“If the Democratic Progressive Party [Taiwan’s ruling party] declares independence (台独), then we must go to war without hesitation,” said Yin Zhuo, Rear Admiral of the Chinese Navy, in an interview on March 5. “If [they] declare independence, we will use military force to bring about unification, we must be very clear about that.”

In the interview, Yin Zhuo further explained that any action by the Taiwanese government that can be interpreted as a step towards independence would be regarded as a cause for war. Independence, he stated, “includes steps towards ‘de jure independence’ such as amending the Constitution, changing the name of the country or the national anthem.”

Yin Zhuo currently serves as a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and as chairman of the Expert Consultative Committee of the Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Informatization,

Yin warned the United States that, regardless of what Americans say, “this piece of land [Taiwan] belongs to us, the Chinese people, this is our sovereign right and they have no right to interfere!”

He argued that it is imperative for China as a “powerful country” to bring about national unification. “China is one of the world’s superpowers, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, now our GDP is the world’s second largest, but we are the only power that has not yet achieved national unification. This is an issue that must urgently be solved in order to advance the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” he stated.

He rebuked US meddling in China’s internal affairs, reaffirming Beijing’s determination not to let foreign interference curtail Chinese sovereign rights. “Whether we go to war or not, is our own decision,” he said, adding that he hoped unification would be brought about by peaceful means, through economic integration, political cooperation, cultural as well as people-to-people exchanges.

Taiwan’s economic “marginalization” and the growing strength of mainland China’s military might will convince the Taiwanese people to join a powerful state such as the People’s Republic of China as one of its Special Administrative Regions, he was quoted as saying.

In the interview Yin Zhuo criticized former Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou for being too “hesitant” during his tenure in promoting unification and for “not taking any significant steps” towards this goal.

In Taiwan itself, however, Ma Ying-jeou is viewed as a pro-Chinese politician. He supports the so-called 1992 consensus, according to which Taiwan is part of China, but Taipei and Beijing have different interpretations on the meaning of “one China”. For Taipei, China is the Republic of China. For Beijing, it is the People’s Republic of China.

In a report made available on March 3, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reaffirmed that Beijing  “will never tolerate any activity, in any form or name, which attempts to separate Taiwan from the motherland.”

It appears unlikely that Beijing’s threats will change Taiwan’s public opinion in favour of unification. Ma Ying-jeou’s party, the Guomindang, suffered a crushing defeat in the 2014 presidential elections. It is widely believed that voters punished the Guomindang for its too close ties with the Communist Party in Beijing. In a poll released last year, over 80% of respondents identified themselves as Taiwanese, while only 8.1% identified themselves as Chinese.

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