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Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Chinese fury over US arms sale
China military
China says the arms sales is a violation of its sovereignty
As China warns the US that selling advanced weaponry to Taiwan will harm relations, our correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Beijing gauges the depth of feeling.

In China national dignity is paramount - and the recovery of Taiwan is central to that idea.

From the perspective of the Chinese leadership, US support for Taiwan, particularly its supply of weapons, is a direct interference in China's internal affairs.

On the streets of Beijing feelings are even stronger. The government has been stoking nationalist passions, now they are taking on a life of their own.

Aegis-equipped destroyer
China has reacted to the arms sale with great indignation
The views of this young pedicab driver in Beijing are far from unusual. "Taiwan is part of China and always has been," he said.

"Why does the US want to stir things up. By selling arms to Taiwan they're forcing us to fight our brothers. I think we should declare war on Taiwan. This problem can't be solved peacefully."

China's use of military force against Taiwan is no longer an idle threat.

At bases scattered throughout the mountains at least 300 missiles are now pointed at Taiwan - just 150km (94 miles) away.

From the other side of the strait this is blatant intimidation and it is the whole reason Taiwan wants more weapons from the United States.


The Chinese Government has offered very generous terms to the Taiwan authorities

ia Qingguo from Beijing University
But to the leadership in Beijing the threat of military force against Taiwan is the only thing stopping it from declaring full independence - something the leadership here cannot contemplate.

But policy specialists like Professor Jia Qingguo from Beijing University insist that China wants peaceful reunification with Taiwan and not conflict.

"I think the Chinese Government has tried its best to explain to the US Government that what it wants is peaceful reunification, and it has offered very generous terms to the Taiwan authorities."

Arms race

This solution is called the 'one country, two systems' and according to the Chinese definition it is much more liberal, much more flexible than the one that has been applied to Hong Kong.

The US says its arms sales to Taiwan are essential to maintaining the status quo.

To Beijing they are exactly the opposite - helping to pull the island further and further towards full independence.

As a new batch of American weapons head for Taiwan, China's leadership will be under intense pressure to respond with more arms purchases of their own.


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