Political and military factors determining China's use of force
Maochun Yu is responsible for the second chapter, and he begins by discussing historical precedent:
"Alastair Iain Johnston has documented a 'Chinese Realism' which emphasizes offensive action as the preferred way to end geopolitical disputes. By examining official documents from several dynasties in imperial China, Johnston shows a clear pattern of inherent militarism within the Chinese historical consciousness. This pattern of 'Cultural Realism' tends to regard war as the primary means to conduct inter-state and inter-regional relationships.
Also called 'active defense,' 'coercive diplomacy,' or 'coercive strategy,' the PRC's attitude toward Taiwan has been consistently within this domain of historical 'Cultural Realism,' where war and the use of blunt force remains the ultimate option for ending the decades-long standoff between the communist state and the de facto independent government of Taiwan."
Just a bit of an antidote there to all the "peaceful rising" stuff that Taiwan's China Post reprints so uncritically for its readers.
The author then describes the machinery of the communist state leadership, and notes that leaders within the hierarchy tend "to compete fiercely to be seen as the most hawkish on Taiwan." He tells an amusing anecdote of Premier Wen Jinbao, who used to tell audiences that the economy was China's top priority, so peace needed to be kept "at any cost". When he was derided as being soft on Taiwan, Wen changed his speeches, simultaneously proclaiming that "peace had to be maintained AND war waged against an independent Taiwan, both at 'any cost'." (Emphasis added)
Regarding economic interdependence between the two countries, Maochun notes that contrary to classical liberal theory, political distrust has increased even as economic links between Taiwan and China have grown. But he also points out that China has begun to capitalize on Taiwan's excessive foreign investment there*, bullying Taiwanese businessmen into becoming a "pro-unification political lobby".
The news isn't all bad, however. Maochun gives a few examples suggesting that the Chinese people may not be behind their leaders on this whole war thing. He tells of one incident where PLA experts tried to sell the use of force against Taiwan to a national audience; in the following Q&A they were bombarded with sceptical questions regarding cost, price and potential [Chinese] civilian casualties. As the author says:
"One could almost sense from the audience...subtle disapproval..."
Finally, there were a couple of points of trivia that were interesting:
1. According to the Washington Post, "Some [PLA] units spend 30 percent of their training time studying politics."
2. Apparently, many of Taiwan's capitulationists have told Beijing not to invade. I suppose that's one small comfort, at least. He tells of an odd duck named Huang Shunxin who was "father of Taiwan's early 1980's grassroots democracy movement,...a daring member of Taiwan's Legislative Yuan, [and] a fanatic advocate of reunification. After his defection to Beijing in 1985, and after he became a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and a heavyweight figure in the PRC's United Front against Taiwan, he told [the] CCP Secretary General...that if the PRC were to invade Taiwan...he would go back to Taiwan to organize the resistance movement against the PLA." (Emphasis added)
Never heard of Huang Shunxin before. A Taiwanese democracy activist who defected to Communist China! That's way more bizarre than the recent spectacle of Shih Ming-teh teaming up with his former KMT jailers!**
* 66% of Taiwan's yearly foreign investment was directed towards China as of 2002. I believe the figure has since increased to 75%.
** Shih Ming-teh is a former democracy activist who is currently organizing protests calling upon the president of Taiwan to resign. A recent story can be found here.