‘Independence means war” as China fires a verbal missile at Taiwan

Beijing ramps up the pressure on the democratic island amid a pushback from Washington

President Xi Jinping’s government has warned Taiwan that “independence means war” in a stark threat that will escalate tension between China and the United States.

The comments came during a monthly news briefing by the Chinese Ministry of Defence just days after the People’s Liberation Army had stepped up military flights over the Taiwan Strait.

In two separate incidents, at least 24 Chinese bombers and fighter jets pierced the democratic island’s airspace at the weekend.

Washington has cautioned Beijing about ratcheting up the pressure in one of the region’s flashpoints and this latest verbal missile will only inflame the situation.

“We warn those ‘Taiwan independence’ elements – those who play with fire will burn themselves, and ‘Taiwan independence’ means war,” Ministry of Defence spokesman Wu Qian said, adding that the island was an “inseparable part of China.”

The facts:

  • China’s PLA Air Force mounted two of its largest missions in provocative acts of saber-rattling at the weekend.
  • The US issued a warning, calling on Beijing to stop “pressuring” Taipei.
  • China considers democratic Taiwan a renegade province.
  • It has vowed to unify the island with the mainland by force if necessary.
  • The latest statement came just hours after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the situation in the South China Sea, another potential area of conflict.
  • He described Beijing’s decision to allow its coastguard to open fire on foreign vessels in the disputed waterway as a “threat of war.”

What was said: “The military activities carried out by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in the Taiwan Strait are necessary actions to address the current security situation, and to safeguard national sovereignty and security. They are a solemn response to external interference and provocations by ‘Taiwan independence’ forces,” Ministry of Defence spokesman Qian told a media briefing.

Reaction to the news: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly denounced Beijing’s threats and has vowed to defend the island’s freedom. So has the US. “We will stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security and values in the Indo-Pacific region – and that includes deepening our ties with Democratic Taiwan. Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement this week.

China Factor comment: President Xi Jinping’s government has again sent a clear message to President Joe Biden’s new White House administration that its ultimate aim is to dismantle democracy in Taiwan. If that happened, a “One Country, Two Systems” model would be imposed on the island. But after the massive pro-democracy crackdown in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, Beijing has shown that it can not be trusted. Expect even closer ties between Taipei and Washington.