China warning: Taiwan referendum to ‘likely produce severe reaction’ ‘Beijing’s red line’

Taiwan referendum to cause ‘severe’ Chinese reaction says expert

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Speaking to Express.co.uk, Zhouchen Mao, Asia-Pacific Analyst for A K E International, a global risk and security consultancy group and expert in Chinese Foreign Policy at SOAS University London, explained the circumstances that would need to take place if China were to launch an invasion of Taiwan. His comments come amidst growing speculation by international actors about the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, but Mr Mao insisted there would have to be key changes in the political landscape in order to turn the tables.

Mr Mao said: “There are a few red lines that China has drawn to prevent a potential conflict in the Taiwan strait.

“One is of course is, should the DPP Taiwan decide to call a referendum.”

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is a Taiwanese nationalist party which is currently the majority party in Taiwan.

The party has long campaigned on major social causes and better human rights and thus strives to break away from Beijing’s influence and control.

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Concerns arose in China in January 2020 after Taiwan elected current President Tsai-ing Wen for a second presidential term.

Ms Wen rejects China’s desired ‘one nation, two systems’ form of governance used in Macau and Hong Kong, which would see Taiwan enveloped by China but allow it to have its own economic and administrative system.

She has threatened to call a referendum on the issue and has huge support from youth voters who support an independent Taiwan, which is an added concern for the Chinese looking to the future.

But Mr Mao warned: “I think that is one line where it is most likely to produce a reaction, a severe reaction from Beijing – should that referendum be declared.”

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The China expert explained that the other key issue is the USA’s involvement in the region.

Mr Mao explained how “a change in the USA’s position towards Taiwan” could trigger a reaction from China in a worrying projection of stability in the region.

He explained how a pulling out of military support for Taiwan by the USA, including a naval presence in the region, could spell bad news for the island nation as its military is simply not up to the task of defending itself from a possible Chinese attack.

On top of this, Mr Mao stressed the level at which China launch “psychological warfare” on Taiwan through repeated incursions into Taiwanese airspace with Chinese jets and how a possible accident, such as forced engagement, could trigger serious consequences.

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Mr Mao said: “Each time the Taiwanese airforce scramble a jet following a Chinese intrusion, it costs $900 million… so the cost of that is very high.

“So now the Taiwanese defence ministry have said we are not going to scramble jets anymore.

“We are going to use our land to air defence missile system… that will reduce the economic costs.”

But he said that “could increase the risk of an accidental conflict” and draw Taiwan further into trouble with its powerful neighbours leaving the nation in a tricky position.

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