China launched a media blitz criticizing President Chen of upsetting the status quo and warned Taiwan not to declare independence.
It tried to convince the international community, particularly the big powers that it was serious in taking strong actions if Taiwan splits from the mainland.
China has always emphasized that Taiwan was purely a domestic issue for the PRC but of late has become more media savvy, and in deploying international pressures through the selective use of its economic power, reflective of its growing confidence in soft power deployment. The application of international pressure on the Taiwan issue is also a realization of the limits of Chinese domestic power in influencing Taiwan. It is also seen as more effective in influencing and dividing Taiwanese domestic opinions.
So far, it has been successful. European Union, Russia, Germany, Japan, South Korea and Singapore have all expressed concern or disappointment with Taiwan. Some of China’s closest allies have quickly responded by reaffirming their support for unification and criticized Taiwan’s independence advocates. China has even deployed the ultimate weapon: In a rare move, China has gone to the United Nations and evoked a statement of concern from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who reiterated the world body's adherence to the 'one China' principle.
This week’s People’s Daily the official newspaper of China is focusing on international pressures to clamp down on President Chen Shuibian’s decision to scrap the National Unification Council (NUC). In it, the Chinese premiere argued: “The world public opinion quickly points out that Chen has done this to save his poor political record and unpopularity, attempting to gain support in a conflict with the mainland. Chen is now under denouncement in and outside Taiwan for his repeated moves to make trouble in the cross-Straits relations.”
In conjunction with this, China is also actively lobbying US support in this issue and some Chinese opinions see this as a good opportunity and opening for President Hu’s visit to Washington.
Despite all the soft power and sweet talk however, China also held a small demonstration of physical might. Chinese state media reported yesterday that China has been staging military exercises this week in Guangzhou, Shenyang, Chengdu and Beijing military command regions. The joint exercises involving the air force, army and navy began on Wednesday, according to the official China Daily. The report did not provide details such as the number of troops involved, but said the exercises are aimed at simulating modern battle conditions using advanced information technology.
Obstructers of cross-Straits relations doomed to fail: Chinese Premier (PD, March 28)
DPRK supports China's unification: paper (PD, March 5)
President Chen's credibility problem (China Post, Feb 1)
Reactions to Chen's move (ST, March 2)
Scrapping of Taipei's National Unification Council China switches tactics (ST, March 4)
Beijing issues 'zero tolerance' warning (ST, March 4)