However, he suggested that the most likely scenario is that Beijing will assert its control over the island state by 2049, to coincide with the 100th centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic. Speculation has been rife about China’s intentions towards Taipei, with one US Navy officer predicting Beijing could annex Taiwan within the next six years. Those fears have been stoked by China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour towards its neighbour, coupled with ever more belligerent rhetoric.
On Tuesday, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng let off the latest salvo of stark warnings about Taiwan’s independence.
In an interview with the The Associated Press he reiterated that Beijing “will never allow Taiwan to be independent.”
The Chinese’s official refused to be drawn on when Beijing would complete its goal of “national unification”, stating merely that it was an inevitable “historical process”.
Despite Mr Le’s reluctance to be more specific, Wang Yunfei believes that Beijing has already set a clear deadline for Taiwan’s return to the mainland.
The Chinese military analyst told Hong Kong’s Wen Wei Po, a pro-Beijing state-owned newspaper, that China would not be “delayed indefinitely”.
He said: “The Communist Party of China made a solemn pledge to the Chinese people and the world that it will realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation before the end of the century.
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The Whitsun Reef is part of the resource rich Spratly Islands and has been the focus of a recent flash point between the Philippines and China after more than 200 Chinese “fishing boats” anchored in waters near the reef in early March.
Both Beijing and Manilla contest ownership of the reef, as China seeks to assert its control over the disputed waters.
According to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, 14 of the Chinese vessels photographed at the Whitsun Reef in March were also tracked patrolling Union Banks in early 2019.