Chinese National Defense Minister Li Shangfu, making his debut on the international stage, told attendees at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Sunday that the communist nation’s military would attack “without any hesitation” against any allies of Taiwan seeking to support the nation’s independence from Beijing.
Li spent most of his address at the event, an annual platform for the world’s most powerful military leaders to discuss the future of national defense, promoting the Communist Party’s “Global Security Initiative,” a proposal by genocidal dictator Xi Jinping discouraging countries from acting in the interest of their own defense and instead proposing undefined “win-win cooperation.”
Li insisted China was a pioneer in world peace, repeatedly condemning the United States – without naming America – as a force for “hegemony” and “self-serving” clique-forming. Li also pressured America to no longer maintain a presence in the South China Sea, where China illegally claims territory belonging to Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and regularly attacks non-Chinese ships legally present in their own domestic waters.
“Today, what Asia-Pacific needs are big pies of open and inclusive cooperation, not small cliques that are self-serving and exclusive,” China’s state-run CGTN broadcaster quoted Li as saying.
“China is ready to work with all other parties to build stronger security and confidence-building systems, promote more equitable security rules, improve multilateral security mechanisms and carry out more effective defense and security cooperation,” CGTN paraphrased Li as saying.
“China calls for mutual respect which should prevail over bullying and hegemony, fairness and justice should transcend the law of the jungle, eliminating conflicts and confrontation through mutual trust and consultation and preventing bloc confrontation with openness and inclusiveness.”
Li claimed that American “freedom of navigation” exercises in the South China Sea, in which the U.S. Navy sails in international waters as a sign of rejection of China’s illegal claims, were in reality “hegemony of navigation” exercises and an attempt to “muddy the waters to rake in profits,” without elaborating. He urged neighbors to “firmly reject” freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea.
Li then proceeded to address Taiwan, threatening to attack anyone who recognized Taiwan’s sovereignty.
“If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity without any hesitation, at all cost, and not fearing any opponent,” the Defense Ministry quoted Li as saying. The press statement from the Ministry on Li’s speech emphasized his remarks on Taiwan, rather than his called for Chinese communists’ definition of “peace.”
“How to solve the Taiwan question is Chinese people’s own business, which brooks no foreign interference,” Li reportedly said. “The authorities of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) seek independence by colluding with foreign forces and some external forces use Taiwan to contain China. They are the biggest troublemakers in changing the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.”
The DPP is the ruling party of Taiwan, an anti-communist, pro-democracy party. Taiwan is a sovereign, stable, and wealthy nation off the coast of China with no history of having been ruled by Beijing and no political ties to China. Despite this, China falsely claims the country as a rogue “province” and forces countries wishing to maintain diplomatic relations with the Communist Party, including America, to deny the reality of Taiwan’s sovereignty. Thanks to China’s threats, only 13 countries in the world recognize Taiwan as a country.
The government of Taiwan responded to Li’s speech by noting that the date it took place, June 4, is the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, one of the bloodiest individual incidents in communist Chinese history. In response to peaceful pro-democracy protests in the Beijing square largely led by college students, the Communist Party deployed its military to physically crush protesters, beat them publicly, and kill them. The true death toll of the massacre remains unknown to this day, but estimates reach into the thousands.
The Communist Party has heavily censored the massacre within China, effectively erasing it from history. Online, even mentions of the numbers six and four, the date of the slaughter, are banned near the anniversary. In occupied areas such as Hong Kong, the incident is mentioned but officials deny that it was a massacre at all; communists in Hong Kong banned the traditional candlelight vigil for the victims of the massacre in the city following the wave of pro-democracy protests in 2019.
“On the Tiananmen Square massacre remembrance day, [Chinese] generals threaten to use force against Taiwan to deprive us of our freedom & democracy,” Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said in a statement posted to social media following Li’s speech. “We’ll stay free & resilient to remind the Chinese people there’s hope.”
The Taiwanese Mainland Affairs Council also published a statement in honor of the June 4 anniversary demanding China “face up to the historical facts after its violent crackdown on June 4, 1989, on the students and protesters demanding political reforms.”
“The Beijing authorities should learn from the Tiananmen Square Incident and realize that using force would only bring unbearable and severe consequences,” the statement read. “They should respect Taiwanese people’s firm stance on our sovereignty and dignity and renounce all forceful or coercive means in their handling of cross-Strait relations.”
Li’s comments on Taiwan fell short of the peak of Chinese belligerence – when Xi Jinping promised, in a 2019 speech, that supporters of the reality of Taiwan’s independence (and Hong Kong, Macau, and East Turkistan pro-democracy forces) would have their “bones ground to powder” – but nonetheless threatened violence against fellow attendees to the Shangri-La Dialogue to conquer Taiwan. Despite its inherently violent nature, China’s propaganda outlets rapidly began claiming that Li’s remarks were an example of “world peace and development.”
The speech, the state-run propaganda outlet Global Times claimed, was “a stark contrast to US’ divisive and bloc confrontation approach reflected in the speech by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ‘US’ leadership in the Indo-Pacific.'” The newspaper notably did not quote any objectionable part of Austin’s speech as, in reality, Austin repeatedly discussed forging global cohesion and opposing violence. Unlike Li, Austin did not use his speech to threaten a military attack on any other country – and, unlike Li, Austin named China as a “bullying” rogue force.
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