Taiwan military lashes out at China’s defense white paper

China's military executives announce Defense White Paper in Beijing, China on July 24, 2019. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

TAIPEI (CNA) — China on Wednesday released its first defense white paper since 2012, a document criticized by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) as deliberately downplaying the growing military threat posed by Beijing.

Also, the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which oversees relations with China, said Beijing’s claim in the white paper that “no matter how it might develop, China will never threaten any other country or seek any sphere of influence” is a lie, urging the global community to recognize that point.

The white paper, titled “China’s National Defense in a New Era,” also says “the development of China’s national defense aims to meet its rightful security needs and contribute to the growth of the world’s peaceful forces.”

However, the paper makes clear that the Chinese military will resolutely “oppose and contain ‘Taiwan independence,'” criticizing Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for sticking to that policy and refusing to recognize the 1992 Consensus.

The “1992 consensus” is a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the then-KMT government of Taiwan and Chinese government.

Workers prepare the China’s national defense white paper to distribute to the reporters before a press conference at the State Council Information Office in Beijing, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. China says it will not “renounce the use of force” in efforts to reunify Taiwan with the mainland and vows to take all necessary military measures to defeat “separatists.” (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

The consensus has been consistently interpreted by the KMT as both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledging there is only “one China,” with each free to interpret what “China” means. However, Beijing has never publicly recognized the second part of the KMT interpretation.

Tsai has refused to acknowledge the “1992 consensus,” insisting that the agreement only means what Beijing wants it to mean — namely that China is the People’s Republic of China, with Taiwan as part of it.

The paper reiterated Beijing’s stance that it will never allow the secession of any part of its territory and pointedly made no promise to renounce the use of force against “the very small number of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists and their activities.”

Responding to the white paper’s claim the DPP is the reason for the cross-strait impasse, a MAC press release said Beijing’s anti-democratic and anti-peace behavior is to blame for the state of bilateral relations, adding that China is not a peace-loving country.

Asked to comment, Taiwan military spokesman Shih Shun-wen (史順文) said the white paper is part of Beijing’s propaganda campaign to downplay the “China threat theory” recognized in many parts of the world and concern over its increased assertiveness.

The paper also seeks to justify China’s military expansion and buildup, Shih added.

Lin Ying-yu (林穎佑), an assistant professor at National Chung Cheng University’s Institute of Strategic and International Affairs, told CNA that the white paper is intended to serve as a response to concerns in neighboring countries over China’s growing military power.

Lin also said the publication of the paper is important as it signifies the completion of military reforms launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015.

Under the leadership of Xi, China overhauled the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the aim of purging corruption, eliminating abuse of power, and transforming the PLA from a homeland defense force into an outward-facing military.

By Matt Yu, Shen Peng-da and Joseph Yeh