Taiwan foresees more Chinese coercion, intimidation in Xi's next term

By Yimou Lee

TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan expects China to increase its coercion and intimidation to achieve its goal of bringing the island under Beijing's control once President Xi Jinping assumes a third term in office, a senior Taiwanese minister said on Thursday.

Beijing's once-in-five years leadership reshuffle is set for the Communist Party congress that starts Oct. 16, where Xi is poised to break with precedent and secure a third leadership term.

China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has ramped up military and political pressure to assert sovereignty claims, including staging war games near the island in August after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

Speaking to lawmakers, Chiu Tai-san, the head of Taiwan's China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council, said Xi will further consolidate his power at the party congress.

"Following that, the strength of the Chinese Communist Party will gradually expand, along with the continuous emphasis on promoting the reunification process in its development strategy," Chiu said.

"We believe that the Beijing authorities' work on Taiwan has entered the stage of strengthening the practice of the so-called 'anti-independence and promoting reunification'," he added

China will do this by using "coercion and intimidation", "grey zone" activities and international law to "interfere with and hinder Taiwan's interaction and cooperation with the international community to achieve its goals towards Taiwan", Chiu said.

Speaking at a parallel session in parliament, Taiwan's National Security Bureau Director-General Chen Ming-tong said Xi was using Taiwan as a way to stay in power.

"It has been his position that the Taiwan issue can't be passed onto the next generations anymore, so he's using the Taiwan issue as an excuse to extend his term," Chen said.

"As a result he can't just do nothing about Taiwan. However, if he settles the Taiwan issue then he has no excuse for another term."

As a result, Chen said, Taiwan must make preparations to make China "pay a great price" for attacking the island, including consequences for its economy and foreign relations.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, but has also pledged to work for peaceful "reunification" with Taiwan under a "one country, two systems" model.

All mainstream Taiwanese political parties have rejected that proposal and it has almost no public support, according to opinion polls.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office did not answer calls seeking comment. The country is in the middle of a weeklong national holiday.

China refuses to speak to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, re-elected by a landslide in 2020 on a promise to stand up to Beijing, believing she is a separatist. Tsai has repeatedly offered talks based on parity and mutual respect.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)