TAIPEI: Beijing could resort to military conflict with self-ruled Taiwan to divert domestic pressure if a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy amid trade war threatens the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party, the island’s foreign minister has said.
As Taiwan’s presidential elections approach in January, China has stepped up a campaign to “reunify” with what it considers a wayward province, wooing away the island’s few diplomatic allies and flying regular bomber patrols around it.
In an interview with Reuters, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu drew attention to China’s slowing economy amid its bitter trade war with the United States.
“If the internal stability is a very serious issue, or economic slowdown has become a very serious issue for the top leaders to deal with, that is the occasion that we need to be very
careful,” Wu said on Wednesday.
“We need to prepare ourselves for the worst situation to come…military conflict.”
China’s economy, though still growing, is expected to slow to a near 30-year low this year, underscoring a stiff challenge for Beijing in stepping up stimulus to keep up growth that has been fundamental to the Communist Party’s political legitimacy.
Wu said the economic situation in China was “OK” at the moment, but urged other countries to watch for what he saw as problems there, such as unemployment and popular discontent.
China’s growing military
aggression in the region has become a “very serious” source of tension, Wu said, affecting many countries, but added that Taiwan was trying whatever it could to ensure peace across the Strait.
“We certainly hope that Taiwan and China could live peacefully together, but we also see there are problems caused by China, and we will try to deal with it.”
Taiwan has lost seven diplomatic allies to China since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016. Beijing suspects Tsai of pushing for the island’s formal independence, which Xi has warned would lead to a “grave disaster”.
Tsai has repeatedly said she will not change the status quo. – Reuters