Responding to Sen. Cornyn, Chinese State Media Says China Would ‘Liberate’ Taiwan Immediately if It Discovered the US Had 30,000 Troops There

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Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) listens as United States Trade Representative, Katherine C. Tai, testifies before the Senate Finance Committeee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (Image: PETE MAROVICH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Texas’ senior Sen. John Cornyn deleted his mistaken Twitter remark claiming that the United States had 30,000 personnel stationed on Taiwan, but not before Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-run media pounced on the error. 

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Party-run tabloid Global Times, commented that if the remark were true, he would expect the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to “immediately invoke the Anti-Separatism Law, destroy and expel the U.S. troops occupying Taiwan, and in the meantime use military force to retake Taiwan.” 

The Chinese-language Global Times article was titled “If There Are Indeed 30,000 US Troops in Taiwan, the Country [mainland China] Will Immediately Start a War to Liberate Taiwan.”

The PRC claims Taiwan as part of its own territory, while Taiwan — officially the Republic of China — is a de facto country and boasts one of Asia’s strongest-performing economies. 

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Cornyn, a staunch advocate of stronger relations with the ROC, had made the error when posting a list that showed the number of American troops deployed overseas in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

A screenshot of the now-deleted U.S. troop deployment list posted by Sen. Cornyn to Twitter on Aug. 16. (Image: Screenshot/Twitter)

While the U.S. used to maintain a significant troop presence on Taiwan, the 1979 decision to switch recognition of the “one China” from the ROC to the PRC compelled Washington to scale back its military activity on the island. 

“Many Twitter users were aghast that a member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence could get such basic information wrong. Others joked that Cornyn had accidentally leaked top-secret information about U.S. forces clandestinely stationed in Taiwan,” as reported by Taiwan News. 

‘Bottom lines’

The Global Times further commented in English that according to “some observers,” if Washington “really has troops stationed in Taiwan – even if the number is small – it would be a serious matter that has broken the bottom line.”

Beijing and its propaganda apparatus often employ “bottom line” rhetoric in an attempt to intimidate Taiwan and “compel Taipei to acquiesce to Beijing’s demands and dissuade the ROC from moving in the direction of independence,” said Larry Ong, senior analyst at SinoInsider, a China politics consultancy group. 

“Thuggish, bullying behavior is characteristic of the CCP with its culture of struggle,” Ong said. However, he noted that “the CCP acts tough over what it considers to be its ‘bottom line’ because the latter often doubles as its Achilles’ Heel.”

“Should the targets of intimidation ‘break through’ said ‘bottom line,’” Ong continued in a written statement to Vision Times, “the CCP will put its tail between its legs and come up with excuses like ‘we’re playing a critical game of chess.’ A barking dog doesn’t bite.”

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  • Leo Timm is a writer and Chinese-to-English translator with years of experience covering Chinese politics, society, and culture. Follow him on Twitter at @soil_and_grain.