Reuters becomes the latest news service to treat Chinese propaganda on the Anti-Secession Law as something meaningful and important. First, the news story itself:

China cannot compromise on its claim to Taiwan and is ready for “grave” scenarios, a top adviser said, days after the island’s ruling party resolved to recommend a new constitution, with implications of independence from China.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) approved the controversial “Normal Country Resolution” on Sunday, calling for a new constitution for Taiwan as an independent sovereign state to replace its current one, which still binds the two sides.

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and pledged to bring the democratic island’s 23 million people under its rule, by force if necessary.

“The essence of the resolution is to pursue de jure Taiwan independence,” wrote Yu Keli, a prominent Taiwan expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), in a signed commentary run by the official Xinhua news agency on Wednesday.

“The Taiwan issue concerns China’s core interests and the mainland does not have any room for compromise,” Yu wrote. CASS is the government’s top think tank.

It’s always worth pointing out: China can bluntly say (1) we’re threatening war and (2) we’re not going to negotiate even one little bit but you can read in actual analysis from thinking human beings that — I’m not making this up — President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan is a radical. I suppose, from the point of view of a human history that offers us about 100,000 years of conflict settled by force, that democracy and referendums are a rather radical approach….

The great thing about this report is its final paragraph, in which the reporter simply regurgitates one of China’s most brilliant propaganda ploys, the Anti-Secession Law, in a completely thoughtless manner:

Analysts say China is obliged by the 2005 Anti-Secession Law to react if the referendum is passed, but any decision will be tricky because it does not want to ruin the Summer Olympics, which Beijing will host in August next year.

Now imagine if you had read in a foreign newspaper articles containing the following statements.

Analysts say China is obliged by its security laws to execute dissidents.

Analysts say China is obliged by its Constitution to permit freedom of religion.

Analysts say that China is obliged by its legal framework to give full faith and credence to all contracts signed in China.

Should any reader who knows anything about China stumble across such a sentence in an article about dissent, missionary work, or Chinese contract behavior, respectively, no doubt either laughter or distress would ensue. But our Reuters reporter can scribble the paragraph above without ever stopping to think that the Anti-Secession Law obligates Beijing no more than any other law on the books in China does — that enforcement of that law, like all other law in China, is the result of a political calculus, rather than a response to the normative status of law, as it is typically treated in the West.

Please, foreign correspondents, stop pretending that piece of political propaganda actually means something as law.