(Project of the Kajima Institute of International Peace)
The Taiwan Policy of the Xi Jinping Administration in its Second Term:
An Outlook on Cross-Strait Relations in the "New Era"1
Professor, The University of Tokyo
Senior Associate, the Society of Security and Diplomatic Policy Studies
In an attempt to continue the stable relationship with the Chinese authorities that was realized in the Ma Ying-jeou administration, Taiwan's Tsai Ing-wen administration initially made efforts to reach some consensus with the administration of China's Xi Jinping --- consensus which was to represent the "central meaning" of "the 1992 consensus"2 regarding "One China." However, both sides' efforts at coordination ended in failure, and finally their official diplomatic relations were disrupted. As a result, they have plunged into a "new normal" --- an unprecedented situation free from excessive tensions in the past3.
Beijing has regressed from its former flexible attitude and come to claim in a matter-of-fact manner that the Tsai administration should accept the 1992 consensus. The Tsai administration rejects this claim, and at the same time continues to cleverly refrain from any provocative action toward Beijing. The public opinion in China looks on this situation as an unpardonable provocation against the "One China Principle," and hardline opinions are increasing across the country.
In October 2017, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was held. General Secretary Xi Jinping made public a new Taiwan policy in the Congress report. In March 2018, a new leadership (a personnel assignment) of the Chinese government was unveiled at the National People's Congress (NPC). Almost at the same time, concrete Taiwan policy measures of the Chinese government were publicized.
The present paper purposes to clarify the features of the Taiwan policy of the Xi Jinping administration in its second term. Through a comparative analysis between the policies publicized before and after the 19th Party Congress and actual policies underway, it will provide an outlook on the Taiwan policy of the Xi Jinping administration that will remain in power until 2022.
1. The 19th Party Congress Report: Continuity of the "Two-Handed" Strategy
China's public opinion became harsher against the Tsai administration that has been refusing to accept the 1992 consensus since its inauguration in May 2016. The populist hardline Global Times (Chinese edition) continued coverage as if to encourage a cross-Strait unification by force, quoting remarks of PLA officers in active service.4 Not only that, but on August 1, 2017, Zhou Zhihuai, the former director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Science, said publicly, "It is difficult to avoid the issue of timetable for cross-Strait unification."5 The remarks by Zhou who was considered a moderate insider in the Xi Jinping administration, suggested the possibility that the administration would undertake a hardline policy.
At the 19th Party Congress, "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" was incorporated in the Party Constitution. It was included also in the Chinese Constitution in March 2018. Numerous forward-looking key words were coined in this connection --- "Community with a Shared Future for Mankind" for a target slogan committed to by Xi, and "One Belt One Road" for the Xi Jinping administration's pet policy initiative, comprising the "Silk Road Economic Belt" and the "Ocean Silk Road of the 21st Century."
When it comes to the Taiwan Policy expounded in the 19th Party Congress report,6 regardless of some added new key words, the basic strategy remains the same as before. Xi emphasizes the continuity of his Taiwan policy, referring to such key words relevant to the principles of cross-Strait relations as "question to realize China's complete reunification," "peaceful unification and one country, two systems," and "peaceful development of cross-Strait relations."
What is different from the former Taiwan Policy is that the new one elaborates the soft approach of "peaceful development of cross-Strait relations" in the following three parts.
First comes a cross-strait "integration of economic and social development." (jingji shehui ronghe fazhan)7 The report states, "we respect the current social system and way of life in Taiwan and are ready to share the development opportunities on the mainland with our Taiwan compatriots first."
Secondly, the advancement of "forging closer bonds." (xinling qihe) It states, "we will encourage people from both sides to work together to promote Chinese culture and forge closer bonds between them."
Thirdly, Beijing stands ready to provide "the same treatment as local people." (yu guomin tongdeng daiyu) It says, "We will ensure that over time, people from Taiwan will enjoy the same treatment as local people when they pursue their studies, start businesses, seek jobs, or live on the mainland, thus improving the wellbeing of Taiwan compatriots."
Meanwhile, the Xi Jinping administration has strengthened its hard-liner policy against Taiwan by adopting the expression "six anys," (liuge renhe) to thereby check any move toward Taiwan independence. According to the same report, "We have the resolve, the confidence, and the ability to defeat separatist attempts for ‘Taiwan independence' in any form. We will never allow anyone, any organization, or any political party, at any time or in any form, to separate any part of Chinese territory from China!" Thus, the administration declares once more its intolerance of any move toward Taiwan independence.
In this way, the Taiwan policy of Xi Jinping in his second term is primarily soft approaches combined with hardline policy measures as a hedge against Taiwan independence, thereby maintaining the traditional framework of "two-handed strategy." It has no outstanding difference from the policy during the Hu Jintao era in terms of basic framework, when Beijing confronted the pro-independent Chen Shui-bian administration.8 The past experiences of facing a pro-independent administration in Taiwan seem to have driven home to the Chinese government the validity of its "two-handed strategy."
Since the 19th Party Congress report appeared, the Chinese public's hard line views on Taiwan have temporarily toned down. Furthermore, since in the March 2018 NPC, the restrictions on the term of office of the State President were removed through constitutional amendment, the Xi administration has been provided with more time. In other words, during the five years of his second term (2017-2022), Xi Jinping will not have to forcibly realize a unification with Taiwan. Instead, the ten years' period through his second and third terms (2017-2027) has become available for him to address the Taiwan issue.
2. A Soft Policy: The 31 Measures toward Taiwan
The Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of the State Council promulgated on February 28, 2018 "the Measures to Promote Cross-Strait Economic and Cultural Exchanges and Cooperation (hereinafter, the 31 Measures toward Taiwan)."9 The NDRC is an economic management agency under the State Council, having broad administrative and planning control over the Chinese economy. Those policy measures were announced based on coordination with other 29 departments under the State Council.
The 31 Measures toward Taiwan embody the soft policy of "Cross-Strait Peaceful Development." The policy measures fall into two categories. The first is to provide Taiwanese enterprises with equal treatment in the fields of investment and economic cooperation. (Article 1-12). These measures would encourage Taiwanese enterprises to: participate in the "Made in China 2025" initiative or in the construction of "One Belt and One Road;" transfer their R&D bases to the Chinese mainland, and participate in Chinese government procurement, thus offering many preferences to Taiwanese entities.
The other category of measures is to offer Taiwanese compatriots with the same treatment as local people in the areas of study, businesses, and working and living in the mainland. (Article 13-31) This category contains policy measures concerning the "forging closer bonds" and the "same treatment" mentioned in the 19th Party Congress report. Policy measures related to the "forging closer bonds" include the joint promotion of Chinese culture and the relaxation of restrictions imposed on Taiwan regarding the production of movies and TV dramas. Those related to the "same treatment" include measures to ease restrictions when Taiwanese doctors, financiers, professional technical personnel, etc. work in the mainland China, as well as measures to promote schooling and employment of Taiwanese people in the mainland China.
These measures constitute a comprehensive Taiwan policy package formulated by different departments and committees (equivalent to ministries) of the State Council. They were in turn followed by other subordinate policy measures with local characteristics that were formulated at lower levels than provinces and autonomous regions like Shanghai.10
The 31 Measures toward Taiwan are a soft, conciliatory policy. But they have concurrently another purpose of taking away from Taiwan such technologies and human resources that constitute Taiwan's advantages over China. In other words, the measures are not just a conciliatory approach of affording "benefits" to the Taiwanese, but a product co-authored by the administrative sectors of the State Council in coordination with the TAO and the NDRC. The 31 Measures toward Taiwan, therefore, can be considered a policy package advantageous and convenient to the Chinese government.
The 31 Measures toward Taiwan draw our attention not only to their contents but to the way they were announced. They were not related to the cross-Strait exchange mechanism now suspended, or to the KMT-CPC Platform (KMT is the biggest opposition party in Taiwan), but were unilaterally announced by the Chinese government. This suggests that in order to avoid contact with the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) government of Taiwan, Beijing will in the future likewise unilaterally decide and announce such policies that would normally need advance coordination with Taiwan.
The 31 Measures toward Taiwan are certainly alluring to individual Taiwanese people. But the Taiwanese government is uncompromising toward this policy which was unilaterally announced by Beijing. They have worked out countermeasures to prevent the outflow of technologies, capitals, and human resources.11
3. Hard-Line Policy Measures: Diminishment of Taiwan's International Space and Intensification of Military Pressure
The 19th Party Congress report suggests hardline policy measures to prevent Taiwan independence. Specifically, the following have been implemented.
First, there are many cases where Beijing mounts pressure to countries maintaining diplomatic relations with Taipei to suspend them and establish new diplomatic relations with the PRC. In the era of the Ma Ying-jeou administration, mainland China and Taiwan hardly engaged in competition for supporting states, due to the so-called "diplomatic cease fire." However, a telephone conversation by Tsai Ing-wen with Donald J. Trump, who was US president-elect then, invoked a retribution from Beijing. In December 2016, the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, and in June 2017, a year after the inauguration of the Tsai administration, Panama broke off diplomatic relations with Taipei.
In May 2018, the Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso broke from Taipei in a row and established diplomatic relations with Beijing. These are interpreted to be Beijing's retaliation against the official remarks of Premier Lai Chingte, in favor of Taiwan independence.12
In 2017, an invitation letter for the World Health Assembly (WHA) that Taiwan had been able to attend until the previous year did not reach Taiwan. In addition, Beijing questioned the fact that world airlines are adopting website references that can be construed to suggest that Taiwan is not part of China. Beijing lobbied against as many as 44 airline companies flying to and from China to modify such a wording. Most of the airlines switched from "Taiwan" to "Taiwan, China."13
Figure 1: Diagram of Cross-theater Training Routes of the PRC's Naval Vessels and Military Aircrafts (From August 18, 2016 to December 11, 2017）
Thick blue and thin blue lines: The aircraft carrier Liaoning and its battle group (Four times). Brown, yellow, rosy pink, and red lines denote transport aircraft, bombers, patrol aircraft and fighters, respectively (26 times).
Source: 2017 National Defense Report Editorial Committee ed., 2017 National Defense Report, Ministry of National Defense, Republic of China, March 2018, p. 44,
China's military pressure against Taiwan is also intensifying. For example, Chinese naval vessels and military aircraft have been rapidly increasing their activities around Taiwan since 2016. Figure 1 is a 2016-17-year record released by the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense for the "National Defense Report," which represents only part of their actual activities. Although most of the Chinese military aircraft are bombers, yet transport aircraft, air refueling aircraft, and fighters are also listed, indicating that the range of their operations is expanding. The aircraft carrier Liaoning also is increasing its operations; moreover, the vessel now seems to have been assigned a mission to intimidate Taipei in addition to her normal missions.
This paper has pointed out the following three features of the Taiwan policy of the Xi Jinping administration in its second term.
First, the policy demonstrates its continuity from that of the past administration --- the "two-handed strategy" consisting of soft policy measures and hardline policy measures. The 31 Measures toward Taiwan embody Beijing's soft policy to Taiwan, but at the same time are designed to take away from Taiwan its advanced technologies and competent human resources for use in the development of the Chinese mainland. Therefore, the Taiwanese government regards the package measures as equal to a kind of "beggar-thy-neighbor policy" to make Taiwan more dependent on China. Taipei is now heightening its vigilance over the measures. On the other hand, Beijing's hardline policy is made up of efforts to narrow Taiwan's international area of activity by mounting political pressure, and to accelerate the activities of Chinese military aircraft and naval ships around Taiwan.
Secondly, although the Xi Jinping administration has inherited the "two-handed strategy," yet it still fails to set clear goals to achieve. For example, those soft and hardline policy measures mentioned above have the effect of offsetting each other. If Beijing launched soft economic measures but simultaneously intensified military pressure, Taiwan would be even more vigilant. If Beijing increased military pressure, but at the same time adopted conciliatory economic measures, Taiwan would get an impression that Beijing will not resort to military force, and the effect of intimidation would be weakened. Such inconsistency gives Taiwan an impression that there is still time for her to respond.
Thirdly, while there is a continuing vicious cycle between an exchange of sanctions and retaliations and the resulting deterioration in the bilateral relations, Taiwan nonetheless manages to maintain a certain space of activity. This situation signifies that the Xi Jinping administration, absorbed with various external and internal political issues, does not place a high priority on the Taiwan issue. Changing the status quo related to the cross-Strait issue is still characterized by difficulties.
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- May 2017: (Emergency Proposal) Facing the Inconvenient Truth: Re-examining Policy for Peace and Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula (Chief author, Masao Okonogi)
- March 2017: "Economic Influences of the Trump Administration" written by Professor Motoshige Ito
- February, 2017: Proposal article "Trump's Foreign and Security Policy - Unpredictable President, Realistic Secretaries - " written by Mr. Tsuneo Watanabe is posted on the website of SSDP.
- December, 2016: Proposal article "Reconsidering North Korea Policy: How to Deal with a Nuclear Armed Divided States" written by Professor Masao Okonogi is posted on the website of SSDP.
- March 2022, A remembrance seminar "Remembering Professor Ezra Vogel" held on January 17, 2022
- March 2021, Japan-ROK Parliamentary Dialogue -Japan-ROK Cooperation in the Era of US-China Competition- held on March 11, 2021
- December 2020: The report of the Japan-ROK Future Dialogue held on November 21 to discuss "Japan-ROK Cooperation in the Post-Covid-19 Era
- October 2020: "Responses to COVID-19 and Agendas for the Post-COVID-19 Era", A Brief Overview of the Japan-Korea Experts Dialogue held on July 29,30, 2020
- October 2020: "The China-Taiwan Confrontation over Corona Response and Taiwan's Security" written by Makoto Ogata, Former Chief of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei
- May 2020: "Rivalries in the Middle East in New Security Dynamics", Written by Sayed Ghoneim, Major General (retired) of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Chairman, Institute for Global Security & Defence Affairs
- March 2020: The Japan-South Korea Relationship in a Cul-de-Sac--- Where is an Exit ? Masao Okonogi Professor Emeritus, Keio Universit
- December 2019: The Hong Kong Upheaval and the Future of Cross-Straits Relations－The 2019 Japan-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue Report OGATA, Makoto Former Chief of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei
- August 2019: Report; 2019 FUTURE CONSENSUS DIALOGUE --Sustainable Prosperity and Future of Korea-U.S.-Japan Cooperation-- By Future Consensus Institute (Yeosijae)
- June 2019: Report on India – Japan Security Dialogue 2019 by Ms. Vindu Mai Chotani, Ph.D Student, The University of Tokyo
June 2019: Four papers on Japan-India Cooperation submitted to India-Japan Security Dialogue 2019
Japan's Rationale for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision
Tsuneo Watanabe, Senior Fellow, The Sasakawa Peace Foundation
The Significance and Possibilities of India-Japan Cooperation in the Concept of the Indo-Pacific
Toru ITO Associate Professor, National Defense Academy of Japan
Japan-India Defense Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Context - Operationalizing the Security Aspect of the Indo-Pacific Vision –
Hideshi Tokuchi, Senior Fellow, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)
India-US-Japan Defense Cooperation: What's next?
Dr. Satoru Nagao, Hudson Institute
- Japan's Rationale for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision
- November 2018: "The Present State of the Japanese Economy and Policy Issues" lectured by Motoshige Itoh, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo.
- November 2018: "Expanding Social Security Expenses and Fiscal Reforms" lectured by Kazumasa Oguro, Professor at Hosei University.
- September 2018: "Taiwan Identity and Cross-Strait Relations and Trump's Taiwan Policy and the Future of Taiwan-US Relations-Discussion at The Second Japan-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue (June 21, 2018, Taipei)-" written by OGATA, Makoto
- September 2018: "Japan-Taiwan Dialogue 2018 Minutes", 21st June 2018, Taipei, Taiwan.
- July 2018: Report on The Second Japan – Philippines Strategic Dialogue prepared by Ms. Vindu Mai Chotani, Ph.D. Student, Graduate School of Public Policy, Tokyo University.
- May 2018: "Civilian Control "at Crisis"? – Perhaps Not, for the Case of the Field Sit-reps from SDF's South Sudan Mission" reported by Ippeita Nishida, Research Fellow, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation
- January 2018: "Fukushima, Genki？Project－Young Taiwanese volunteers introduce the facts on Fukushima's revival through documentary films－" reported by OGATA, Makoto, Former Chief of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei
- December 2017: "Commemorating a Quarter Century of Dispatches of the JSDF's PKO Units: Challenges and Possibilities in the Post South Sudan" written by Takayuki Shoji, Lecturer, Nihon University
- November 2017: "19th CCP National Congress" written by Mr. Bonji Ohara, Senior Research Fellow, the Sasakawa Peace Fondation
- October 2017: "What is Japan's Role in the Indo-China border conflict?" written by Dr. NGAO,Satoru, Research Fellow, Institute for Future Engineering
- July 2017: "Overview of the Current Situation in Taiwan-" the Naturally Independent Generation" will affect the Taiwan"s politics-" written by Makoto Ogata MGE.(Ret.)
- June 2017: "Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue" written by Mr.Takaaki Asano
- March 2017: "The Japan-Philippines Strategic Dialogue" written by Mr. Hideshi Tokuchi
- February, 2017: Current topic "The Importance of Japan's Security Role Under Trump" written by Dr. Satoru Nagao is posted on the SSDP website.
- December, 2016: Current topic "Widening Security Task: Will SDF do the Job?" written by Mr. Ippeita Nishida is posted on the SSDP website.
- January 2023, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 4 no 4)" - Defending Our Country – Defense Policy in a "New Cold War Era - was published.
- October 2022, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 4 no 3)" - Xi Jinping's China - Politics, Economy, Society and Diplomacy - was published.
- Jun 2022, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 4 no 2)" -The Russia-Ukraine War and Its Global Impact- was published.
- March 2022, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 4 no 1)"-What is Economic Security?- was published.
- December 2021, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 3 no 4)"-Korean Peninsula Situation- was published.
- September 2021, A research journal "Security Studies vol03 no03" -Asia's Security II- (English edition)
- June 2021, A research journal "Security Studies vol03 no02" -Asia's Security I- (English edition)
- March 2021: Research journal "Security Studies (vol3 no1) "- US Foreign Policy in the Biden Administration / The 2020 US Presidential Election and American Democracy -(English edition)
- December 2020: A research journal "Security Studies (vol2 no4) "- Normalize Japan-South Korea Relations trough Dialogues -(English edition)
- September 2020: A research journal "Security Studies (vol2 no3) "-The Novel Coronavirus and Security-(English edition)
- July 2020: A research journal "Security Studies (vol2 no2) - Middle East Situation and Japan's Security - " (English edition) was published
- May 2020: A research journal "Security Studies (vol2 no1) - Cyber, Space, Environment and Security - " March 2020 (English edition)
- February 2020, "A research journal "Security Studies (vol1 no4) " (English edition)"
- September 2019: A research journal "Security Studies (vol1 no3) " (English edition)
- August 2019: Korea-Japan Joint Seminar: FUTURE CONSENSUS DIALOGUE
- April 2019: "Security Studies (vol1 no2) April 2019"
- March 2019: A research journal "Security Studies vol1 no01" just published
- February 2019: The Denuclearization of North Korea and the Takeshima Issue
- December 2018: Former Vice Defense Minister Masahiro Akiyama's Memoirs (An Ad)
- November 2018: Participation in the Future Consensus Forum held in Beijing
- September 2018: "2018 Indo-Pacific Security Dialogue" reported by Masahiro Akiyama
- 2017 December: "The Butterfly Project-A possibility of showing a solution to the North Korea problem-"
- October 2017: Campaign on the problems with North Korea
- August 2017: A New Containment Policy Strategy
- June 2017: Korean peninsla
- March 2017: President Duterte
- February, 2017: Kazakhstan
- November, 2016: Participated in Astana Club 2016 held in Kazakhstan on November 14- 16, 2016.