China's President Xi Jinping this week told the United Nations he had no intention to fight a "hot war". Days later his chief propagandist warned "war will come" over Taiwan.
The editor-in-chief of the Chinese Communist Party-controlled Global Times news service was incensed by suggestions the United States could send troops to support the island democracy's independence.
"Once they take the step of returning US forces to Taiwan, the PLA will definitely start a just war to safeguard China's territorial integrity," Hu Xinjin declared.
He was responding to an essay published by a US Marine Corps captain in the Military Review. In Deterring the Dragon, Captain Walker Mills warned that the vast military imbalance between China and Taiwan made a surprise invasion "more likely".
Positioning US troops on the island as a trip-wire could deter such a hostile act, Mills argued.
Hu asserted the Communist Party's line that Taiwan was simply a wayward province, even though the island never surrendered to Chairman Mao Zedong's 1949 revolution.
"China's Anti-Secession Law is a tiger with teeth," Hu tweeted.
"No country has the right to dominate global affairs, control the destiny of others or keep advantages in development all to itself," Chairman Xi told the UN this week, calling for "international order underpinned by international law".
But Beijing has a very national interpretation of international law – as the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Japan and Indonesia can attest to.
"Both the US and Taiwan need to be prepared for a highly intense confrontation," Hu threatened in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) approved video.
Which is precisely the point of the US Military Review essay.
Mills said the balance of power in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia was shifting away from the United States. This, he argues, means US forces will need to be pre-positioned in the area "if it is committed to defending Taiwanese sovereignty".
He warned that a quick, successful invasion of Taiwan by China would result in a long, costly military campaign "with a far from certain outcome".
But the relatively low-level mention of "trip-wire", or pre-positioned, forces have Beijing outraged.
"I have to say advocating such a thing is lunacy because it's bound to trigger a war in the Taiwan Straits," Hu stated in a supplementary Global Times video published on Tuesday.
"China's anti-secession law stipulates three conditions for resolving the Taiwan question with military means. The US forces returning to Taiwan would meet these conditions, and the People's Liberation Army would definitely take action and engage in a just war to liberate Taiwan".
Taiwan's elected Government, however, has a different point of view.
It does not regard being placed under Beijing's rule to be "liberation". And how can it succeed from a government it never capitulated to?
Taipei has reacted with growing alarm to the harsh crackdown upon Hong Kong's dissidents, independent judiciary and representative parliament. It argues Beijing's oppressive behaviour in the former British colony puts the lie to its proclaimed "One China, Two Systems" policy.
'War will come'
"If the US and Taiwan don't take the mainland's red line seriously, war will come," Hu threatened, reiterating Beijing's demands.
Xi has repeatedly warned that any open move towards formal independence by Taiwan would be met with force. His Beijing-based Government has pushed hard to exclude Taipei from all international forums – including the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now Beijing is angered by the presence of US officials on the island.
Washington, for its part, argues such diplomatic visits have been going on for decades.
"If the US sends higher-level officials to visit Taiwan, the mainland will without a doubt react with more than flying PLA fighter jets over the so-called 'middle line' of the Taiwan Straits – such as PLA fighter jets flying over Taiwan to declare sovereignty," a defiant Hu states.
Chinese combat aircraft began incursions into Taiwan airspace late last week when a high-level US envoy arrived in Taipei for the funeral of a past, pro-democracy President. Subsequent breaches were observed on two additional days as large-scale Chinese military drills continued around the island.
Taipei condemned these moves as "harassment and threats".
The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act binds the US to the defence of Taiwan in the face of invasion.
The treaty followed the First Taiwan Straits Crisis of 1954 where China seized several islands in the narrow waterway between the two countries.
The President at the time, Harry Truman, had sent the US Navy's Seventh Fleet into the area to deter a mainland attack on the then Nationalist Party-held main island.
Hu obliquely referenced this standoff in his video threat: "The People's Liberation Army is powerful now. Even if we were a little weaker than we are now, if the US and Taiwan insist on playing their cards like this, this is a war we must fight to the end, at any cost. This determination is real."