Tue, Oct 17, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Taiwan off the table

John Burns, a China specialist at the University of Hong Kong, says security, state-owned enterprises and globalization will top the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party

By Noah Buchan  /  Staff reporter

John Burns, a China specialist at the University of Hong Kong, will deliver a lecture on Saturday in Taipei on the reforms of Chinese President Xi Jinping over the past five years and the direction he will take China over the course of his second term.

Photo courtesy of John Burns

China isn’t likely to set a timetable on unification with Taiwan during its 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), says John Burns, a specialist on China’s public administration. Instead, it will continue to increase economic, diplomatic and political pressure on Taipei.

“I do not think it makes sense to announce a timetable,” Burns tells the Taipei Times. “A timetable could reduce flexibility... The CCP may not want to be committed to such a timetable, for example, if a more reunification-friendly government comes into power on Taiwan in the future.”

Burns, an honorary professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong and a specialist in Chinese civil service reform, party-government relations and public sector reform, will be in Taipei on Saturday to give a lecture, “Xi Jinping and the Reinvention of the Chinese Communist Party,” for the Lung Yingtai Cultural Foundation (龍應台文化基金會) as part of its Taipei Salon (台北沙龍) lecture series.

The English-language talk will be moderated by former American Institute in Taiwan director and current professor at National Taiwan University’s International College William Stanton.


Though the “Taiwan issue” will be broached at the congress that begins tomorrow at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People and includes 2,287 delegates, other issues will loom larger at the once-in-five years conclave. Burns says the party’s agenda will focus on three major areas: reforming state-owned enterprises, improving security and emphasizing its commitment to globalization.

Cyber, social and national security will be on top of the agenda.

Lecture notes

What: Xi Jinping and the reinvention of the Chinese Communist Party

When: Saturday from 3pm to 4:30pm

Where: Everlight Building (億光大樓), 2F, 1 Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市忠孝東路三段1號2樓)

Details: The lecture will be conducted in English. Admission is free, but those attending must pre-register online at www.civictaipei.org

“This involves everything from fighting domestic terrorism to policing the Internet and ensuring that groups, especially professionals such as lawyers, do not threaten stability. Internationally, China needs to protect its interests, including investments, energy supplies and people from harm,” he says.

Burns says China will reemphasize its commitment to globalization, international trade relationships and trade regimes such as the WTO, while deepening links with South and West Asia, East Africa and Europe through its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which involves pushing for a multilateral world and integrating neighboring states into a China-centric economic system. He adds that China hopes to provide technology and infrastructure — ports, rail — in strategic areas that will be conducive to growth at home.

And with the administration of US President Donald Trump turning inward, China has the opportunity to play a leading role in a more globalized world, particularly in business and trade, the environment and security, he says.

“Trump’s policies have left a vacuum that China can fill, partnering (say, with the EU) in climate change and the environment and trade,” he says, adding that there is plenty of room to maneuver as the current US administration pursues “a mercantilist inward looking, isolationist policy.”

With regards to state-owned enterprises, Burns says the Chinese public will be given the opportunity to buy minority stakes so as to improve their performance, while maintaining control over them. Though this may raise capital for these enterprises, he adds, it is unlikely to make them more competitive because state monopolies are strategic for the party maintaining its grip on power.

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