A Hawk Wearing Glasses of Pragmatism
United Daily News, May 16, 2020
A couple of weeks before President Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration on May 20, Qiao Liang, a retired major general of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who authored "the unrestricted warfare" theory, wrote an article entitled "The Taiwan Issue Concerns National Destiny and Should Not Be Rushed.” Following this article, there is a view that Communist China is using the threat of force again, while others argue that the hawks are becoming dovish. Actually, neither of these views are accurate. "A hawk wearing glasses of pragmatism" is probably a more appropriate description.
In his article, Qiao indicated that, given Taiwan's current situation, there is no hope for a peaceful unification, and that unification by force is the only option. The key to the resolution of the Taiwan issues lies in the power rivalry between China and the United States. Until this rivalry is resolved, the Taiwan Issue cannot be completely resolved.
Qiao also insisted that the Taiwan issue is not even the main item in Chinese national rejuvenation; that the main content of this great cause is to bring good life to the 1.4 billion Chinese people. Everything else, including the resolution of the Taiwan issue, has to make way for this "Chinese Dream,"
We may deduce from these arguments that, for the Communist Party regime, both sides of the Taiwan Strait will eventually be unified; that China has to give up the wishful thinking of a peaceful unification and that the only viable option is unification by force. But at the moment, the power gap between the United States and China is still considerably large, and the price of unification by force is quite high. Therefore, Beijing should not rush on it.
What is more, very different from the views of most mainland Chinese think tanks on Taiwan, Qiao demarcates unification from national rejuvenation. What Qiao meant is that the top priority for China is to extend good life to the 1.4 billion Chinese people. The resolution of the Taiwan issue should not jeopardize this goal.
General Qiao is not a traditional hawk. He is a hawk who wears glasses of pragmatism. To him, the objective of unifying Taiwan has not changed. But the roadmap and timetable have changed tremendously.
Not coincidently, another hawkish scholar, Yan Xueton, said recently that presently the intentional misfire in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait will not happen because the United States, mainland China, and Taiwan all have very strict control over their respective military operations. So the possibility of a "wiping gun off" is very slim. Even if there is one, the concerned parties will be able to manage it in time to prevent it from developing into a war.
From the views of Qiao and Yan, mainland China seems to reveal intentionally to the world its new thinking on Taiwan. That is, insistence on the bottom line against Taiwan independence, strategic pragmatism over unification, flexibility on tactics and avoidance of being held hostage by timelines and slogans, and strict control to prevent a misfire which could lead to an irreversible crisis. Given such delicate flexibility and pragmatism, how can Taiwan not contemplate and raise alertness?