Mainland observers, including a former general, warned on Saturday that time was running out for Beijing to bring Taiwan back to its fold peacefully.
Speaking at a forum in Beijing, where the US was indirectly criticised for playing the Taiwan card, they said the longer Taipei refused to discuss reunification with the mainland, the weaker its bargaining position would become.
One of the speakers, Wang Hongguang, a retired lieutenant general, acknowledged that young Taiwanese no longer identified as Chinese and wanted independence.
“The ‘independent forces’ are now the majority in Taiwan and this has become an irreversible trend,” Wang said. “In addition, public opinion on the mainland and Taiwan is moving in opposite directions and getting further and further apart.
“[I believe] that time is running out and it will be an unaffordable burden for both sides of the Taiwan Strait if we have to wait another five to 10 years for us to liberate or reunite with Taiwan,” he said.
“‘One country, two systems’ is unable to land in Taiwan and the window for peaceful reunification is closing,” he added.
The forum was organised by Global Times, a tabloid affiliated to the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.
In his talk, Wang, a former vice-commander of Nanjing Military Region, outlined three possible scenarios for conflict with Taiwan, including a direct landing, a siege of the main island or the seizure of outlying islands to put pressure on the government to surrender.
Early this year, President Xi Jinping said that Beijing would like to explore a “one country, two systems” plan tailor-made for Taiwan rather than using the same model as in Hong Kong and Macau.
Zhou Zhihuai, a former director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the forum that Taiwan would be much better off if it could work out its preferred option and initiate talks with Beijing as soon as possible.
“If [Taiwan] can present a plan … which will be in its best interests, and I think it would be best for the 23 million Taiwanese people,” Zhou said.
But he warned that cross-strait relations would inevitably suffer if Tsai Ing-wen, the independence-leaning incumbent, wins January’s presidential election.
Wu Xinbo, head of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai, said that Beijing should worry about the US and how hawkish forces in Washington would take advantage of the situation.
“As the strategic competition between China and the US intensifies, the US has woken up to the value of the ‘Taiwan card’,” Wu said. “Washington’s support for Taipei in recent years was unprecedented.”
Wu suggested that China should use military and other means to warn Washington not to go too far.
“As the US strays [from the ‘one China’ position], we need to show that there are serious repercussions,” he said. “The consequences could be even more serious than those during the 1995 to 1996 missile crisis” – a reference to series of tests held around Taiwanese waters to protest at the US decision to allow then president Lee Teng-hui to visit his alma mater, Cornell University.
This article Taiwan running out of time to discuss peaceful reunification, says former Chinese general first appeared on South China Morning Post