BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Wednesday Taiwan was scaremongering with talk of a possible Chinese attack, after Taiwan’s foreign minister said Beijing could resort to military conflict to divert domestic pressure if an economic slowdown bites.
As Taiwan’s presidential elections approach in January, China has stepped up a campaign to “reunify” with what it considers a wayward province, wooing away the island’s few diplomatic allies and flying regular bomber patrols around it.
And President Xi Jinping said in January that China reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but will strive to achieve peaceful “reunification”.
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told Reuters last week that China could attack the democratic and self-ruled island if any threat to China’s ruling Communist Party arises from social pressures that could result from any slowdown in the world’s second largest economy amid a trade war with the United States.
Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular news conference in Beijing that Wu’s comments were “complete nonsense and absolute rubbish”.
“Recently, in order to seek benefit for the elections, they have been weaving various lies to intimidate, threaten and mislead the people of Taiwan,” he added.
“I think compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait must be highly vigilant and not easily misled.”
China’s economy is fine, Ma said.
“Under the current complicated economic situation, the mainland’s economic development landscape is still good, and this is not something the likes of Joseph Wu can talk down.”
China’s economic growth is expected to slow to a near 30-year low this year, putting the onus on Beijing to step up stimulus needed to sustain growth.
Ma said China wants “peaceful reunification”, while Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party is the real greatest threat to peace, pushing independence and inciting enmity.
Taiwan was trying to “cover up” the island’s own economic problems, Ma added.
Taiwan’s economy grew at its fastest pace in more than a year in the third quarter, as a rebound in demand for tech products for the year-end peak season boosted manufacturers and “offset” the impact of trade disputes.
Ma separately confirmed that three people from Taiwan who had been reported missing in China were being investigated on suspicion of harming national security. He gave no details.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Gao Liangping; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)