‘Return Home’: China Releases Provocative Poster Asking Taiwanese To Join Mainland Or Face Strikes

China continues to provoke Taiwan with its bellicose rhetoric and intimidation tactics against the island nation’s right to claim independence.

Days after two Chinese fishermen lost their lives while being chased by the Taiwanese Coast Guard, leading to tensions between the two states, China has released a poster that has Coast Guard elements and hints at the return of Taiwanese citizens back to China.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s Eastern Theater Command published a “Return Home” poster on February 23, the day before the Lantern Festival. It calls on Taiwanese citizens to return to their homeland and features components of the Coast Guard personnel for the first time, state-owned publication Global Times reported.

The message on the billboard is obvious, military experts told the Global Times that the Taiwan military will face merciless strikes from the Eastern Theater Command if they attempt to impede the mainland’s Coast Guard law-enforcement activities.

The poster’s background is a map of the Taiwan Straits, with a small hand holding a large hand. The text accompanying the visual reads, “Small hands in big hands, walking out of the fire pit hand in hand. Light a lamp to drive away evil, the only way to win it is to return home.”

The first two verses describe the current state of affairs in the Taiwan Straits, which is also depicted in the cartoon. It shows burning green paper bearing the words “Taiwan independence, division, disturbance,” which is seen falling slowly. Intriguingly, the bracelet on the small hand with the “Taiwan island” pattern is being roasted by the flames of the Statue of Liberty in what appears to be a subtle reference to the United States military assistance for the self-ruled island.

On February 23, a spokesman for China’s defense ministry asked the US to sever military ties with the island and to cease arms sales and other forms of support to the Taiwan region.

Speaking to the media regarding the US Department of State’s approval of the sale of a 75-million dollar advanced tactical data link system to Taiwan, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense spokesman Zhang Xiaogang emphasized that China has been vocally against US arms sales to the Taiwan region.

The video poster gets more aggressive and inflammatory as it progresses. The celebration of the Lantern Festival, which brings people from both sides of the Straits back together with their families, is mentioned in the second and third verses of the poster. They join forces to push back outside forces and allow the troublemakers and secessionists to be consumed by fire.

The six places outlined in red, according to The Global Times, are the six live-fire shooting zones that the Eastern Theater Command established around the Taiwan Straits in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s contentious August 2022 visit to Taiwan.

This assumes significance as it comes on the back of Chinese forces routinely simulating the encirclement of the Taiwanese island. Surrounding ships and aircraft “encircling the island” have become a common practice for the PLA. The Eastern Theater Command continued to conduct sea and air patrols around the Taiwan Straits, especially during the Spring Festival.

This “locking Taiwan” posture is a “green channel” protecting the return journey for Taiwan compatriots and a sharp ready to be used at any time against the “Taiwan independence” separatist forces, according to the interpretation made by Chinese military experts.

This appears to be an extension of regular Chinese warnings, which are now predicted to intensify after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Lai Ching-te won the Taiwanese Presidential elections last month.

One Message Upholding The Power Of The Coast Guard

The PLA’s unambiguous support for maritime law enforcement is demonstrated by including Coast Guard elements in a military poster for the first time. Additionally, the word “Kinmen” is underlined in red traditional Chinese characters and is accompanied by a photo of ship 14608 of the Fujian Coast Guard.

This indicates that the Coast Guard on the mainland regularly patrols the waters around Xiamen and Kinmen, firmly opposing the act of “prohibition or restriction of waters.”

According to an analyst speaking to the state publication, the Eastern Theater Command is sending a very clear message: “The Taiwan armed force will be struck mercilessly by the Eastern Theater Command if they dare to intervene and disrupt the mainland coast guards’ law enforcement.”

To put the above message in perspective, members of the Fujian Coast Guard boarded a tourist ship bound for Kinmen Island, which was carrying 23 guests and 11 staff members. The Coast Guard said that the move was aimed at a “routine check” that lasted roughly 30 minutes.

However, Taiwan lambasted it as unwarranted. Taiwanese passengers on board were taken aback by the unprecedented interaction with Chinese law enforcement during heightened tension between Beijing and Taipei.

This escalation followed the death of two Chinese fishermen on February 14 when their speedboat overturned while being pursued by Taiwan’s coast guard, who said they had trespassed into forbidden waters near Kinmen.

The incident left the Chinese leadership fuming. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said, “Such a malicious event during the Spring Festival seriously hurts the feelings of compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.” The office strongly condemned the fatalities and called for an inquiry.

On February 14, Taiwanese coast guard personnel examine a boat that overturned following a chase off the shore of the Kinmen archipelago. (AP via Taiwan Coast Guard Administration) ©

The statement also accused the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan of using “all sorts of excuses to forcefully inspect Chinese fishing vessels, and using violent and dangerous methods towards Chinese fishermen”.

On February 15, the Taiwanese Coast Guard retaliated, defending its actions against China’s wrath. The Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s Chinese policy-making body, announced that an initial inquiry revealed the Coast Guard did nothing illegal and performed its duty by the law.

The council directed the responsibility for the deaths back to China, claiming that despite protests, nothing had changed and that Chinese ships were employing explosives and poison to engage in illegal sand mining, fishing, and trash dumping in Taiwanese waters.

Taiwan’s stern response has infuriated China further. Taiwan alleges that Beijing has since taken advantage of the situation to increase its maritime presence in the waters by blaming Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for the fatalities.

Beijing has also contested Taiwan’s classification of “prohibited or restricted waters” near Kinmen ever since the incident occurred, but to strengthen law enforcement, its coast guard has been conducting “regular patrols” in the waters surrounding the islands.

A few days after the death of Chinese fishermen, for instance, Taiwan’s coast guard reported that a Chinese coast guard vessel had entered Taiwan-controlled seas close to Kinmen and remained there for an hour. The coast guard in Taiwan responded by sending a ship to sail alongside the Chinese vessel and using radio and loudspeakers to force it out.