No timeline for Taiwan unification, Chinese official says

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Beijing has no timetable for unification with Taiwan, a senior Chinese diplomat in Washington said, pushing back on American warnings that the Asian nation is seeking to speed up its plans for seizing the democratically run island.

Jing Quan, the No. 3 official at the Chinese embassy in Washington, said “we don’t want to use force against the island” but added that Beijing needs the capability to deter the government in Taipei from declaring independence.

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“Some people are talking about five years, ten years, 2035, 2049 – I don’t think so,” he said Wednesday in a speech to the Institute for China-America Studies. “We want to get united as soon as possible, but we don’t have a timeline.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that Beijing was trying to “speed up its seizure of the island.” He also accused China of undermining the decades-long status quo that has prevented the two countries from going to war over Taiwan. The US chief of naval operations, Admiral Mike Gilday, warned earlier in October that China could attack before 2024.

While Chinese President Xi Jinping did not set out a timetable for Beijing to act on Taiwan at the Communist Party’s leadership congress in October, there are fears that options for unification have narrowed since he clinched a norm-defying third term in office. That’s partly because his government stokes nationalist sentiment, raising expectations among the public that China is ready to act aggressively.

China has said its preference is for Taiwan to accept its rule under a Hong Kong-style governance model. This idea is deeply unpopular with the Taiwanese public.

Beijing blames the US for escalating cross-strait tensions with its support for Taiwan, including through arms sales and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August visit to Taipei.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory, though the government in Taipei says that it is already a de facto nation in need of more recognition on the world stage.

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