The war of words between China and Taiwan continued this week after a senior elected official in Taipei suggested the island could respond to an invasion by launching missiles at Beijing.
The rare hint at potential retaliation didn't come from the government, but rather from Taiwan's parliamentary speaker, You Si-kun, who was one of three Taiwanese officials—along with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and Premier Su Tseng-chang—to be sanctioned by China late last year.
Speaking at a virtual event on Sunday, You departed from Taipei's usual emphasis on defense to note that Taiwan's domestically produced Yun Feng supersonic cruise missiles could reach Beijing. The secrecy surrounding the island's missile programs means the precise capability of the Yun Feng and its current production volume have never been publicly confirmed, although experts predict a maximum effective range of 1,200 miles—putting the Chinese capital just within reach.
"Taiwan of course would never invade China...nor would Taiwan actively strike Beijing or the Three Gorges Dam," You was quoted as saying. "But before China attacks Taiwan, it must consider Taiwan's existing capacity to strike Beijing...China should think twice before invading Taiwan."
China responded through its Taiwan Affairs Office on Wednesday, with spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang offering a relatively tame reply by his standards. In Beijing's vernacular, those refusing the "unification" of Taiwan with the mainland are supporters of "Taiwan independence," a phrase it reserves for the Taiwanese government, but which inevitably lumps in the millions who vote them into power.
"The ravings of stubborn pro-Taiwan independence members like You Si-kun only exposes their frenzied nature," said Ma. "If [they] dare strike a stone with an egg, it will only accelerate [their] demise."
Taiwan produces a range of missiles for anti-ship and anti-air defense, but its offensive capabilities are the subject of regular speculation.
In January, Taiwan's legislature approved an $8.55 billion special budget for the mass production of missiles. There were no references to the Yun Feng in particular, but the five-year funding is to be used on surface-to-surface cruise missiles, among other systems.
Over the years, the island's major platforms such as fighter aircraft and tanks have been purchased chiefly from the United States, which is now taking a more active role in assisting with Taiwan's defense planning.
Officials in Taipei and Washington have long understood Taiwan can't match China's military spending or its capabilities like for like. Last year, both governments reached a consensus about asymmetric warfighting capabilities for Taiwan—smaller, cheaper, more mobile and more survivable weapons systems that can target vulnerabilities in Beijing's invading force.
These asymmetric arms, which include man-portable rocket launchers like Stingers and Javelins, are being used to great effect in Ukraine's resistance against Russian forces. This has only increased Washington's belief in a doctrine of asymmetric warfare for Taipei.
During his talk over the weekend, Speaker You said the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait is a natural barrier that works toward Taiwan's advantage. If Chinese troops do land on Taiwan's beaches, however, it'll be up to every Taiwanese to resist, "just like the Ukrainians," he said.
"[Taiwan] must let China know that even if it crosses the Taiwan Strait and successfully lands, it will still pay a price," he was quoted as saying.