China should address Taiwan with diplomacy

In recent weeks, the People’s Republic of China has stepped up its rhetorical war of words with Taiwan and the United States. As democratic elections once more sweep the tiny island of 22 million, China’s State Council released a policy paper, claiming that if Taiwan continues its indefinite refusal to discuss unification with the mainland, war could result. This comes as a slight change in China’s threats against Taiwan, as in past years, China reserved that threat if Taiwan officially declared independence. China is both playing a dangerous international game and risking alienation from the Taiwanese even more by attempting to scare them into not voting for a pro-independence presidential candidate.
The future of China and Taiwan are inextricably linked because of their pasts. In 1949, after the Communist victory on the mainland, two million Nationalists left for Taiwan, where they established a government. Over the course of 50 years, the country slowly democratized, culminating in Taiwan’s first presidential election in 1996. During that election, China sent a not-so-subtle message to the Taiwanese people by testing nuclear-capable missiles just off two major ports. Cross-strait tensions were only calmed when America sent in warships. Elections were held where President Lee Teng-Hui and the Kuomintang party — who advocate an equal status with China, as well as a larger foreign presence — won, despite the threat from China.
The United States has not been uninvolved in this matter. After the most recent threats, outraged senators, many who are strong supporters of Taiwan, jeopardized a trade agreement important to China. America has also been selling weaponry to Taiwan for years to build up their defenses. The People’s Liberation Army, although 2.5 million strong, would be unable to successfully land troops on Taiwan because their ships would most likely be destroyed en route.
The Taiwanese government responded to these threats simply by stating that they showed that the mainland had no interest in democracy or unification, and that there should be a state-to-state relationship. This continues to anger the Chinese, because they have always considered Taiwan a rogue province, and any dealings between the two an internal matter, not something that should be subjected to international scrutiny. Days ago, the commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet warned Chinese leaders that, if needed, America is prepared to defend Taiwan. The official People’s Liberation Army newspaper printed a response to this, boldly stating that China could end up firing long-range missiles at the United States upon their involvement in any conflict.
Ultimately, China’s threats are nothing new. For years, China has claimed Taiwan as its own, and this is not the first time China has threatened to attack the United States if we choose to interfere. China’s renewed aggressions toward Taiwan are the only path the nation has toward influencing the democratic elections of a country they claim to already control. Both countries want eventual reunification; they just differ in regard to how it should be done. For China, the use of force would be acceptable, while Taiwan undoubtedly prefers the force of a vote. These actions illustrate how much China envies Taiwan and wants to control the small island, although these threats also illustrate that China is desperate to be considered a true world power.