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Blinken: China ‘decided’ to seize Taiwan on ‘much faster timeline’ than expected

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. (State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha)
October 18, 2022

China has decided to accelerate its timeline to seize control over neighboring Taiwan, according to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

In a Monday event with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at Stanford University in California, Blinken said “there has been a change in the approach from Beijing toward Taiwan in recent years.”

“What’s changed is this – it goes back to something that Condi was saying at the very beginning – there has been a change in the approach from Beijing toward Taiwan in recent years,” Blinken said. “And instead of sticking with the status quo that was established in a positive way, a fundamental decision that the status quo was no longer acceptable and that Beijing was determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline.”

Blinken did not specify when or how the Chinese government, known as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), had signaled its accelerated timeline to seize Taiwan. His comments did, however, come a day after Chinese leader Xi Jinping opened a twice-a-decade meeting of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with a speech vowing to continue China’s military growth and to “resolve” the “Taiwan question.”

Taiwan governs itself as a de-facto independent nation but China considers the island a part of its territory.

Chinese officials have increasingly discussed “reunification” with Taiwan in recent years, including by military force if needed.

During his speech at the CCP meeting on Sunday, Xi said, “We will continue to strive for peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and the utmost effort” but “we will never promise to renounce the use of force and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.”

Blinken appeared to reiterate Xi’s Taiwan comments during his Monday remarks at Stanford University.

“If peaceful means didn’t work, then [China] would employ coercive means – and possibly, if coercive means don’t work, maybe forceful means – to achieve its objectives,” Blinken said. “And that is what is profoundly disrupting the status quo and creating tremendous tensions.”

Blinken did not specify a timeline for when China could try to assert control over Taiwan in his Monday remarks.

For decades, China, Taiwan and the U.S. have maintained a status quo over the issue of who controls Taiwan. The U.S. has adhered to the so-called “One China Principal” which considers the PRC to be the sole legitimate government of China, rather than the Republic of China which was formed by Chinese nationalists who fled to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War.

While the U.S. considers the PRC to be the rightful government in China, it has been less clear about who controls Taiwan. The U.S. government has continued to maintain relations with the government in Taiwan through the Taiwan Relations Act and has been deliberately ambiguous about whether the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense if China were to invade.

Blinken maintained the U.S. strategy of deliberate ambiguity during his Monday remarks.

“We are determined to make good on our commitments to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act and supporting their ability to defend themselves,” Blinken said. “We also remain fundamentally committed to the ‘one China’ policy as well. That hasn’t changed. That won’t change.”

While Blinken did not say how the U.S. would respond if China used force to take over Taiwan, he did say such a move would complicate U.S. policy in the region.

“At the heart of that was a commitment to resolve these differences peacefully,” he said. “And if that’s changing, then that does offer, unfortunately, prospects for very challenging situations going forward.”