Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) might be emboldened to adopt a more aggressive stance against Taiwan, after recent constitutional changes that allow him an indefinite presidential term, National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Peng Sheng-chu (彭勝竹) said yesterday.
China’s constitutional amendments signified that, after years of trying to cast off constraints on his authority, Xi has solidified his grip on power, Peng said during a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
Peng’s remarks were seen as rebutting a report in Sunday’s Chinese-language China Times, which quoted an unnamed former bureau official as saying Xi’s consolidation of power would encourage him to put less pressure on Taiwan.
The former bureau official’s opinions are “not the current views of the National Security Bureau,” Peng said.
As Xi increases his personal power, he would gain more room to maneuver and deploy tactics that he prefers for pressuring Taiwan, Peng said.
Opposition to Xi’s policy is unlikely under China’s system of one-man-rule, he said.
The bureau believes the Chinese government is likely to take a “hard” approach toward Taiwan’s government, while taking a “soft” approach to influence the Taiwanese public, he said.
Peng was likely referring to Beijing’s announcement late last month of an incentive package that critics said is designed to lure Taiwanese nationals and businesses, in sectors ranging from information technology to agriculture and film, to work for or invest in China.
Moreover, Beijing is likely to react strongly to US President Donald Trump’s signing into law of the Taiwan Travel Act on Sunday, Peng said, adding that China might retaliate by poaching more diplomatic allies and stepping up military exercises near Taiwan.
The Taiwan Travel Act, which explicitly encourages visits between Taiwan and US officials at all levels, should boost relations between the two nations, Peng said.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Wu Chih-chung (吳志中) said his ministry welcomes the law and would make all the necessary preparations to facilitate high-level exchanges with the US.
However, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) expressed discontent over Peng’s knowledge of intelligence operations, after Peng fumbled in identifying Chinese Minister of State Security Chen Wenqing (陳文清) from a photograph Tsai furnished, the Chinese-language Apple Daily said.
Earlier, Tsai had asked Peng when the bureau had learned of Xi’s intent to abolish the presidential term limit.
When Peng replied the bureau has been aware of “some information” since the Chinese Communist Party’s National Congress last year, Tsai said: “Then why was this not mentioned in any of the reports the bureau submitted to the Legislative Yuan?”
“Many commentators published those views last year and the bureau has conducted research on it,” Peng said.
Tsai then showed Peng a photograph of Chen and asked him to identify the person. Peng was unable to answer, so a staffer did so for him, the report said.
Tsai then asked Peng what Chinese Ministry of State Security unit is responsible for operations in Taiwan, which Peng was also unable to answer as he was seen conferring with his staffers, the report said.
“I will have you know, it is Bureau No. 4,” Tsai was quoted as saying.
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