HONG KONG -- The impact of the adoption by China of the antisecession law, widely criticized in Taiwan and in the West even before it was unveiled last Monday, may well be the opposite of what the drafters of the controversial legislation intended.

While Beijing pointed out that the law emphasizes its desire for peace, Taiwan has, quite understandably, focused on the section that provides that, under certain circumstances, the Chinese government "shall employ nonpeaceful means and other necessary measures." The Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council in Taiwan issued a "solemn declaration" that expressed its "severest condemnation" of the legislation.

Actually, the law contains virtually nothing that is new. It is a reiteration of Chinese policy that is well-known to Taiwan and the United States. No doubt, Beijing felt it was forced to take this action to counter the increasingly transparent moves by Taiwan over the last half dozen years to move toward independence, from then-President Lee Teng-hui's assertion in 1999 that Taiwan and the mainland had "special state to state relations" to President Chen Shui-bian's declaration in 2002 that there was "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait.