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China's war of words

CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Jaime FlorCruz
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Beijing (China)
Chen Shui-Bian

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- The swearing in of Taiwan's president has given the Chinese government an opportunity to remind Taipei of the consequences of moves towards independence.

Beijing delivered a stern warning in an official statement days before Chen Shui-bian's inauguration.

"If Taiwan leaders move recklessly to provoke major incidents of 'Taiwan independence', the Chinese people will crush their schemes firmly and thoroughly at any cost," the statement said.

Taiwan-watchers in Beijing say the statement raises the stakes.

"It was the most toughly worded, most systematic and comprehensive statement ever issued by the mainland," Zhu Weidong of the Taiwan Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told CNN.

"It represents the position of the Chinese government and people."

Beijing fears that Chen could rewrite Taiwan's constitution as a legal basis to establish the island's independence.

"They still see he may push for it," Jiang Wenran of the University of Alberta says.

"There is a debate in a sense within the Chinese leadership, some saying you don't worry too much, others saying it's a bigger environment.

"And Taiwan is using all its money and influence to work on the United States and Japan and trying to move towards the independence."

Political dialogue between Taiwan and the mainland has been frozen for more than 10 years, and yet, the two sides are getting closer socially and economically.

Over a million Taiwan citizens work, study or live in the mainland.

Taiwanese have invested around $100 billion on the mainland, and bilateral trade has grown to $8.5 billion.

But political tension remains high and China is upgrading its troops and hardware aimed towards Taiwan.

"It's becoming more focused, more modern, better trained, better equipped than it has ever been across the Taiwan Strait," Bates Gill of the Center for International Strategic Studies, told CNN.

Experts say China's military remains handicapped by deficiencies and gaps that would probably prevent it from undertaking a successful invasion of Taiwan.

Still, Beijing continues to build up its stick of coercion, and now says it is willing to use it, if necessary, at any cost.

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