China has recently made a threatening change to its approach to realising its dream of capturing Taiwan by removing the word "peaceful" from its so-called "reunification narrative". Presenting the government's 2020 work report, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that Beijing will continue to oppose and deter any "separatist activities seeking Taiwan independence".

China Taiwan issue
Taiwan considers itself an independent country while China claims the island as its territory.Representational Image

"We will adhere to the major principles and policies on work related to Taiwan and resolutely oppose and deter any separatist activities seeking 'Taiwan independence'" and "We will encourage them (fellow compatriots in Taiwan) to join us in opposing 'Taiwan independence' and promoting China's reunification," Li Keqiang said in the report.

However, in the 2019 report, Li had used the word "peaceful reunification" of Taiwan. "We will uphold the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, promote the peaceful growth of relations across the Taiwan Strait, and advance China's peaceful reunification," he had said a year ago.

Beijing has not abandoned the military approach

As the ties between China and Taiwan continue on a downward spiral, the move hints that Beijing may consider armed contest to fulfill its "reunification" dream. Chinese daily Global Times, which is considered a government's mouthpiece, said that although Beijing has not abandoned a peaceful approach to the Taiwan issue, the military can also be used in the worst-case scenario.

"....just as the firm stance that has been consistently reinforced by the mainland in past decades, a military approach has never been abandoned as this is a final solution for the worst-case scenario when secessionist and foreign forces totally separate the island from China," the Global Times quoted Li Xiaobing, a Taiwan studies expert at Nankai University in Tianjin as saying.

In fact, Chinese President Xi Jinping had also hinted at the armed contest when he spoke to the 19th Party Congress about the future of Taiwan last year. "We have firm will, full confidence, and sufficient capability to defeat any form of Taiwan independence secession plot," he had said.

Experts are of the view that China will adopt a military approach if the economic and political approach doesn't work, but the US could still be a hurdle as its almost certain Washington will intervene. "If the economic and political approach doesn't work, what's left is the military approach. But with US intervention, the mainland will not prevail," Sun Yun, director of the China programme at the Stimson Centre think tank in the US.