Beijing on 'much faster timeline' on Taiwan unification, Blinken warns

US secretary of state says Xi Jinping's government could resort to coercive or forceful measures to achieve objective

'We've seen a very different China emerge in recent years under Xi Jinping’s leadership,' US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. Reuters
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Beijing sees a “much faster timeline” for unifying with Taiwan than previously thought and that Chinese President Xi Jinping is leading the country in a more aggressive direction abroad.

Mr Xi is expected to secure an unprecedented third term as China's leader this week.

“We’ve seen a very different China emerge in recent years under Xi Jinping’s leadership,” Mr Blinken said on Monday during a forum at Stanford University that also featured former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and former defence secretary James Mattis.

Mr Blinken said China under Mr Xi has grown increasingly repressive domestically and more assertive internationally.

“In many instances, that poses a challenge to our own interests as well as to our own values,” Mr Blinken said.

He accused the Chinese president of changing the status quo towards Taiwan, and that a decades-long policy peacefully managed by both Democratic and Republican administrations was “up until recently, incredibly successful”.

“And instead of sticking with the status quo that was established in a positive way, a fundamental decision [was made] that the status quo was no longer acceptable and that Beijing was determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline,” Mr Blinken said.

The US says it remains committed to the One China policy through which Washington recognises Beijing as the sole government of China. The US does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but does send defence equipment to the territory.

China has long said that it seeks a “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan. On Monday, Mr Blinken said that Mr Xi could use coercive or forceful means to achieve unification.

“And that is what is profoundly disrupting the status quo and creating tremendous tension,” he said.

Tension between the US and China have grown increasingly fraught since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August — to which Beijing responded by conducting live-fire military drills near the territory.

China condemned the visit as a breach of the One China policy, but Mr Blinken said the US remains committed to the concept.

“We are determined to make good on our commitments to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act and supporting their ability to defend themselves … We also remain fundamentally committed to the One China policy as well,” Mr Blinken said. “That hasn’t changed. That won’t change.”

Mr Xi and President Joe Biden could potentially meet on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, next month in what would be their first face-to-face encounter since the US leader took office.

Updated: October 18, 2022, 3:59 PM