Does Beijing Intend to Use Military Means to Unify with Taiwan?

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Does Beijing intend to use military means to unify with Taiwan? Discuss the pros and cons of such a strategy.

Some sixty years ago, following its defeat in the Civil War with the Communists, the leaders and the army of the Chinese Nationalist Party withdrew to the off-shore island of Taiwan. For all of these intervening years the possibility has existed that the Communists would seek to militarily re-unify Taiwan with mainland China. This possibility has increased over the past three decades because of the growing military power of the Communists. This 'Taiwan issue' has dominated relationships not only between the Communist mainland - the People's Republic of China (PRC) - and Taiwan but also between the PRC and Taiwan's main protector, the United States of America (USA), and indeed western capitalist countries in general. It has become a key factor shaping China's overall foreign policy and, arguably, its internal political development which, in turn, affects the future of East Asia and beyond. In short, for decades, the Taiwan issue has been one of the potential flashpoints between the PRC and the West. But would the flashpoint actually ever explode? Does Beijing intend to use military force to re-unify with Taiwan? Certainly the experiences of the 1980s and of the 1990s would suggest that the answer to this question could be in the affirmative. Even the more cordial relationship between the PRC and Taiwan over the past two years should not disguise this possibility. Accordingly, this essay examines the possibilities of military unification. It discusses the range of factors and possible developments that would influence the decision of the PRC and concludes that, on balance, because it would not be to the advantage of the PRC, Beijing will not initiate military action to attempt unification with Taiwan.

The three key determinants of the likelihood of any invasion are military capacity, political will and the possible consequences of such action. Over...
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