Former PLA Lieutenant-General Wang Hongguang is surrounded by reporters in front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photo: China Central Television screen grab

A retired Chinese general has ruffled feathers in Taiwan again, this time telling the Beijing-based nationalist tabloid Global Times that the People’s Liberation Army would only need three days to reclaim the self-ruling island should such war become unavoidable.

Retired Lieutenant-General Wang Hongguang is a former deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Region, since reorganized as the Eastern Theater Command, which would be at the forefront of any clash with Taiwan. He said the PLA could spontaneously wage six types of offensives – artillery bombardment, targeted assaults, coordinated airborne and landing strikes, cyberattacks, special operations and psychological warfare – and that the “breakaway province of China” could be reunified with the mainland within as little as 72 hours.

Wang’s pugnacity again caused a commotion in Taiwan, so much so that even the pro-reunification newspaper China Times joined the condemnation.

“Beijing’s offer of national treatment and the slew of concessions to win over Taiwanese may be negated by such senseless saber-rattling … Beijing’s efforts can only boomerang if it counts on silly PLA generals like Wang who know nothing but warmongering,” the paper said in an editorial.

It’s not the first time Wang has caused a few raised eyebrows. On the sidelines of China’s annual parliamentary session in early 2017, Wang told reporters that “if the US deploys the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense in Taiwan, it will be the day that we liberate the island.”

His remarks prompted the PLA’s news website to issue a notice urging the public not to “over-interpret” the former senior military official’s statement on “liberating Taiwan.”

Wang’s remarks at that time soon ignited discussions online, with some calling it “bluffing,” some finding him excessively “hawkish” and most feeling “shocked” that a military officer would speak out in that manner, according to a commentary from 81.cn, a news website affiliated with the PLA.

While calling on the media not to make a fuss about Wang’s statements, the article did add that “his comments can be regarded as a warning,” and reiterated Beijing’s official line that “the war is on once Taiwan declares its independence.”

In 2016, Wang urged, also in Global Times, that the PLA Navy should step up naval training to seal off the Taiwan Strait, and map out the best routes for its submarines to prepare for attacks, while the PLA Air Force should also conduct air-attack drills near the virtual mid-line that divides the strait.

“During wartime, all the PLA would need to do is to turn its weapons toward Taiwan, and the shelling could cover as far as Hsinchu, Taoyuan and even Taipei,” he said, adding that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen had long “revealed her staunch advocacy of Taiwanese independence.”

Other tactics outlined in Wang’s hawkish remarks have included using guided missiles to attack airbases in Taiwan’s central mountain range, as well as shelling the central Zhuoshui River region to sever the link between northern and southern Taiwan.

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