Is there gonna be war in the Taiwan Strait? A first-person Xinhua dispatch from Taipei

No war-mongering, but how the mainland sees the clouds over the Taiwan Strait in 2020

Today’s issue of the newsletter is a full translation of a Sunday, January 3, Xinhua dispatch from Taipei, entitled “何时回”与“打不打”——新华社在台记者遭遇的“年度之问” (CHN) When will you come back and whether there will war — questions posed to a Taiwan-based Xinhua correspondent in the year 2020.

As long-time subscribers to Pekingnology know, this newsletter rarely dedicates an entire piece to translating a single article. But the issue of Taiwan is of such importance and the dispatch, in the view of your Pekingnologist, is written in such an unadorned tone, that it deserves a full translation.

Despite the eye-catching headline, especially the 打不打 whether there will be war part, the dispatch does NOT engage in war-mongering. In fact, the last paragraphs of the dispatch, which conventionally sets the ending tone of an article, are strikingly measured, upon a sense of what might or should be viewed as confidence and even optimism originating from a deeply-convinced look at the trend of history and the future.

Needless to say, many subscribers to Pekingnology apparently have markedly different opinions on Beijing’s stance towards Taipei. This is a newsletter for adults and the subscribers are treated like adults here, so your Pekingnologist has no illusion of changing anybody’s views overnight. What he hopes is for readers to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how the mainland sees the clouds over the Taiwan Strait in 2020 - something that’s not often covered in detailed English.

Again, allow your Pekingnologist to stress this newsletter is PERSONAL, that all views are his own, and that translating this published Chinese-language piece to English and putting it here is his own decision without consultation with anybody else.



By Wu Jihai of Xinhua News Agency, from Taipei, on January 3rd


In 2020, I was unexpectedly stationed in Taiwan for a full year. As I stayed in Taiwan for a long(er) time, my Taiwan-based colleagues and I were asked two questions more and more frequently.


When communicating with friends and family across the sea, the question we were asked most often was: when will you go back?


“To the question of a return date, there was none.” My answer was always: I couldn’t go back.


Why couldn’t I go back? On the surface, it was because of the coronavirus pandemic; in fact, the DPP authorities have been using the pandemic as an excuse to obstruct and restrict normal cross-strait exchanges, including the exchanges of the members of the press.


In early February 2020, the Taiwan authorities announced a ban on the entry of mainlanders from Feb. 6 on the grounds of the pandemic, which prevented the arrival in Taiwan of the next batch of correspondents who were supposed to take over later that month. Originally, the stay in Taiwan was limited to 3 months, but now it has been extended repeatedly to more than 13 months.


If the initial ban was based on the considerations of preventing the pandemic, which had its justifications, then that the DPP authorities, to this day, still not opening up the entry of mainland professionals, is clearly due to political calculations, as the prevention and control of the pandemic on the mainland has long achieved significant results, and economic and social operations have gradually returned to normal.


In fact, from the beginning of 2020 to the end of the year, except to the sole ban on the mainland, the Taiwan authorities did not ban professionals from any other countries or regions. Such a naked "double standard" was repeatedly attacked by media on the island, but the DPP authorities have always turned a deaf ear and remained unmoved.


Political calculations are far from just obstructing cross-strait professional exchanges. In the past year, banning the export of masks to the mainland, banning children from cross-strait marriages from returning to Taiwan, banning mainland students from returning to school (in Taiwan), censoring children's picture books about the mainland's fight against the pandemic, rejecting vaccines from the mainland ...... these kinds of tricks are numerous. That they are driven by the "anti-China" ideology is an objective and fair assessment.


The mainland family and friends constantly asked about our return date. In addition to missing us, they had concerns and worries. "Be safe" is the most frequent advice I received from my elders, relatives, friends, and colleagues this past year.


The second question often asked, mainly from Taiwan compatriots: do you think the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will go to war?


Among those who raised this big and major issue, were Taiwanese friends of many years, Taiwanese counterparts who had met us for less than half an hour, and roadside restaurant owners. Some even joked: you should tell us before you "withdraw" to the mainland so that we could buy plane tickets to evacuate in time.


Their questions caught me off guard at first, and I didn't know how to answer. After being asked more often, my answer was mostly "it depends on Taiwan."


Whether there will be a conflict between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, (people) need to look at the root cause for possible conflicts.


From smearing and attacking the mainland, to "leaning on the United States against China," from suppressing groups and people within the island engaged in cross-strait exchanges, to frequent military purchases from the U.S., from meddling in Hong Kong affairs to various fiascos intended to "amend the constitution" and "correct its name," the "anti-China" rhetoric and reckless actions of the DPP authorities and "pro-independence" forces this year have continued to exacerbate tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Some experts on the island believe that 2020 is the most severe year for cross-strait relations in the past 40 years.


Therefore, the people of Taiwan were increasingly worried that the reckless behavior of the DPP authorities will lead to "accidental gunfire" across the Taiwan Strait, so much so that in the early morning hours of one September day, when there was suddenly intensive lightning and thunder in one part of the island, many netizens exclaimed "I thought the People's Liberation Army was coming" and rushed to post questions online. According to Taiwanese media reports, in October, public officials in southern Taiwan chatted over dinner about "what if the Communist Party of China really comes over one day?" One of those present replied, "Then we'll surrender!" Later, the gossipers were interviewed by higher authorities. When the news came to light and sparked a public backlash, people from relevant authorities involved said that the interview was not to punish them, but to "remind them."


Before "reminding" others, the DPP authorities should actually ask themselves: compared to the prosperous situations of cross-strait exchanges and cooperation in previous years, why has the DPP's promise to the people of Taiwan to "maintain the status quo" are in vain? Why has this year made people like birds startled by the mere twang of a bow-string?


Reducing people's concern for security should be the responsible actions of a responsible authority. Taiwan people's worries about "whether the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will go to war" are worth thinking thrice for the DPP authorities.


This year, people on the island concerned about the direction of cross-strait relations repeatedly called on the Democratic Progressive Party not to act as the "anti-China" pawn of the U.S., that the DPP should return to the peaceful development of cross-strait relations as soon as possible, and expressed in different ways deep concerns that"cross-strait relations could/might not go back."


As journalists who have been devoted to cross-strait relations for years, we are naturally worried about the current cross-strait relations. This year on the island, we often comforted our Taiwanese friends: look ahead.


"A thousand sails pass by the wrecked ship, and 10,000 saplings shoot up beyond the withered tree." Everything in the world "could not go back", will only go forward, and cross-strait relations are also the same. Cross-strait relations experienced ups and downs over the past decades, through winds and rains multiple times. The year 2020 may be somewhat special but is still only one point in the coordinate system in history. The tide of the times is swelling forward, a moment of turbulence against the current will eventually break like a bubble.


"I have no fear that floating clouds may blur my eyes, For on the peak am I." The general trend of cross-strait relations is indisputably clear. There is no winter that will not pass and no spring that will not come. In the common pursuit of a better life in the future and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait will surely share the prosperity, dignity, and glory that belong to all Chinese people. Enditem