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China threat: Beijing sends ominous warning to Taiwan with key policy shift

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Professor Steve Tsang also warned pro-democracy campaigners on the island they risked irritating the superpower still further with their ambitions for Taiwan to join the United Nations as an independent nation. The unofficial border – referred to as the median line – runs up the centre of the narrow Taiwan Strait.

However, military drills launched by China earlier this month saw at least 19 fighter jets cross into airspace which Taiwan regards as its own.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Webin subsequently insisted the median line did not exist, suggesting it was a concept created by the US military in the mid-20th century.

Professor Steve Tsang, the director of the China Institute at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), told “The comment on the median line is important, as it changes the ground rules both sides across the Taiwan Straits have worked on for decades.

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However, Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party – and therefore President Tsai Ing-wen – rejects this, regarding the island is an independent country known as the Republic of China.

A group of campaigners calling themselves the Taiwan United Nations Alliance on Monday unveiled plans for a petition aimed at forcing a referendum petition for a referendum to have the island join the UN under the name ‘Taiwan’.

Alliance chairman Twu Shiing-jer was joined at a news conference in the capital of Taipei by DPP politician Huang Hsiu-fang.

A statement issued by the alliance said: “It is clear that for the vast majority of people, Taiwan is for Taiwanese, and we are not a province of China.

“The voices of society are saying that Taiwan and China are separate countries across the Taiwan Strait.”

Huang added: “It is the wish of all Taiwanese to join the UN under the name ‘Taiwan’.”

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Commenting, Prof Tsang warned such a move would be fraught with risk given China’s indication that any declaration of independence would be a red line which if crossed would prompt it to act.

He said: “This is domestic politicking and Beijing understands that.

“It is not a declaration of independence.

“There is no chance of Taiwan joining or rejoining the UN, under whatever name.

“China has a veto at the UNSC and will use it. The alternative is to secure 2/3 of votes in the general assembly, with Taiwan’s membership being put as a major issue for the GA to consider.

“There is not enough support for that to happen. So, I don’t see Beijing getting worried, though it will get annoyed. Not the same thing.

“The move is not a wise one for Taiwan, but which country has all political groups that always take the big picture into account and act on it?”

Speaking to last week, Ketian Zhang, an Assistant Professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government in the US, said: “China does have a red line, which is that Taiwan should not declare de jure independence.

“If it does so, it is highly likely that China will resort to the use of force.”

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