Former director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Taiwan Studies Zhou Zhihuai (周志懷) was recently replaced by Yang Mingjie (楊明杰), who specializes in arms control and security, and US-China ties.
Taiwan experts are claiming that Chinese strategic thinking is about to change: This is premature. More attention should be given to a speech made by Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Chairman Yu Zhengsheng (俞正聲) to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) meeting on Taiwan affairs on Jan. 20.
“Over the past year, the CCP Central Committee with — Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at its core — has accurately judged the situation and made scientific decisionmaking arrangements to firmly grasp the general direction of the development of cross-strait relations,” Yu said.
“Scientific decisionmaking arrangements” refers to the so-called “concept of scientific development” Xi has promoted. Since 2015, Xi has been making ever more frequent demands on government departments to adopt scientific method and study policy planning and decisionmaking arrangements. This is particularly the case for officials working on Taiwan policy.
Between now and the CCP’s 19th National Congress in fall, it is likely that there will be more signs of China’s “scientific decisionmaking.”
This year “cross-strait relations and the situation in the Taiwan Strait will become more complicated and difficult. We must continue to adhere to the ‘1992 consensus’ based on the ‘one China’ principle and resolutely oppose and suppress any form of Taiwanese independence separatist activities,” Yu said.
Xi enters his second term of office of this year. Chinese leaders will not allow any changes to Taiwan Strait relations to disrupt Xi’s personnel arrangements or policy priorities before the congress.
A key task for Beijing will be to systematically disrupt any moves toward Taiwanese independence and to try to force the “one China” principle. This will also be important in allowing Beijing to prevent any unexpected developments in Taiwan-US relations.
Yu called for “all departments in all localities to unite all political parties, groups and organizations in Taiwan that recognize that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to ‘one China,’ and to continue to promote cross-strait exchanges and cooperation in various fields.”
He also call for measures to facilitate Taiwanese studying, working and living in China to protect their interests in accordance with the law. China hopes to influence Taiwanese attitudes toward China, to include Taiwanese as Chinese citizens, so they will recognize the “one China” principle.
China’s Taiwan policy unit should build upon the CCP’s system of “clean government,” adhere to high standards of self-discipline and build a team of high-quality “cadres,” Yu said.
This could be interpreted as encouragement, or it might allude to a goal to replace officials working on Taiwan policy before the congress.
Yang’s appointment have given some clues. It was done to imply that incompetent staff will be replaced or transferred, while those involved in Taiwan policy must redouble their efforts to tackle Taiwanese independence.
The CCP’s thinking on Taiwan policy follows the rhythm of its systems and procedures, while also being dictated by effectiveness. While Yang’s promotion reflects the uncertainty of the new China-US relationship, it was just fine-tuning within the normal processes of government.
Li Hua-chiu is a national defense strategies researcher at the Society for Strategic Studies in Taiwan.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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