China Predicts 'More Intense' Struggle With Taiwan and U.S. in 2022

A Chinese official predicted more tensions with Taiwan and "external forces" in 2022, warning Beijing could take "resolute measures" if its hand is forced.

Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing, told reporters in the year's final press conference on Wednesday that the state of relations across the Taiwan Strait would become "more complex and severe" in the new year.

China claims democratic Taiwan is part of its historical territory, but Taiwan says it is already a functionally independent state, whose citizens have no interest in being governed from Beijing. Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was reelected by a wide margin in January 2020 after promising to maintain the current "status quo" instead of acquiescing to Chinese leader Xi Jinping's "one country, two systems" model of nominal semi-autonomy—the same system employed in Hong Kong.

"We don't rule out a sharper and more intense struggle against the DPP's independence provocations and interference by external forces," said Ma, hinting at the United States, which has been Taipei's strongest international backer for decades, even after cutting formal diplomatic ties to recognize Beijing in 1979.

"China firmly believes it has the upper hand and the initiative in the Taiwan Strait," Ma told the briefing. He said China would continue to pursue the "peaceful unification" of both sides of the strait.

"But if separatist forces for Taiwan independence provoke us, force our hand or even cross a red line, we will be compelled to take resolute measures," he said, echoing the exact words Xi told President Joe Biden when the two leaders met virtually for a 3.5-hour summit on November 15.

Taiwan, a former Japanese colony for 50 years, was relinquished in 1945 at the close of World War II. It was reoccupied by the Nationalist-led Republic of China (ROC) government, which later moved its capital from mainland China to Taipei in 1949, following its defeat to Mao Zedong's Communists in the Chinese Civil War.

Mao's People's Republic of China has never governed Taiwan or its now 23.5 million people who continue to live under the ROC Constitution. While Beijing refuses to rule out the use of force to seize the island, Taipei looks to Washington for security assurances.

Despite strong hints from Biden himself, the U.S. has never openly declared an intention to defend the island from a Chinese attack. Officially, Washington takes no position on sovereignty over Taiwan; it considers its status undetermined. However, American policy has been to ensure cross-strait differences are resolved only by peaceful means.

China Struggle Against Taiwan and U.S. Intensifies
File: China’s President Xi Jinping attends a welcome banquet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on April 26, 2019. During a year-end press conference on December 29, 2021, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said it predicted more intense struggles with Taiwan and the United States in 2022. NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images