Following the conclusion of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 19th National Congress last month, many observers focused upon Beijing’s change of rhetoric toward Taiwan.
A press release by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) made reference to the section of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) speech dealing with Taiwan, and claimed that it had received praise and approval from members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the wider international community.
The initial response from President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) government has been muted.
Xi is acutely aware that the most pressing matter facing China is not to resolve the issue of unification, since he worries that the US could intervene if Beijing were to use military force against Taiwan.
If the Chinese and the US militaries were to meet on the battlefield, the Chinese would lose and Xi’s “China dream,” his aim to build a moderately prosperous society by the year 2020 and to have achieved the “great revival of the Chinese people” by the middle of the 21st century would lie in tatters.
Despite this, Xi’s goal of achieving the eventual unification remains. The amended CCP constitution now includes Xi’s “six anys” mantra, including a pledge not to allow any piece of China’s sovereign territory to claim independence.
Xi has also emphasized China’s “determination, confidence and ability to defeat any activities related to Taiwan independence.”
However, even though Beijing fiercely opposes Taiwanese independence, the current focus is on a “peaceful unification” by employing a divide-and-rule strategy using “united front” tactics.
By openly flaunting its “one generation and one stratum” policy aimed at Taiwan’s younger generation, lower socioeconomic groups, blue-collar workers and small and medium-sized businesses Beijing hopes to surpass the state benefits provided by Taiwan’s government.
The aim is to assimilate these groups into China, polarize Taiwanese society and perhaps even destroy the Taiwanese government.
Xi has realized that if he is to achieve his goal of unification, this is not just a battle between China and Taiwan, but it also involves complex international relationships.
China’s Taiwan policy coordination unit, the Central Leading Group for Taiwan Affairs, is to rely even more heavily on diplomatic muscle. The aim is to repulse the US, Japan and other Taiwan-friendly governments, thereby further shrinking Taiwan’s space on the international stage.
An example of this plan is the appointment of former Chinese permanent representative to the UN Liu Jieyi (劉結一) as TAO minister at the congress.
As for the relationship with the US, Chinese leaders will use every trick available to weaken the US-Taiwan relationship when US President Donald Trump visits Beijing this week.
They will try to get a sharp reduction in US military sales to Taiwan and obstruct moves to enhance US-Taiwan military cooperation.
However, Beijing’s strategy to pull the rug from under Taiwan’s feet will fail.
One reason why was touched upon by Tsai during her transit in Hawaii last month, when she said: “The US-Taiwan relationship is founded upon an unprecedented level of friendship.”
Equally significant is the huge geopolitical and economic mismatch between the US and China. An increasing number of US officials now consider China a hostile power that threatens the security and national interest of the US and its allies.
Parris Chang is president of the Taiwan Institute for Political, Economic, Strategic Studies, a former deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council and professor emeritus of political science at Pennsylvania State University.
Translated by Edward Jones
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