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Orwellian nonsense - that is what the Trump administration called China's attempt to make airlines refer to Taiwan only as part of China. Beijing is making this demand despite Taiwan having its own government, its own military, its own flag. NPR's Rob Schmitz reports that China is putting the squeeze on Taiwan in other ways as well.
ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: It's not easy being in charge of foreign relations in a country most of the world refuses to recognize as a country. But that's the job of Joseph Wu, Taiwan's foreign minister.
JOSEPH WU: When we look at the rest of the world, every other country has that right to enter into diplomatic relations with other countries. They have every right to participate in international treaties or international organizations. But Taiwan is in a situation that is being blocked by China to do all those things.
SCHMITZ: This means no seat in the U.N., no participation in the World Health Organization. And when the Olympics come around, it has to compete as Chinese Taipei. And then there are the more direct strategies China employs.
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SCHMITZ: A cinematic soundtrack accompanied Chinese state media reports of Beijing's live-fire drill in the Taiwan Strait in April. Then came Chinese bombers and fighter jets regularly circling Taiwan in recent weeks. Former deputy intelligence head for the U.S. Pacific Fleet James Fanell says none of this surprises him.
JAMES FANELL: The things that I was seeing in the classified world and the things that I saw in my job all indicated that timelines had been given to be prepared to have the capacity to take Taiwan by military force, if need be, starting in 2020.
SCHMITZ: Beijing's ultimate goal, says Fanell, is to ensure Taiwan is unified with China by 2049, the Centennial of what the Communist Party calls its liberation of China.
FANELL: They would prefer not to use force. But they've also planned to use force, and they purchased and developed a military capability to use just in case the nonviolent means doesn't work.
SCHMITZ: Fanell believes China will try to take Taiwan peacefully over the next decade using economic incentives and pressure. If that doesn't work, he believes a military invasion is likely.
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PRESIDENT XI JINPING: (Speaking Chinese).
SCHMITZ: In a speech Chinese leader Xi Jinping delivered in March, he said it is the shared aspiration of all Chinese people to realize China's complete reunification, threatening those who tried to stand in the way with the punishment of history. But it was what happened right before this speech, the elimination of term limits for Xi, which gives Taiwanese Foreign Minister Wu a clue that invading Taiwan may not be high on the leader's agenda.
WU: What we see is that Xi Jinping seems to be accumulating more and more power for himself. And it reflects just one thing. That is that he doesn't have enough sense of security.
SCHMITZ: Wu thinks Xi's power grab shows a leader who is not confident with his control over China's own problems, problems that will distract him from Taiwan. But Wen-cheng Lin, a former senior adviser to Taiwan's National Security Council, says China is using other ways to pressure Taiwan.
WEN-CHENG LIN: (Through interpreter) China wants to drain Taiwan's finances and talent. Taiwanese companies are allowed to be listed in the mainland. Taiwanese talent is welcome to work in the mainland.
SCHMITZ: And mainland China's tourists, China's government has restricted them to put the squeeze on Taiwan.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Foreign language spoken).
SCHMITZ: At Taipei's Palace Museum, Taiwan's largest tourist attraction, a tour guide who only gives her surname, Lai, for fear of criticizing her own government, says her industry has tanked since China began putting economic pressure on the island.
LAI: (Through interpreter) Our government has been asking us to learn Thai and Vietnamese to cater to South East Asian tourists instead. These tourists can't boost our economy.
SCHMITZ: Nobody, says Lai, can impact Taiwan's economy like China can.
Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Taipei.
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