After the People’s Liberation Army took control of China’s northeast in 1948, the two million residents of Beijing spent months waiting nervously for their city to be captured. Encircled by the PLA and with no chance of relief, a deadly fight was in prospect if Fu Zuoyi, commander of the KMT troops garrisoned in the ancient city, opted to make a final stand.
Lobbied by his own daughter, who turned out to be a Communist spy, Fu surrendered. As a result he was deemed a traitor by the KMT but his decision saved countless lives from being lost in street fighting. For most Beijing civilians, both he and his daughter Fu Dongju were heroes.
Almost forgotten in recent decades, Fu Dongju’s name has been brought up again in recent weeks by analysts looking back at the lessons of the Chinese Civil War. Fu’s name was recalled after Andrew Hsia, vice chairman of the KMT, led a delegation to visit Xiamen city in the mainland this month.
A trip that began last week is expected to take 17 days (including 10 days of quarantine in a hotel in Xiamen). Senior KMT officials have described it as a ‘fact-finding’ mission to boost cross-Strait communications. Yet coming at a time when the PLA was still conducting live-fire drills near Taiwan in retaliation over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island, Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen denounced Hsia’s visit as having a hidden agenda and as the KMT collaborating with “an enemy state”. Members of Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPP) claimed the KMT was kowtowing to Beijing even as the PLA was firing missiles over the heads of Taiwanese. Hsia, meanwhile, countered that even Tsai herself has said she is open to communication with the mainland authorities.
That said, any form of dialogue between Beijing and the DPP seems unlikely for the time being. With cross-Strait tension flaring up to its worst level since 1996 (when the PLA initiated months of intimidating military drills and fired missiles into waters close to Taiwan, leading the US to respond by sending two aircraft carriers through the Taiwan Strait), Beijing announced this week it had placed seven pro-independence Taiwanese politicians and officials on its sanctions list. They include six senior DPP members, as well as Taiwan’s representative in Washington.
Earlier this month the Chinese government also put Pelosi, her husband and son (who accompanied her on her visit to Taiwan despite not holding an official post) on a sanctions list. This retaliation, the Global Times claimed, would be “real and lasting”, given the Pelosi family’s business interests in China (including via a number of investment funds).
Still, many Chinese social media bloggers have barked that Beijing’s overall response to her Taipei trip – including the PLA’s week-long war games – appeared to be far too toothless. Their disappointment followed some very hawkish remarks from Chinese officials including foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who warned ominously prior to Pelosi’s early August visit: “If she dares to go, then let us wait and see.”
Other politicians are lining up to follow Pelosi’s lead. A further five-person US Congressional delegation arrived in Taipei this week on an unannounced two-day visit. Legislators from Britain and Canada are reportedly planning similar trips. Reacting to the reports, Zheng Zeguang, China’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, penned an article for The Guardian this week, advising the British government not to cross China’s “red line” on Taiwan.
“Taiwan independence means war and will lead to a dead end. Opposing and defeating such attempts is meant to avoid war and safeguard peace and stability in the region,” the ambassador wrote, adding that Beijing will safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity at any cost.
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