Beijing has stepped up its intimidation of Taiwan by releasing a video on state media of a simulated attack on the island and by airing the purported confession of a Taiwanese businessman detained in China on spying charges.
The twin-pronged strategy came as Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese president, appeared to offer an olive branch to China amid growing tensions across the Taiwan Strait, urging the Chinese Communist Party to engage in “meaningful dialogue” on an equal basis.
President Tsai made the gesture on Saturday during National Day celebrations, describing relations with Beijing as “quite tense” after weeks of China ramping up its air force activity close to Taiwanese airspace and crossing the Taiwan Strait’s sensitive mid line, which normally acts as an unofficial buffer zone.
But her overtures were immediately rebuffed by Beijing, which has refused to negotiate with Ms Tsai’s administration since she was first elected in 2016, and which immediately accused Taiwan of continuing to pursue independence and of having a confrontational mindset.
Hours after her speech, state media broadcaster CCTV ran a two-minute, 30-second video of a drill off China’s southeastern coast that showed in detail how the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would deploy its military might to bomb and invade the island of 24 million.
The video was the longest of a recent series of propaganda videos aimed to reinforce earlier threats from Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, that he will not rule out taking Taiwan by force if it rejects offers to unify with China peacefully, bowing to Beijing’s view that the two belong to one nation.
China’s Communist leadership has never ruled the island democracy – which has its own government and military – yet it claims Taiwan as its own territory.
The footage, set to jingoistic music, featured night beach landings with Chinese troops scaling cliffs backed by fleets of combat helicopters, rapid landing craft and a barrage of missiles and heavy artillery.
State media added to the psychological pressure on Sunday by showing an alleged confession by Lee Meng-chu, a Taiwanese man who went missing after crossing from Hong Kong into Shenzhen in August 2019.
Mr Lee was accused of taking pictures of Chinese military police who had gathered in a stadium for exercises with armoured vehicles at the height of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, fuelling speculation that they were going to intervene to quell mass rallies.
“I took my phone to record some videos,” Mr Lee said in the CCTV state television report, wearing a prison uniform. “I am sorry. I have done a lot of bad things,” he added.
Human rights organisations have regularly accused China – a country with an opaque judicial system – of forcing detainees to deliver public “confessions” broadcast on television.
Taiwan accused Beijing of “malicious political sensationalism” and of deliberating manipulating Mr Lee’s case, and criticised the Chinese authorities for interfering in Taiwan’s democracy.