March 17, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9238

Prof. Tang Yonghong, Deputy Director Of Taiwan Research Center At Xiamen University: China-U.S. Relations Can Be Normalized Only After Taiwan Reunifies With The Mainland

March 17, 2021
China | Special Dispatch No. 9238

The U.S.'s changed strategic posture toward a rising mainland China, and corresponding political and attitudinal shifts in Taiwan, make it more urgent than ever for Beijing to force Taiwan's "unification" with the mainland under Communist Party rule, a prominent professor at Xiamen University writes in Duowei.[1]

Prof. Tang Yonghong, Deputy Director of the Taiwan Research Center at Xiamen University, analyzes the shift in American strategic thinking under former president Donald Trump and new President Joseph Biden in the February 28, 2021 article. He discusses the major political shifts in Taiwan away from the "one China" concept and toward independence, and concludes that Beijing must act quickly to absorb Taiwan.

Tang's views carry considerable weight, since he is also a special researcher at the Cross-Strait Relations Research Center of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China. If trends continue, Tang argues, the "Chinese mainland will have to break diplomatic relations with the United States and use force against Taiwan."

Below is Tang's article:[2]


"Joe Biden and the Democrats are in office. It is widely believed that under Biden and the Democratic Party, U.S. policy on China and Taiwan will be different from that of Trump, who represented the Republican Party and opposed the U.S. establishment, and therefore the China-U.S. and Cross-Strait relations may present a different situation. However, I believe that the situation in China-U.S. relations and Cross-Strait relations will ease somewhat at present because the U.S. is busy with other priorities, but it will be more serious in the medium and long term.

"This is determined by the structural contradictions between the old and the new in China-U.S. relations: The hegemonic culture and behavioral logic of the United States, the reality that the most cost-effective means for the United States to realize its national strategy is to play the 'Taiwan card,' the structural contradictions between the old and the new in Cross-Strait relations, the qualitative change of Taiwan's social ecology, and the Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities' attempt to seek the so-called national normalization of Taiwan (Taiwan independence).

Tang Yonghong (Source:

I. The Nature Of China-U.S. Structural Contradictions And The Trend Of China-U.S. Relations

"As we all know, the rise of mainland China in the past nearly 40 years and its tendency to surpass the United States have led to the gradual change of international political and economic patterns and game rules. Since 2010, the United States has determined that this situation and change are generally detrimental to its hegemonic strategy and national interests, and that its previous policy of engagement and exchange, which was aimed at peaceful evolution of China, has generally failed.

"The actual conflict of national strategies and interests, coupled with the inherent differences in cultural concepts, values, social systems, ideologies and other aspects of development paths between China and the United States, present current China-American relations with many irreconcilable structural contradictions that are intertwined with the old and the new.

"Marked by the National Security Strategy of the United States of America issued at the end of 2017 and the National Defense Strategy of the United States issued at the beginning of 2018, the 'New Cold War Mentality' has become the consensus of the U.S. The United States clearly regards mainland China as its primary strategic competitor.

"This is a sign of a turning point in America's strategy towards China. In May 2020, the United States issued the United States Strategic Approach to the People's Republic of China, which is a symbol of the stability of the United States' strategy toward China. On July 23, 2020, then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered the 'New Iron Curtain Speech,' or the 'New Cold War proclamation' in the Nixon Library, calling for the 'free world' to form a 'new coalition of democratic nations' to contain China and to alienate the Chinese people from the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government.

"The above-mentioned actions of the United States clearly show the nature of China-U.S. relations in the eyes of the Americans at present. They indicate the fundamental change of the United States' strategy and policy towards China, from the previous engagement and exchange policy aimed at peaceful evolution of the Chinese mainland to the strategic competition policy aimed at containment and besiegement of the Chinese mainland. This change, together with a series of corresponding actions carried out by the United States against China in the past three years, clearly shows that China and the U.S. have fallen into the 'Thucydides Trap.' [Editor's note: The Thucydides Trap, as formulated by former senior Pentagon official Graham Allison, is an "inevitable" disruption caused by a rising power that threatens to displace a dominant power, creating "structural stress" that make "a violent clash the rule, not the exception." Allison coined the term after studying major conflicts since the time of ancient Greece, and applied it to the U.S.-China rivalry.[3]

'Structural Contradictions In China-U.S. Relations' Are 'Irreconcilable'

"The structural contradictions in China-U.S. relations are difficult to reconcile because of the overbearing culture of the U.S. and the logic of 'if you are strong, you are bad for me.' As we can see, it has become the consensus of the United States to contain, encircle and suppress the development of the Chinese mainland. The United States has started a 'New Cold War' against China.

"The irreconcilable structural contradictions in China-U.S. relations determine that the strategic competition between China and the U.S. will not stop until it comes to a conclusion.

"In this context, the future China-U.S. relations will mainly revolve around the resolution of the Thucydides Trap, during which the buffer will be the 'interdependent' China-U.S. economic interest relationship formed by globalization. But the interwoven economic interests are not enough to resolve the overall conflicts and prevent clashes and confrontations between China and the United States.

Threat Of War Might Force 'Peaceful But Painful Ways' For China And U.S. To Resolve Conflicts

"The only reason for cautious optimism is that the mutual destruction of each other's power will allow the realist United States to forgo the option of solving the issues between the two countries by direct military war (but perhaps a proxy war to achieve its goal), essentially guaranteeing that China and the United States will have to find peaceful but painful ways to resolve their conflicts.

"Based on the above logic, in general, the relationship of interests between China and the U.S., formed by globalization, will remain in a fighting and unbroken situation in the near term. In the medium term, irreconcilable structural problems may break the relationship. In the long run, China-U.S. relations will be rebuilt once the Thucydides Trap issue is resolved.

"At present, the United States needs to give priority to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery, social division and repairing relations with its allies, and should not focus its energy on dealing with the issues of China-U.S. relations. But with the success or failure of those priorities, the United States is likely to put China-U.S. relations at the top of its agenda again.

"In the near term, in view of the huge interests of China-U.S. relations in reality, it is difficult to give up for the time being, and the cooperation of mainland China is indispensable in many current international affairs.

"Therefore, the United States, which pursues realism, will not break China-U.S. relations, but will launch a comprehensive Cold War against China, as well as comprehensive competition and containment. As a result, the United States has adjusted its policy toward China from the engagement and evolution of the past, to engagement and containment, adopting a policy orientation of engagement but more containment, and attempting to seek more benefits from engagement by strengthening containment.

U.S. Is 'Taking Advantage' During The Pandemic To Fuel Global 'Ideological Confrontation' Against China

"To this end, the United States is taking advantage of all kinds of opportunities and conditions, not just to use the 'combination blow,' but also to raise the conflict between the interests of China and the United States to the level of ideological confrontation in the international community.

"The United States is attempting to 'form an international coalition to maul China,' including adopting an 'offshore balancing' strategy. The United States is resorting to or will resort to playing the trade card, the investment card, the financial card, the science and technology card, the human rights card, the democracy card, the Xinjiang card, the Tibet card, the Hong Kong card, the Taiwan card, the South China Sea card, the East China Sea card, the Indian card, and the Korean Peninsula card. It is using other bargaining chips. It has started, or is starting, or will start a trade war, an investment war, a financial war, a science and technology war, etc., attempting to adopt a strategy of dividing China internally and building an external coalition to cope with China to continuously strengthen containment against the Chinese mainland.

"According to American culture and logic, China's strength is a threat and disadvantage to the United States. Therefore, in the medium term, due to the irreconcilable structural contradictions between China and the United States, the relationship between China and the United States will not only fail to be optimistic, but may well break down unless China fully accepts the unreasonable demands of the United States.

'Reunification' Of Taiwan With The Communist-Run Mainland Will Strip America Of Its 'Taiwan Card'

"But China should be unlikely to accept America's unreasonable demands because that would mean giving up the 'Chinese dream,' including the dream of 'rejuvenation' and 'reunification.'

"In the process of strategic competition between China and the United States, the Taiwan card will be played by the United States at all times, unless the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are reunified. The United States believes that the Taiwan card is the most cost-effective one. It is particularly noteworthy that the United States is trying the policy of 'double recognition' from the perspective of its recent Taiwan-related legislation and Taiwan-related actions.

"In fact, the recent Taiwan-related legislation is providing a legal basis for the normalization of relations between the United States and Taiwan. It is also the first attempt of 'double recognition' at the legislative level. The recent joint military training conducted by the U.S. military in Taiwan for the first time in military uniforms, the request of a U.S. military aircraft to make a forced landing in Taiwan under the pretext of landing gear failure, the successive visits by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Deputy Secretary of State to Taiwan, the U.S.-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue, and the attempt of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to visit Taiwan are not only a test of the mainland China's bottom line, but also an attempt at the practical level of 'normalization of U.S.-Taiwan relations.'

'If China Wins' Early, The U.S. 'Will Give Up The Chess Piece Of Taiwan'

"In the long run, China-U.S. relations will be rebuilt once the Thucydides Trap issue is resolved. As a result of the strategic competition between China and the United States, if China wins and the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are reunified, the United States, which pursues realism, will give up the chess piece of Taiwan, the real normalization of China-American relations will be realized, and China can achieve the goal of rejuvenation.

'If The United States Wins,' China Will Have A Problem Realizing Its 'Dream Of Reunification'

"However, if the Taiwan issue is to be resolved after the breakdown of China-U.S. relations, it is highly likely that the United States will send troops to defend Taiwan, and China will inevitably pay a huge price. As a result of the strategic competition between China and the United States, if the United States wins, it will be difficult for the Chinese mainland to realize not only the 'dream of rejuvenation' but also the 'dream of reunification.' The 'Taiwan independence' forces will not only realize the 'normalization of relations between Taiwan and the United States' when China-U.S. relations break down, but also may realize the so-called 'national normalization' (Taiwan independence) of Taiwan with the support of the United States.

"In terms of the damage caused by U.S. strategy and policy towards China to the Chinese mainland, I prefer the lesser of the two evils, and would rather Trump was re-elected as U.S. president. In fact, Trump is a typical businessman who does not understand economics, let alone international relations. He adopted the 'Seven damage fist fighting techniques,' hurting the United States itself as well as others. He was a drunken, haphazard fighter, wounding U.S. allies as well as foes. Because of the relative decline of U.S. power, it is difficult for the United States to lead in the multilateral system.

Trump 'Accelerated The Loss Of The United States' Hard And Soft Power'

"At the same time, in order to save money, Trump constantly pulled the United States out of international organizations and gave up its responsibility as a great power. Instead, Trump adopted a one-to-one approach to fight alone, trying to force others to submit based on the comparative strength advantage of the U.S. and to construct new game rules in his favor.

"On the one hand, Trump's actions have accelerated the loss of the United States' hard and soft power and narrowed the gap between China and the U.S. in terms of comprehensive power. On the other hand, it is difficult to form a coalition to contain and suppress mainland China. His continuous 'quitting' from international groups was also objectively conducive to the gradual 'group building' of mainland China and its construction of new international game rules.

"In fact, facing the pattern of 'interdependent' interests formed by globalization, the European Union, Japan and other traditional allies of the United States have to act cautiously. Even the United States does not dare to rashly decouple from mainland China in the near future. The U.S. establishment headed by Biden, though its behavior is apparently predictable. It will follow multilateral rules relatively, but at the same time, it will think more rationally and take the way of not hurting itself, or hurting itself as little as possible to repair the relationship with its traditional allies, and thus find it easier to build a new coalition, so as to more effectively contain, encircle, and suppress mainland China.

II. The Nature Of Cross-Strait Structural Contradictions And The Trend Of Cross-Strait Relations

"While U.S. strategy toward China has undergone fundamental changes, Taiwan's opinion polls and the results of previous 'general elections' all show that several major qualitative changes have taken place in Taiwan's social ecology and structure. The first change is the development of political parties, which comes from the quantitative change of 'Kuomintang (KMT)'s retrogressing and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)'s progressing,' the qualitative change has been realized from the past 'strong KMT and weak DPP' to the present 'weak KMT and strong DPP.'

"The second change is ideological, marked by the quantitative shift of 'the Kuomintang-led blue camp's decline and the Democratic Progressive Party-led green camp's growth.' The qualitative change has been realized from the past 'big blue camp and small green camp' to the present 'small blue camp and big green camp.' (Nearly 60% of Taiwanese people support green camp political forces such as the Democratic Progressive Party, and less than 40% of Taiwanese people support the Kuomintang and other blue camp political forces.)

"Third, in terms of national identity, a qualitative shift from the past 'one country on both sides of the Taiwan Strait' to the present 'one China, one Taiwan' means the gradual alienation of the national identity of One China. (Nearly 70% of Taiwanese people hold the positions of 'one country on one side' or 'one China, one Taiwan.' Fewer than 25% of Taiwanese people grudgingly agree that the two sides belong to the same country.)

"Fourth, in terms of the will to unification and independence, we find the quantitative change of 'unification forces declining and independent forces growing.' The qualitative change from the past 'pursuit of unity' to the present 'pursuit of independence' has been realized. (More than 60% of Taiwanese people agree with future independence of Taiwan; fewer than 20% agree with future unification with Chinese mainland.)

"Fifth, we find a shift terms of the forces of unification and independence. There is a quantitative change of 'unification forces declining and independent forces growing,' coupled with a qualitative change from 'big unification forces and small independence forces' of the past to 'small unification forces and big independence forces' at present.

"The changes in the structure of Taiwan's social ecology from quantitative change to qualitative change are basically intuitively reflected in the changes in the vote percentages won by the candidates for the Taiwan region leadership launched by the Kuomintang and the Democratic Progressive Party (or the blue and green camps) respectively in Taiwan's previous general elections. Those elections changed the legislative seats won by the candidates of the Kuomintang and the Democratic Progressive Party (or the blue-green camps) in the so-called 'legislators' elections.

The Polls Show The Strategic Shift In Taiwan

"The five major qualitative changes in the current social ecology of Taiwan have been repeatedly revealed by the author's previous internal opinion polls and numerous public opinion polls in Taiwan.

"Polls from all sides show that in terms of national identity and the nature of Cross-Strait relations, nearly 70% of the people in Taiwan believe that the two sides are two different countries.

"Even the so-called 'one China Principle with respective interpretations' is not the general opinion in Taiwan, and less than a quarter of Taiwanese people agree that the two sides belong to the same country in a broad sense.

"In terms of the development orientation of Cross-Strait relations, the poll also shows that the main tendency (nearly 80%) of the Taiwanese people on the development direction of Cross-Strait relations is still to maintain the status quo, however, among those in favor of maintaining the status quo, the proportion of those favoring independence is about three times that of those favoring reunification.

"More than 60 per cent of Taiwanese people disapprove of eventual reunification of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, which is more than three times that of those in favor of ultimate reunification. More than 60 per cent of the people in Taiwan agree that Taiwan should eventually achieve independence and become a new country, which is about three times that of those who disapprove.

"The qualitative changes of Taiwan's social ecology, on the one hand, mean that the green camp's political forces, such as the Democratic Progressive Party, have entered the harvest period of 'political correctness.' They may not only be in power for a long time on Taiwan island, but will also rely on the support of public opinion and the opportunity of the changes of U.S. policy toward China to further engage in separatist activities of 'Taiwan independence' on and off the island. (The DPP authorities have already been violating Chinese mainland's core interests in terms of territory, sovereignty, security and development.)

"On the other hand, they also mean that the nature of the main contradiction between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait has changed qualitatively, from the previous contradiction of competing for national representation ('internal contradiction') to the contradiction of splitting national sovereignty and safeguarding national sovereignty (pursuing unity or pursuing independence, secession or anti-secession – a 'contradiction between ourselves and the enemy'). This has not only caused the continuous development of confrontation between the two sides of the strait, but also impacted the possibility of peaceful reunification between the two sides, affecting the cost of reunification and the cost of governance after reunification, which will force Chinese mainland to strengthen 'opposing independence and promoting reunification.'

"In fact, Taiwan has long and often declared itself to be a separate country from China, but the 'country' has not been 'normalized' because of China's repression. The reason why Taiwan has not dared to amend the 'Constitution of the Republic of China' to exclude the mainland from its territory is because of the strong comprehensive strength of the mainland, especially its military force. After all, most people in Taiwan have not yet reached the realm of 'ideological Taiwan independence' and are not willing to sacrifice their lives and property to pursue 'Taiwan independence.'

III. The Collusion Between The U.S. And Taiwan And The Trend Of China-U.S. Relations And Cross-Strait Relations

"At the same time, facing the ebb and flow of Cross-Strait strength, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and other political forces of the green camp are well aware that without substantial support from international forces, especially the United States, it will be difficult to achieve their separatist goal of so-called 'national normalization,' that is, 'Taiwan independence.'

"In addition, the Democratic Progressive Party and other political forces of the green camp are well aware that if China-U.S. relations remain unbroken, Taiwan will not become the core interest of the United States, but will only be used as a chess piece by the United States. The realist United States will not send troops to protect Taiwan. At most, it will only support Taiwan in the fields of public opinion, intelligence, and arms sales.

DPP Is Working With U.S. To 'Support Taiwan Independence' And 'Drive A Wedge' Against CCP

"For this reason, the political forces of the green camp represented by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and their ruling authorities have been seeking and creating opportunities and conditions for the United States to support Taiwan independence, including driving a wedge between China and the United States, in order to accelerate the break-up of China-U.S. relations. In recent years, [Taiwanese President] Tsai Ing-wen has also repeatedly called for the formation of an international coalition to resist mainland China's attempt to reunify Taiwan, ensure Taiwan's security and achieve its independence.

"Against the background of fundamental changes in U.S. strategy toward China, as well as qualitative changes in Taiwan's social ecology, the need for and the strength of collusion and mutual utilization between the U.S. and Taiwan is stronger than at any time since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the U.S.

"In practice, the United States is trying the policy of 'double recognition' across the Taiwan Strait, while the Taiwan DPP authorities are not only 'relying on the United States to seek independence,' but are also 'uniting the United States to contain mainland China.'

The U.S. Has Been Building The Legal Structures To Recognize Taiwan

"The U.S. policy toward Taiwan is based on its own interests and mainly serves its strategy towards China. With the fundamental change of its China strategy, U.S. policy toward Taiwan has correspondingly undergone a major change. In fact, in order to induce the Taiwan DPP authorities to be willing to act as their pawn to contain the Chinese mainland, the United States in recent years has successively passed the Taiwan Travel Act, the Taiwan Assurance Act of 2020, the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019, and other acts of legislation that are conducive to the normalization of U.S.-Taiwan relations. These acts provide a legal basis for various systems in the United States to carry out relevant works. Of course, these U.S. laws are also the result of silver bullet lobbying by Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party and other political forces in the green camp.

"The reason why the United States chooses to play the Taiwan card is that on the one hand, the United States knows that Taiwan particularly needs the support of the United States in terms of security and its so-called 'national normalization' (namely, 'Taiwan independence'), so playing the Taiwan card is feasible. On the other hand, the United States also knows that the Taiwan issue bears on China's territory and sovereignty. It is China's core interest, but not the core interest of the United States itself. Therefore, playing the Taiwan card is efficient and most cost-effective, with the lowest cost. China-U.S. relations are likely to deteriorate further as the United States is expected to further play the Taiwan card in order to implement its established strategic approach toward China.

"On the other hand, Taiwan's DPP authorities have noticed that the current U.S. strategy toward China is undergoing major changes. They believe that it is a good time to cooperate with the United States and obtain substantial support. Under the background of major adjustment of U.S. strategy towards China, the DPP authorities, relying on the public opinion base that the people on Taiwan Island are obviously alienated from China's national identity and constantly tend to be independent, seized the opportunity of major adjustment of America's strategy towards China. They climbed into the American chariot to contain Chinese mainland without hesitation, and were willing to 'stand at the forefront of the world's resistance to China's pressure' (Tsai Ing-Wen's words).

"While seeking the anti-China forces of the United States to support its 'Taiwan independence' and 'anti-reunification,' the DPP authorities are actively cooperating with the United States to curb the development of the Chinese mainland. In fact, with the qualitative changes in Taiwan's social ecology, Taiwan is not only endangering China's core interests in territory, sovereignty and security, but also becoming a stumbling block to China's national development and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

"The United States is playing the Taiwan card while Taiwan is playing the 'U.S. card.' Their collusion and mutual exploitation will not only further worsen China-U.S. relations, but also further aggravate the confrontation in Cross-Straits relations.

"In fact, since the Democratic Progressive Party came to power in Taiwan in late May 2016, the Taiwan authorities have refused to accept the '1992 Consensus' or its core meaning of 'both sides of the strait belong to one country,' hindering cross-strait social and cultural exchanges, promoting 'de-Sinicization,' and promoting its so-called 'national normalization,' that is, 'Taiwan independence' separatist goal. Meanwhile it calls for the formation of an international coalition and attempts to use international forces to hinder the development of the mainland and block Cross-Strait reunification.

If Trends Continue, The 'Chinese Mainland Will Have To Break Diplomatic Relations With The United States And Use Force Against Taiwan'

"The Taiwan authorities have infringed on the core interests of the Chinese mainland in terms of territory, sovereignty, security and development, leading in many aspects to the increasingly confrontational situation in the Cross-Strait relations.

"First, is the confrontation between Cross-Strait public opinions, that is, the confrontation between the mainland's public opinion seeking reunification and Taiwan's public opinion seeking independence.

"The second is the confrontation between political parties on both sides of the strait, that is, the confrontation between the Chinese Communist Party which is pursuing reunification and the Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party which is pursuing independence.

"The third is the confrontation between the lines pursued by the two sides of the strait, that is, the confrontation between the reunification line pursued by the Chinese mainland and the independence line pursued by Taiwan.

"Fourth, Cross-Strait policy confrontation, that is, the confrontation between the mainland's implementation of integrated development policy and Taiwan's implementation of separate development policy.

"Fifth is the international confrontation between the two sides of the strait, that is, the confrontation between the two sides for the international field and space.

"The sixth is Cross-Strait military confrontation, that is, the military confrontation triggered by Cross-Strait military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.

"It is well known that in recent years, the United States and Taiwan have been colluding with each other and taking advantage of each other, and the trend is becoming more and more pressing. If this situation continues, it may push Chinese mainland into a corner. At that time, Chinese mainland will have to break diplomatic relations with the United States and use force against Taiwan."


[1], March 7, 2021. It is worth noting that when it was founded in New York in 1999 by Pin Ho, Duowei, which is a news opinion website, recruited several dissidents to write for it; it was considered a "dissident outlet." In 2009, due to poor management, Duowei was sold to the CCP-backed businessman Yu Pun-hoi, and its headquarters were moved to Beijing. Since then, it has become one of the semi-official news outlets that the Chinese government uses to test public opinion in the Chinese-speaking diaspora. Duowei News cannot be accessed from within China.

[2], February 28, 2021.

[3] Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape the Thucydides Trap? (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), pp. xv-xvi.

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