The appointment of Song Tao (宋濤) as director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) shows that Beijing is giving higher priority to Taiwan affairs, cross-strait relations expert Chang Wu-ueh (張五岳) said.
Song, a 67-year-old veteran Chinese diplomat, replaced 65-year-old Liu Jieyi (劉結一) as the head of the TAO, which handles the guidelines and policies of the Chinese State Council related to Taiwan, the TAO said in a statement on Wednesday last week.
Having Song, who served in the upper echelon of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the “deputy state level,” lead the TAO is indicative of Beijing giving “greater importance” to what it calls the Taiwan issue, said Chang, an associate professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of China Studies, referring to Song’s membership in the then-204-seat 19th CCP Central Committee from 2017 to last year.
Photo: screen grab from the Web site of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office
Song is likely to be named as one of the 24 vice chairpersons of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a nominal advisory body under the CCP’s United Front Work Department, when it convenes for its first session in March, Chang said.
The arrangement should “facilitate coordination” among the CCP’s departments in their handling of Taiwan affairs, Chang said.
However, daily Japanese Sankei Shimbun’s Taipei bureau head Akio Yaita said the appointment of Song as head of the TAO was “jaw-dropping” news because he was not elected to the CCP Central Committee at the party’s National Congress in October last year.
Chances are that Song could find himself at a loss when something comes up that requires him to exercise judgement, as he is not involved in the operations of the Central Committee, Yaita wrote on Facebook on Friday.
Liu and his two predecessors, Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) and Wang Yi (王毅), were members of the CCP’s Central Committee, putting them on an equal footing with province-level heads and with the ability to settle problems of Taiwanese businesses in China simply by making a call to local officials, Yaita said.
A call from Song might not carry as much weight with local officials because unlike his predecessors in the Central Committee, he is an ordinary CCP member, Yaita said.
The last position Song held in the Chinese government was head of the CCP’s International Liaison Department from 2015 to last year.
Prior to that, he was executive deputy head of the Foreign Affairs Office, the execution arm of the Foreign Affairs Leading Group; vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and ambassador to Guyana and the Philippines.
After Song left the International Liaison Department, a ministerial-level agency that manages the CCP’s relations with foreign political parties, international political organizations and overseas political elites, many people thought he would retire from politics, Yaita said.
Song might have been appointed to the TAO post because he worked in Fujian Province when Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) served as provincial governor from 1999 to 2002, and was considered a close confidant of Xi, Yaita said.
Separately, asked to comment on Thursday on TAO’s new leadership, Mainland Affairs Council spokesperson Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) said Beijing should refrain from employing coercive measures against Taiwan.
CCP authorities should respect the values Taiwanese hold dear, including defending Taiwan’s sovereignty, freedom and democracy, and take actions to improve cross-strait relations, Chiu said.
SAFETY IN REGULATION: The proposal states that Chiayi should assess whether it is viable to establish such a district and draft rules to protect clients and sex workers The Chiayi City Council passed a motion yesterday to assess the viability of establishing a regulated red-light district. The council yesterday held its last session of the year, at which its fiscal 2024 budget was approved, along with 61 other proposals. The proposal to assess the viability of establishing a red-light district was put forward by independent Chiayi City Councilor Molly Yen (顏色不分藍綠支持性專區顏色田慎節). The proposal cited 2011 amendments to the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法), which stipulate that city and county governments can pass autonomous regulations on the sex trade to manage the industry and guarantee industry workers’ rights. A ban on the
STABILITY AND CHANGE: Flagging in recent polls, Ko this week pledged to maintain President Tsai’s foreign policy, with an emphasis on improving China relations Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday reiterated that he is “deep-green at heart” in response to accusations that he is pivoting his campaign to align closer with the ideology of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the face of flagging polls. Ko made the remark at an agricultural policy conference in Taipei, repeating his comments from an interview with CTS News a day earlier. Ko told the CTS host that he would continue to pursue President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) national defense and foreign policy in general, but with an emphasis on establishing a rapport with
CHINA illness surge: Of 88 travelers from China, Hong Kong and Macau with respiratory symptoms who were encouraged to get tested upon arrival, 70.6% had the flu Two hundred and sixty people with COVID-19 were hospitalized and 31 deaths related to the virus were reported last week — the highest numbers in four weeks, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday, adding that cases are expected to peak next month. CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Director Guo Hung-wei (郭宏偉) said that of the 260 people hospitalized last week with moderate to severe COVID-19, 98 percent had not received the Omicron XBB.1.5-adapted COVID-19 vaccine. Among the people hospitalized this year, 78 percent were aged 65 or older, while most of the those who were hospitalized or died have or had
Taiwanese who have recently traveled to China for tourism, to visit friends or relatives or for business reasons have been interrogated, detained and faced other forms of unreasonable treatment from Chinese officials, a source said on Sunday. Among them was a Taiwanese who was detained for eight hours at an airport in China due to their research, which is related to religion, while others have had their travel documents for China canceled for a number of reasons, the source said. In July, China expanded the scope of its counterespionage law, and recently announced a draft amendment to the law on the protection