China Vows to "Crush" Taiwanese Independence

PLA Navy amphibious assault drill, November 2020 (PLA)
PLA Navy amphibious assault drill, November 2020 (PLA)

Published May 16, 2023 10:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

As the U.S. works to speed up delivery of previously-purchased weaponry to the government of Taiwan, China's defense ministry has vowed to "crush" any form of independence for the island, which has governed its own affairs since the 1940s. 

The U.S. believes Beijing could order a forcible reunification Taiwan before the end of the decade, leveraging the PLA Navy's increasing strength to blockade or invade the island. A cross-strait crisis is the U.S. Navy's most urgent planning scenario, as the service could be called upon to defend the island from the far side of the Pacific.

To prepare for this contingency, the Biden administration is working to help Taiwan defend itself by cutting through procurement barriers and accelerating training. Taiwan is waiting for delivery of $19 billion in weaponry it has purchased from the U.S. over the years, and many of those systems - like Harpoon anti-ship missiles - would relieve the burden on U.S. forces in the event of a crisis. The U.S. has also dispatched a small force of 100-200 soldiers to Taiwan on a training mission.

In a statement, PLA spokesman Senior Colonel Tan Kefei reminded the U.S. government of historical agreements it made 50 years ago, when the Nixon administration - seeking leverage with China against the Soviet Union - pledged to acknowledge that Taiwan was part of "one China" and to withdraw troops from the island. 

"The Taiwan question is at the very core of China’s core interests, and remains the first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations," Tan said. "China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to these wrong and dangerous moves."

In addition, Tan threatened that China would "firmly crush 'Taiwan independence' attempts and external interference in any form." 

Tan's comments coincided with the visit of former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss to Taipei, the latest in a series of high-profile diplomatic trips to the island by Western leaders. In a speech at the Grand Hyatt, Truss called for a hard line on the Chinese "threat," warning that the West "cannot pretend we have meaningful deterrence without hard power" to prevent a forcible reunification. China's embassy in the UK denounced Truss' visit as "a dangerous political show which will do nothing but harm to the UK."