Taiwan's Forcible Reunification

A new book by an exiled mainland academic has shocked Taiwan with the revelation of a secret 2008 document planning for an invasion of the breakaway island in 2012. The book also describes the heretofore secret role Beijing played in bringing down disgraced former President Chen Shui-bian.

"After the Kuomintang candidate loses the 2012 election and before the new president takes office, we will launch the attack," according to the document, "The Political Strategy for Solving the Taiwan Problem," passed in June 2008 by a meeting of the extended Communist Party Politburo in Beijing. The document set a deadline of 2012 for reunification, forcible if necessary.

The details of the meeting are outlined "2012 Taiwan Disaster, written by Yuan Hongbing, who lives in exile in Australia, where he applied for political asylum in 2004.

There are three scenarios for an invasion in 2012. One is during the transition between the Kuomintang and Democratic Progress Party president. The second is the refusal by a new KMT president to abolish the Republic of China, its flag and constitution and to recognize the PRC as the central government. The third is if a new KMT president starts reunification talks with Beijing and the DPP begins large scale protests and demonstrations.

"This raises the possibility of separation of the country and our army would occupy Taiwan and put down the rebellion under the 'Anti-Secession Law'," reads the document.

Driving the deadline, says Yuan, is the testament of the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who said that solving the Taiwan question and national reunification was "an issue of life and death for the Communist Party and for the Socialist system in China."

"We must create the conditions and solve the problem early," the document says. "The longer we leave it, the more difficult it will become. The Taiwan problem must be solved within the two terms of Comrade Hu Jintao and cannot go beyond 2012."

Deng said that the urgency came from the fact that Taiwan's democratic political system might spread to the mainland. "In recent years, inside and outside the party, bourgeois liberalism has spread rapidly and says that we should follow the so-called Taiwan experience. People say we should study the example of Chiang Ching-kuo and lift a ban on political parties. This kind of political thinking should be a serious warning."

In other words, for Deng, the issue was less one of secession from China than the 'contagion' of Taiwan's political system: as more mainlanders visit Taiwan and witness a free, democratic society in which people can choose their own leaders and say what they please, they will question the system they have at home and ask why, as Chinese, they cannot have similar rights.

"While we work hard on the reunification, using peaceful means to resolve the Taiwan issue, the whole party and the army must ceaselessly prepare for military struggle," the document concludes. "To solve the Taiwan problem by 2012 and achieve reunification is the testament of Comrade Deng Xiaoping and the political obligation of the Central Committee to the spirit of the old generation of all the proletarian revolutionaries. We can only succeed, we cannot fail."

According to Yuan, the meeting was held in June 2008 in a PLA command center dug out of a mountain in the western hills of Beijing, attended by members of the Politburo and secretariat of the Central Committee, leaders of the main military regions and officials from the United Front Department and Foreign, Public Security and State Security Ministries -- 200 in all.

The meeting was held a month after the assumption of power by Ma Ying-jeou, an event greeted with enormous relief in Beijing.

In his opening remarks, President Hu Jintao praised the work of the Foreign and State Security Ministries in finding evidence that helped to bring down Ma's predecessor, Chen Shui-bian and implicate his family. "Some patriotic Taiwan businessmen revealed to us blackmail by the Chen family against them."

He praised the Foreign Ministry for persuading the US government to help them obtain evidence from Swiss banks and the Singapore government which it provided to the judicial departments in Taiwan.

The meeting approved three documents, one on the overall strategy for reunification, one on the political and legal issues and the third on the military strategy, which includes the three invasion scenarios.

The first document said that the party leaders had decided on the year 2012 after careful consideration of the political, economic and social factors and that, if some conditions were not yet ripe, they would be made so.

"Over the next five years, in the economic, social and ideological areas, there could be factors of instability leading to large-scale social disorder. In this situation, to put the unification of Taiwan as a priority will serve to knit together the party and the army, attract the patriotic fervor of the whole population and prevent all kinds of crises from occurring. Achieving unification in 2012 is also the task entrusted by Comrade Deng Xiaoping to Comrade Hu Jintao and this generation of leaders.

"Unification will also destroy the domestic and foreign hostile forces that seek to use the so-called 'democratic experience' of Taiwan and overthrow China's Socialist system," it said.

The documents reveal the preoccupation of Deng and other leaders not so much with the separate existence of Taiwan as the Republic of China as the threat it poses as a liberal and democratic alternative.

With the start of direct flights and mass tourism in 2008, tens of thousands of Chinese are visiting Taiwan for the first time. This year the number of Chinese visitors, more than 1.2 million, will overtake those from Japan as the number one source of tourists.

These visitors can watch Taiwanese television, read its newspapers and magazines and see a society which has made a peaceful transition from a military dictatorship into a raucous, multi-party democracy. Some wonder why they do not enjoy the rights and freedoms of their Taiwan compatriots.

It is this challenge that the Beijing leadership wants to stop. Their anger against Lee Teng-hui, the president who introduced a democratic system, was as much against this system as the fact that his agenda was an independent state.

The military document passed by the meeting calls for the use of all weapons in the PLA's arsenal except nuclear arms and a rapid operation to be concluded in seven-ten days. In the best scenario, a new KMT government in 2012 would not oppose the operation.

"Experts believe that, following a KMT victory in 2012, the DPP will organize widespread protests and social disorder – this would provide sufficient reason to invade the island," it said.

The attack would involve destruction of all Taiwan's military bases and capability, followed by landing of PLA units by parachute and naval vessels.

The document said that peaceful unification would avoid retaliatory damage to Chinese cities on the coast and other losses to the economy and society and prevent interference by the U.S. and Japan. But it would have a major downside, in that Beijing has promised to let Taiwan keep its army. "In this case, Taiwan's position in China's international military strategy would be greatly limited and greatly reduce the value of settling the issue in international politics. In addition, by not stationing our troops in Taiwan would limit our ability to control Taiwan's society and politics."

Yuan's account presents a PLA eager to play a leading role in the unification process and the political leaders seeing increased military pressure on Taiwan as essential to persuade its leaders, especially those from the Kuomintang, to negotiate.

Yuan was born into a Mongolian family on the steppe of Inner Mongolia in 1952. During the Cultural Revolution, he witnessed ruthless purges of Mongolian people accused of seeking independence from China. He studied law at Beijing University, where he graduated in 1986 as a research student and became a teacher.

He headed a department specializing in litigation law; in 1989 he formed a group of teachers at the university to support the students in Tiananmen Square. In October that year, he was briefly arrested after he published a poem that offended the authorities.

In March 1994, he was arrested for establishing the Alliance for Protecting the Rights of Chinese Workers; State Security agents confiscated a history he had written on the persecution of the Mongolian nationality. After six months of detention, he was banished to Guizhou in the southwest, one of China's poorest provinces, and put under surveillance of State Security agents. In 1994 and 1995, the U.S. State Department mentioned his name in its annual human rights report on China.

In 2003, he established a law college at Guizhou Normal University and became its principal. He held posts as an arbitrator and in academic societies and continued to publish.

In July 2004, as leader of an official delegation, he applied for political asylum in Australia, where he now lives.

He was closest to power during the 1980s, when he had wide contacts with political and academic circles in Beijing.

Frightening analysis

Yuan's is a frightening analysis, most of all for the Taiwanese, since it predicts a possible military attack on their home in two years' time. Most fearful of all is that nowhere in the party's discussions is mentioned the will or the right of the Taiwan people to decide their own future.

When the book came out in Taiwan earlier this year, its impact was limited. Many consider its predictions with skepticism, especially such a quick deadline; they are unfamiliar with the author. Other books have given a deadline of 2020 and 2030.

"Beijing is not in a hurry," said Li Hongbin, a legal consultant in Hong Kong. "Conditions are deteriorating for Taiwan as time passes. Its economy becomes more dependent on China and China becomes more powerful militarily and diplomatically.

"Its strategy is to link Taiwan inextricably to the Greater China region and control the arteries of its economy, as it did in Hong Kong. Chinese banks and insurance companies will open branches in Taiwan and Chinese firms will acquire Taiwanese ones. It will co-opt the business leaders who have major investments in the mainland.

"The sooner a Taiwan president negotiates, the better terms he will get. If Lee Teng-hui had negotiated, he could have kept the RoC army. If Ma negotiates, he has a 30 per cent chance. In future, there will be no chance. The army will be disbanded and the PLA sent to garrison the island," he said.

Since the election of President Ma in March 2008, the two sides have grown closer than at any time since the end of the civil war.

In June last year, the two signed the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement, the most significant pact between Taiwan and China since 1949. It provides for tariff concessions on 539 products from Taiwan and 267 from China, and for China to open its market in 11 service sectors and for Taiwan to open wider access in seven. Bilateral trade between the two sides is about US$120 billion a year; China accounts for 14.2 per cent of Taiwan's GDP, the highest level of dependency of any country.

In the first two years after Taiwan opened its borders to mainland tourism in July 2008, 2.14 million Chinese traveled there, spending NT$110 billion. This year, Chinese will overtake Japanese as the biggest source of tourists to Taiwan, with 1.2 million visitors against 1.1 million.

People-to-people links, from political leaders to ordinary citizens, are closer than they have ever been. All these steps are in line with the aims outlined by President Hu at the June 2008 meeting for peaceful reunification.

"But Hong Kong and Taiwan are different," said Ye Chun-lian, a Taipei schoolteacher. "Taiwan is a country ruled by its citizens which has its own army, its own government, its own constitution and its own flag. Whatever agreements are made between Beijing, Washington and Tokyo and between Beijing and the KMT would have to be approved by the Taiwan people. They will not give up their sovereignty easily."