China says it is closer than ever to unification with Taiwan

Tapei warns that Beijing is trying to prise diplomatic allies away from the island

China said on Wednesday that it was closer than ever to achieving unification with Taiwan, as Taipei warned that Beijing was set to step up efforts to isolate the island diplomatically. Days after the Chinese Communist Party enshrined opposition to Taiwanese independence in its constitution, a senior official said Beijing was confident of realising its goal.

“We’re closer than ever in history — and we’re more confident and capable than ever — to realising national rejuvenation,” Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said.

“Similarly, we’re also closer than ever in history — as well as more confident and capable — to realising the complete reunification of the motherland.”

Taiwan is a self-governing island that has never declared independence but insists on its right to self-determination. Xi Jinping told the Communist Party’s five-yearly congress last week that Beijing sought unification through peaceful negotiations but would never rule out the use of force.


Most countries, including Ireland, the rest of the European Union and the United States, endorse a One China principle that recognises the People’s Republic of China as the only Chinese sovereign state. Only 14 states officially recognise Taiwan’s Government with full diplomatic relations and Taipei’s foreign minister said on Wednesday he expects Beijing to ramp up efforts to persuade some of them to change their position.

Joseph Wu told legislators that diplomatic allies had told Taipei that Beijing was trying to persuade some of them to switch their recognition.

“The diplomatic challenges we are facing are getting bigger and bigger,” he said.

“Looking forward, our situation is becoming more difficult.”

US president Joe Biden has warned that Washington will come to Taiwan’s defence if Beijing attempts to take the island by force and the United States Senate last month passed a bill authorising more than $6 billion in military aid for Taiwan. The Taiwan Policy Act would treat Taiwan as “a major non-Nato ally” and allow for the expedited sale of arms to the island.

A version of the bill under consideration in the House of Representatives includes further elements, such as a requirement for US officials to refer to the administration in Taipei as a Government. Beijing reacted to House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan by conducting six military drills that demonstrated how the island could be encircled and cut off.

A report last week from the Centre for the Future of Democracy at Cambridge University found that public opinion in western democracies was becoming more favourable towards the US and more hostile towards China. But in the Global South, China has edged ahead of the US in terms of popularity with 62 per cent of people in developing countries taking a favourable view of China, compared with 61 per cent who think favourably of the US.

China has invested more than $4 trillion over the past decade in 147 countries, mostly in the Global South, as part of its Belt and Road infrastructure projects. But the Cambridge study, based on data from 137 countries, found that attitudes towards China and the US reflected a sense of shared values as much as economic links.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times