The one word that will enrage China as tensions flare

Taiwan has vowed to protect itself from increasing pressure from Beijing.

'Defend our country'.

That was the promise from Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense to the Saturday announcement China would carry out three days of military drills in the Taiwan Strait after President Tsai Ing-wen met with the US's House Speaker on Wednesday.

And while Taiwan's response to the drills is unsurprising, the choice of one word in particular will enrage Beijing.

China categorically rejects any use of the word country to describe Taiwan. It sees Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to do what it takes to reunify the democratic island state with the mainland under its "One China" principle.

China has long criticised describing Taiwan as a country by other nations and has pressured business entities to not use the word to describe Taiwan. Those that have have often faced boycotts from nationalistic citizens. Beijing's preferred wording for the island is Taiwan province or Taiwan (China).

FILE - In this undated file photo released by the Taiwan Ministry of Defense, a Chinese PLA J-16 fighter jet flies in an undisclosed location. The Chinese military held large-scale joint combat strike drills starting Sunday, Jan. 9, 2023, sending war planes and navy vessels toward Taiwan, both the Chinese and Taiwanese defense ministries said. (Taiwan Ministry of Defense via AP, File)
Chinese fighter jets were once again detected in the Taiwan Strait following Tsai's US visit. Source: AP, file.

Similarly Beijing takes umbrage with calling Tsai a president, which former foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian displayed last year when a Reuters reporter used her official title.

"Beijing does not recognise the legitimacy of the 'government' of Taiwan, so it dismisses any wording that confers 'central government' level status to Taiwan," Wen-Ti Sung, sessional lecturer in Taiwan Studies at the Australian National University, told Yahoo News Australia at the time.

"The Chinese Communist Party's propaganda department has an official media guide on the politically correct wordings on sensitive topics such as Taiwan."

China's unwavering resolve to thwart separatists

The People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, said in a commentary on Saturday that the government has "a strong ability to thwart any form of Taiwan independence secession".

"All countermeasures taken by the Chinese government belong to China's legitimate and legal right to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity," it said.

Tsai, who strongly rejects Beijing's sovereignty claims, has repeatedly offered talks with China but has been rebuffed as the government views her as a separatist, a view that will only have been solidified further after her visit to her most powerful ally and biggest threat to China. She argues only Taiwan's people can decide their future.

But there was a vastly contrasting take from China's foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Friday. She stressed: "The sovereignty and territory of China have never been divided and shall never be divided."

China had threatened unspecified retaliation if Tsai's US meeting were to take place. Beijing staged war games around Taiwan, including live fire missile launches, in August after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

However, unlike in August, China has yet to announce whether it will also stage missile drills. Then, China published a map at the same time as its announcement of the drills showing which maritime areas near Taiwan it would be firing into.

Taiwanese officials had expected a less severe reaction to the McCarthy meeting, given it took place in the United States, but they had said they could not rule out the possibility of China staging more drills.

With Reuters

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