesday, signalling a decision by President Xi Jinping to grant less autonomy than previously offered.
China’s white paper on its position on self-ruled Taiwan follows days of unprecedented Chinese military exercises near the island, which Beijing claims as its territory, in protest against U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit last week.
China had said in two previous white papers on Taiwan, in 1993 and 2000, that it “will not send troops or administrative personnel to be based in Taiwan” after achieving what Beijing terms “reunification”.
That line, meant to assure Taiwan it would enjoy autonomy after becoming a special administrative region of China, did not appear in the latest white paper.
China’s ruling Communist Party had proposed that Taiwan could return to its rule under a “one country, two systems” model, similar to the formula under which the former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
That would offer some autonomy to democratically ruled Taiwan to partially preserve its social and political systems.
All mainstream Taiwanese political parties have rejected the “one country, two systems” proposal and it enjoys almost no public support according to opinion polls. Taiwan’s government says only the island’s people can decide their future.
A line in the 2000 white paper that said “anything can be negotiated” as long as Taiwan accepts that there is only one China and does not seek independence, is also missing from the latest white paper.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council condemned the white paper, saying it was “full of lies of wishful thinking and disregarded the facts” and that the Republic of China – Taiwan’s official name – was a sovereign state.
“Only Taiwan’s 23 million people have the right to decide on the future of Taiwan, and they will never accept an outcome set by an autocratic regime.”
The updated white paper is called “The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era”. The “new era” is a term commonly associated with Xi’s rule. Xi is expected to secure a third term at a Communist Party congress later this year.
Taiwan has lived under the threat of Chinese invasion since 1949, when the defeated Republic of China government fled to the island after Mao Zedong’s Communist Party won a civil war.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Robert Birsel and Raju Gopalakrishnan)