Vol. 2, Issue 30
The Global Taiwan Brief Volume 2, Issue 30
PRC Taiwan Expert Proposes 30-year Timetable for Unification
By: Russell Hsiao
New Chinese Missile Threats to Taiwan
By: Richard D. Fisher, Jr.
The End of Martial Law: An Important Anniversary for Taiwan
By: Mark Harrison
Migrant Rights: The New Southbound Policy’s People-Centered Agenda Starts at Home in Taiwan
By: Melissa Newcomb
China’s Subtle and Not-so-Subtle “Political Warfare” against Taiwan
By: Christopher Yung
PRC Taiwan Expert Proposes 30-year Timetable for Unification
Russell Hsiao is the executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute and chief editor of the Global Taiwan Brief.
The former head of a Ministry of State Security (MSS) affiliated research institute responsible for informing the Chinese government’s Taiwan-policy has called for a “unification timetable” (統一時間表) between China and Taiwan. On July 24, Zhou Zhihuai (周志懷), who served as the director of the Taiwan Studies Institute (ITS, 台灣研究所) at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS, 中國社會科學院) from 2013 to February 2017 and current executive council member of the National Society of Taiwan Studies (全國台灣研究會), proposed the timetable at an academic conference on cross-Strait relations held in Shanxi. According to various reports, the former government researcher made the statement about a 30-year timetable for unification in the context of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) goal for the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” (中華民族偉大復興) and “to achieve complete unification of the motherland” (實現祖國完全統一).
This is the not the first time that a timetable for unification has been floated around. While the late Chinese patriarch Deng Xiaoping recognized that a unification timetable was premature 40 years ago, during Jiang Zemin’s tenure in 2002, the 16th CCP Party Congress report formally indicated that the “Taiwan issue” cannot be postponed indefinitely. In 2013, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping reinforced this concern during a meeting with then vice president of Taiwan, Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), stating that “taking the long view, the long-standing political differences across the Taiwan Strait must eventually be gradually settled.” The supreme leader added that, “it won’t do for [the differences] to be passed along from one generation to the next.”
Xi’s statement that unification cannot be passed from one generation to the next does not directly indicate that the CCP has a timetable for unification, but the notion that indefinite de facto separation is unacceptable has been a consistent thread in the approaches taken by Jiang, Hu, and Xi towards Taiwan. According to Wang Hsin-hsien (王信賢) at National Chengchi University (Taiwan), Xi’s statement echoes the meaning behind a timetable for unification. The key question—according to Wang—is what the Chinese ‘core’ leader means by “generation”: does it mean the standard concept of 20 to 30 years, or does it refer to the convention of Chinese leadership succession after 10 years—in a way that is inextricably tied with Xi’s “Chinese dream” project (中國夢)?
It is instructive to note that the deadlines set by Xi for accomplishing the “Chinese dream” follow the timetable of “two one hundreds” (兩個一百年). The first one hundred refers to the centenary of the establishment of the CCP in 2021, by which point the Party should have achieved a “moderate level of prosperity” (小康水平). The second one hundred marks the centenary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 2049, by which point the Party should accomplish the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” (中華民族偉大復興). In his remarks at the 95th anniversary of the CCP’s establishment in 2016, Xi emphasized the progress of advancing peaceful unification and the completion of the great task of unification are critical for achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
As China-expert Willy Lam wrote in the Global Taiwan Brief:
In the realm of cross-Strait psychological warfare, some have speculated that ultra-nationalist President Xi, who is also General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and commander-in-chief, has set 2049 as the “deadline for Taiwan’s liberation.” […] While the word “deadline” has never appeared in top CCP leaders’ speeches on Taiwan, Xi has cited national unification as a key objective for the ‘great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,’ which the supreme leader hopes to accomplish by 2049.
Considered a dove among hawks within the PRC’s Taiwan policy community, Zhou stepped down as head of ITS in February 2017—reportedly for reaching the Chinese government’s official retirement age of 60. Yet, Zhou may have been dismissed for comments he had made in late November 2016 while still serving as head of a government-run research institute suggesting that the Chinese government was open to alternatives to the CCP’s narrow interpretation of the so-called “1992 consensus.”
Zhou’s statement was made at the “Relations Across the Straits Academic Symposium” (海峽兩岸關係學術研討會), which has been held annually since 1991. The conference is jointly organized by the National Society of Taiwan Studies (全國台灣研究會), the All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots (中華全國台灣同胞聯誼會), and CASS-ITS. Billed as one of the key academic conferences on cross-Strait relations, the forum is apparently used as a platform for signaling on cross-Strait issues. At the 26th annual conference this year, the theme was “Promoting Cross-Strait Integration, Maintaining Peaceful Foundation” (推動兩岸融合維護和平基礎). Speakers included, but were not limited to, the minister of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), Zhang Zhijun (張志軍); former state councilor and chairman of the NSTS, Dai Binggou (戴秉國); director of CASS-ITS, Yang Mingjie (楊明杰); chairman of the All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots, Wang Yifu (汪毅夫); Shao Zhonghai (邵宗海); Ni Yongjie (倪永杰); Wang Yingjin (王英津); Huang Jiashu (黃嘉樹); and Liu Guoshen (劉國深). There were also reportedly many experts on cross-Strait relations from Taiwan, such as Chao Chun-shan (趙春山) and Yang Kai-huang (楊開煌), among others.
The former state councilor and senior statesman, Dai, made three observations for promoting cross-Strait peaceful developments: 1) insist on the “1992 consensus”, oppose “Taiwan independence” as the political foundation; 2) advance the quality of economic cooperation, thicken cross-Strait common interests; and 3) advance the expansion of cross-Strait exchanges, and deepen the development of cross-Strait social integration.
Against the backdrop of reports earlier this year that the PRC’s rubber stamp National People’s Congress is exploring the possibility of amending the Anti-Secession Law (反分裂法) to ostensibly include more circumstances that would justify the use of military force against Taiwan, it is now said to be considering the promulgation of a National Unification Law（國家統一法). According to Wang, Zhou’s statement on a timetable may serve as a precursor for such a law. Whether an amendment or a National Unification Law are in the works, the forthcoming 19th Party Congress Report will likely include a report on Taiwan.
In his testimony before the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in June, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged that the current “status quo” may be unsustainable in the long-term. The secretary of state mentioned that, “i[t] is important as we engage with them [China] that we are able to fulfill our commitments to Taiwan, which we have every intention of doing … [t]he question is, is the One-China’ policy sustainable for the next 50 years? And those are the kind of discussions we’re having. They are extremely complex in many regards.” As the Trump administration thinks through this complex problem, the solution should not be to move towards the PRC’s definition, but toward one that favors US values and interests in the Asia-Pacific.
The main point: Zhou’s proposal for a 30-year timetable for unification is not radically new and tracks with Xi’s timeline for achieving the “Chinese dream,” but also reflects a greater sense of urgency among Party elites in opposing postponement of unification indefinitely.
New Chinese Missile Threats to Taiwan
Richard D. Fisher, Jr. is a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center and a member of the Advisory Board of the Global Taiwan Institute.
Recent reports from the Department of Defense and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) provide new information regarding China’s developing missile threat to Taiwan. For most of this decade the US Department of Defense (DoD) in its public statements has said that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), under the aegis of its new Rocket Force, has deployed approximately 1,200 short range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) against Taiwan. A more complete count including medium range ballistic and cruise missiles could put this number today at or above 2,000 missiles. However, new second-generation SRBMs give the PLA the option to target Taiwan with many thousand more. This asymmetry should prompt Washington and Taipei to accelerate asymmetric defensive responses.
The last time the DoD China Military Power Report provided a breakdown of SRBM types aimed at Taiwan was in its 2010 issue. For China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) DF-15 the number of missiles was “350-400” and the number of its launchers was “90-110.” For the competing China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) DF-11A, the corresponding numbers were “700-750” missiles and “120-140” launchers. In the latest 2017 DoD report the number of SRBMs is simply stated as “1,200” and the number of launchers “250.”
Though one launcher can carry only one missile, these “first generation” SRBMs have been improved. CASC’s DF-15 family now includes the 900km range DF-15B with a precision radar-guided warhead, which unofficial sources indicate could soon include secondary optical guidance systems that might allow attacks against moving targets like large ships. The 800km range DF-15C carries a specialized warhead for attacking underground facilities, which are crucial to Taiwan’s defenses. The current DF-15C warhead is said to penetrate 20 meters of concrete, while unofficial sources indicate the PLA wants to double this capability. Both the DF-15B and 350km range DF-11A are credited with modular warheads able to carry chemical, fuel-air-explosive, submunition and high explosive payloads.
A sensitive issue not addressed by the DoD or NASIC reports is the possibility that some DF-15s and DF-11As may be armed with tactical nuclear warheads. The authoritative Jane’s Strategic Weapons Systems yearbook states that the DF-15 and DF-11A could be equipped with a nuclear warhead. In a 2012 paper former Russian Rocket Force Chief of Staff Colonel General Viktor Yesin stated the PLA may have up to 30 tactical nuclear warheads for DF-15s and DF-11As, which would likely target Taiwan.
For more than a decade CASIC and CASC have been refining a “second generation” of SRBMs combining precision guidance systems with less expensive artillery rocket technology, enabling one launcher to carry up to eight SRBMs. First to emerge by 2010 was CASIC’s combination of the heavier 280+km range BP-12A SRBM with the artillery rocket-based 400km SY-400. By 2012, CASC was marketing its combination 260km range M-Nyu20 (DF-12) large missile with its smaller new two-stage precision-guided artillery rocket-based 300km range A300 SRBM. A launcher can now carry up to two of the larger BP-12A or M-20 SRBMs, or one of the larger SRBMs with four of the smaller, or just eight of the smaller.
At the 2015 IDEX arms exhibit in Abu Dhabi a CASC official told the author that the PLA was going to purchase their A300 SRBM. In turn, this increases the chances the PLA is also buying the M-20 SRBM and the competing CASIC second generation SRBM system. As a maximum option the PLA could build 250 second generation SRBM systems to replace the first generation. In terms of missile growth, assuming these new launchers carry five SRBMs, plus three reloads of five SRBMs per launcher, that adds up to 5,000 SRBMs. However, as the DF-15B and DF-15C are about a decade old it is likely they will not be replaced immediately.
But as mentioned earlier, the PLA also targets Taiwan with medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs). The 2017 DoD Report says the PLA has “200-300” MRBMs. In 2007, the 1,750km range DF-21C appeared, armed with a radar-guided warhead for precision strikes. Making its first appearance on Chinese television in 2011, the first version of the 800-1,000km range CASIC DF-16 used the modular warhead bus of the DF-11A. Its longer range enables a higher speed–useful in evading Taiwan’s missile defense interceptors. But in early 2006 a new DF-16 version appeared apparently armed with a version of the radar-guided warhead, likely based on that used by the DF-21C. There have been suggestions that CASIC’s DF-16 will replace the numerous DF-11A but this is not yet clear.
What is clear is that the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) are in a position to rapidly increasing their numbers of LACMs, which are less expensive than MRBMs and some SRBMs. In 2010 the DoD estimated that the PLA had “200-500” of its 1,500km DH-10 ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM). But in 2017, the DoD Report notes the PLA has “200-300” GLCMs and “200-300” LACMs, presumable the air-launched KD-20/CJ-10K, six of which are carried by the Xian Aircraft Corporation’s extensively modernized H-6K bomber. According to an Asian government estimate the PLAAF could have 180 H-6K bombers by 2020. If the number of H-6Ks reaches 100, that means a potential first salvo of 600 LACMs. These long-range cruise missiles are also expected to arm PLA Navy submarines.
Since the Taiwan Straits Crisis of 1995, when the PLA fired six DF-15s between 21-23 July to a location Northwest of Taiwan, Taipei, Washington and its Asian allies have been seized with countering both the military and psychological impact of China’s expanding missile force. The United States has sold Taiwan two generations of its PATRIOT missile interceptors and technology enabling Taiwan to produce multiple versions of its Tien Kung (天弓) surface-to-air missile interceptors. But as the PATRIOT-3 reportedly costs about $3 million USD per missile, and two may be required for a successful interception, it is too expensive to counter potentially thousands of new PLA SRBMs.
For more than a decade, in addition to missile defenses, Washington has urged Taiwan to improve “asymmetric” defenses like increasing its ability to jam PLA missile guidance systems. Yet there are also future asymmetric weapon options that with necessary leadership in Washington, could also be offered to Taiwan to increase its deterrent potential. One such technology with great promise is the Electromagnetic Rail Gun (EMRG), which the US Navy hopes will enter its fleet by the mid-2020s. Accelerating its development could allow ground and ship-based versions to be sold to Taiwan.
Twenty railguns, firing 10 rounds a minute, with each round carrying 100 tungsten steel balls, could in 3 minutes loft over 60,000 projectiles to interception speeds against an incoming PLA missile salvo. An EMRG round costs $25-50,000 versus a $1-2 million PLA SRBM. Adding EMRG to its other active and passive missile defenses could enable Taiwan to threaten enough of even a much larger PLA missile force to help convince China’s leadership that an attack against Taiwan will fail or be too costly.
The main point: Recent US government reports provide new information regarding China’s missile threat to Taiwan. While the number of Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs) has remained at 1,200 for several years, growing numbers of Chinese cruise missiles could mean approximately 2,000 Chinese missiles target Taiwan. But should China replace first generation SRBMs with new Second Generation models, the number of missiles targeting Taiwan could grow to several thousand.
 Colonel General (ret.) Viktor Yesin, “Third after the United States and Russia:On China’s Nuclear Potential without Underestimation or Exaggeration,” Voenno-promyshleyi Ku’er (Military-Industrial Courier) No. 17 (May 2, 2012), translated by Anna Tsiporkina, associate fellow of the Potomac Foundation, with Dr. Hung Nguyen, research scientist with the Science and Research Corporation and Jonathan Askonas of the Arms Control Project of Georgetown University, 6.
The End of Martial Law: An Important Anniversary for Taiwan
Dr Mark Harrison is senior lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Tasmania and an adjunct director of the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University.
Thirty years ago on 15 July 1987, the president of Taiwan, Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek, announced the end of the “Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of National Mobilisation for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion.” The following day, martial law on Taiwan was lifted after thirty-eight years. The Temporary Provisions were enacted under the constitution of the Republic of China in 1948 on mainland China, brought to Taiwan when the Chinese Nationalists relocated the national government to Taipei in 1949, and extended indefinitely by the government in 1954. Martial law enabled the establishment of specific institutions of Taiwan’s pervasive and violent security state, such as the Garrison Command, which carried out the detention, torture and murder of dissidents. It instituted the militarization of education and the control of free speech. Even the number of pages of daily newspapers were restricted under its provisions.
The end of martial law in 1987 came after three decades of explosive economic growth, the progressive loss of Taipei’s international status, and a resurgence of political activism from the late 1970s. Activists founded the Democratic Progressive Party in 1986, at the time an illegal act. After martial law ended, the Taiwanese government immediately legislated the National Security Act, which replicated many of its state powers in the face of ferocious public opposition. It was five years later, in 1992, that a fractious constitutional convention enabled constitutional reform that led to the first multi-party democratic presidential election in Taiwan in 1996.
The lifting of martial law was only one moment among many on Taiwan’s path to democracy, but it coincided with other democracy movements in Eastern Europe, East Asia and Latin America, the so called Third Wave of democratization at the end of the Cold War. Taiwan powerfully affirmed a particular narrative of modernity, in which market liberalization leads to rapid economic development, which in turn leads to political liberalization and to the end-point of a liberal democracy. In 1987, symbolically at least, Taiwan arrived, to use Fukuyama’s much-debated phrase, at the end of history.
Needless to say, democratization in Taiwan was never a natural outcome of its rapid economic development and modernisation. It was the result of the years of struggle and unimaginable courage of Taiwan’s democracy activists. Furthermore, in the decades since the lifting of martial law, it has become apparent that democratization was not a destination for Taiwan, but a starting point.
In authoritarian societies, citizens learn from an early age to demarcate sharply between the private and the public spheres, of what can be said and what must be held secret to survive or even prosper. When martial law ended, that boundary in Taiwan cracked. People began the fraught and intricate task of speaking truths silenced by Taiwan’s coercive state. This process has not always been edifying or righteous in Taiwan’s partisan and noisy public life and under the looming shadow of another authoritarian state across the Taiwan Strait. But it has not only been sustained since 1987, in recent years it has intensified.
In the 1990s, it was most apparent in public debate about the 2-28 Incident, the uprising by the Taiwanese against the Chinese Nationalists that began on February 28, 1947 and which was crushed by Nationalist forces at the cost of tens of thousands of Taiwanese lives. To speak of this violence was forbidden during the martial law period, but after 1987 it came back into public discourse in a vast surge of angry and pained writing and speaking. In 1989, Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien released his monumental work City of Sadness, which addressed 2-28. In 1997, February 28 became a national day of commemoration.
By the late 1990s, the memorialization of 2-28 stood in for the memorialization of the entire martial law period. In the last decade, the weight of memory has coursed into every part of Taiwan’s public life.
In contemporary culture, there is today a singular focus by many Taiwanese artists on questions of memory and subjectivity in the context of families and individuals broken across generations by political violence. The legacy of authoritarianism has been institutionalised by the DPP government of Tsai Ing-wen in the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, charged with examining the juridical and political questions of transitional justice. It can be seen in the enormous investment by the Taiwanese government in recent years in museums and memorials, such as those of the former prisons for political dissidents on Green Island and the Jingmei Human Rights Museum, and of state-funded memory projects like Story Taiwan. The new generation of political activists who initiated the Sunflower Movement in 2014 self-consciously connected their actions and commitments to democracy activism of the martial law period. The labor of remembering has also been taken up by second and third generation members of the Taiwanese diaspora in their political and cultural lives.
The end of martial law in Taiwan in 1987 was one moment in the realization of democracy in the late 20th century for many places around the world. But its true measure is the assiduous work since by many Taiwanese within Taiwan and globally to understand what came before it. Its lesson is that 30 years on, that undertaking may have only started.
(This article originally appeared in The Interpreter on July 13, 2017. The article was edited for style and time consistency.)
Migrant Rights: The New Southbound Policy’s People-Centered Agenda Starts at Home in Taiwan
Melissa Newcomb is the Research Manager at the Global Taiwan Institute and the Associate Editor of the Global Taiwan Brief.
The much lauded New Southbound Policy’s (NSP) major departure from the previous “Go South” policy is the emphasis on people-to-people exchange. Yet for many long-term advocates of overseas laborers in Taiwan, the majority of whom are from Southeast Asia, it seems hypocritical that the languages and cultures of Southeast Asia are now celebrated when they were denigrated only a few years ago.
Cultural sensitivity has not been Taiwan’s strong suit. National debates over the island’s multi-culturalism have focused on what is Taiwanese versus Chinese and overlooked other ethnic minorities, in addition to the historical suppression of aborigines. Given that domestic cultural politics are still fraught, sensitivity towards immigrant cultures has also been lacking.
A decade ago, immigrants or visitors to Taiwan from predominantly Muslim countries had trouble finding food without pork, or that was halal. Now, the DPP government has unveiled a whole host of policies to make Muslims feel welcome in Taiwan called, “Bridges to the Muslim World” and other immigration reform efforts. At an Eid al-Fitr celebration marking the end of Ramadan, the Mayor of Taipei, Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), declared he wants to make Taiwan “Muslim friendly.” The Political Deputy Minister of Education, Dr. Tsai Ching-Hwa (蔡清華), recently stated that academic institutions will accommodate non-Chinese exchange students, particularly Muslim students from Malaysia, providing prayer rooms, halal food, counselling services, and increased scholarships. National Taiwan University recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam National University. Indeed, boosting educational ties are part of the NSP’s “talent exchange” policy. But if Taiwan is to truly be friends with its neighbors from Southeast Asia, it will need to address long-standing issues concerning human rights to the people Taiwan’s economy depends on the most—overseas foreign laborers.
There are about 651,100 “New Residents” (新住民) or “Foreign Residents” (外僑居留) in Taiwan from Southeast Asian countries out of nearly 700,000 total: 232,685 from Indonesia, 186,145 from Vietnam, and 142,482 from the Philippines. In addition, there are 654,000 foreign laborers (外籍勞工), dividing into two categories, “productive industries” such as manufacturing (410,000) and “social welfare” (244,000), which is essentially caretaking and nursing. Oversea Foreign Laborers generally come from Indonesia (252,997), Philippines (144,439), Vietnam (195,698), and Thailand (60,669). The number of overseas workers has doubled since 2002 when there were about 300,000 in Taiwan.
However, as reliance on foreign labor continues to grow in Taiwan, protections for migrant workers have not kept pace. The systemic lack of protection has led to exploitation by employers, in the form of physical abuse, sexual harassment , poor working conditions, and even death for overseas foreign laborers. The section of the 2016 US Department of State’s Human Rights Report focused on Taiwan mentioned that some of the top human rights violations include “exploitation of foreign workers, including foreign crewmembers on long-haul fishing vessels and household caregivers.” In response to the report, Taiwan’s Presidential Office released a statement affirming Taiwan’s commitment to improving migrant laborers’ conditions.
People from Southeast Asia in Taiwan face discrimination for their lack of Mandarin language skills, lower economic status, and skin color. Becoming a naturalized citizen of Taiwan is difficult; requiring applicants to forego their original citizenship before beginning the process, with unclear criteria such as “decency.” Foreign spouses whose marriages end within five years may lose their citizenship, effectively leaving them stateless. If the foreign spouse cannot retain their citizenship and loses custody of their children after divorce, they have to leave Taiwan. Alternatively, if they lose citizenship but have custody, once their children reach the age of 20, they have to return to their home country. Policies such as these prevent immigrant women from seeking help in situations of domestic violence, which makes foreign women particularly vulnerable members of Taiwan’s society. If the children of Southeast Asian immigrants in Taiwan are indeed “the future” as President Tsai called them, then surely their parents’ wellbeing is part of that future.
There are several NGOs that have long worked on rights for immigrants from Southeast Asia, such as Taoyuan County Serve the People Association (桃園縣群眾服務協會), Taiwan International Workers Association (TIWA), Alliance for Human Rights Legislation for Immigrants and Migrants (AHRLIM), and TransAsia Sisters Association, Taiwan (TASAT). TASAT focuses on helping women adjust to Taiwanese society, empowering them through education and training. The rights of immigrants reveal the limits of Taiwan’s democracy and the labor rights of the broader population who, until 2016, did not have guaranteed weekends off work.
In the push to embrace and improve the quality of life for immigrants in Taiwan, policy makers will also need to consider the effect it will have on the majority population of Taiwan, and how other minorities who have been historically oppressed will react to seeing recent immigrants receiving treatment that may seem preferential. Anti-immigrant backlash has always been a facet of economies that rely on foreign labor, and in recent years there has been a surge in populist movements around the world that were in part propelled by “cultural backlash” against globalism, multiculturalism, and other values that have manifested in policies such as Brexit and increased deportations under President Trump. A top-down approach to a “people-centered agenda” fundamentally misses the point—that the broader Taiwanese society, with its heterogeneous population, will need to accept the immigrant community in order for true progress to be made.
In the context of the New Southbound Policy, migrant worker rights gain urgency for the legitimacy of the Tsai’s administration claims of a “people-centered agenda.” The NSP’s success will hinge on Taiwan’s ability to differentiate itself from the People’s Republic of China’s investment and trade in Southeast Asia, which is highly extractive and transactional. Values-based implementation is how Taiwan will compete with the PRC’s massive economy and political clout. It also means Taiwan will need to do better to realize those values at home, where more than half-a-million migrant workers live and work.
The main point: If the New Southbound Policy is to truly succeed with its “people-centered agenda” the Tsai administration needs to make the rights of Southeast Asian immigrants in Taiwan a priority and work with the broader Taiwanese society to change perceptions and treatment of migrant workers.
China’s Subtle and Not-so-Subtle “Political Warfare” against Taiwan
Christopher Yung is the Donald Bren Chair of Non-Western Strategic Thought at Marine Corps University, where he serves as Director and Professor of East Asian Studies. He is the author, editor, and contributor to numerous books, monographs, and articles on Chinese strategy.
Amongst China-watchers in the United States, there is a consensus that China’s most important policy objective is to bring Taiwan back into its fold. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership considers the continued separation of Taiwan from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) an extension of China’s “century of humiliation.” Thus, no General Secretary of the CCP could survive politically if Taiwan were to be allowed to declare independence or establish a de jure autonomous political state. At the same time, a violent resolution of the Taiwan problem creates complications for Beijing and runs counter to its long-term strategic objectives of attaining modernity, returning to political dominance in the region, and easing the United States away from the region, all with minimal collateral damage to China’s and the world economy. As a result, these two competing objectives have necessitated a sophisticated political strategy on Beijing’s part. The CCP has assigned management of this strategy to the United Front Department (UFD) of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. In observing China’s United Front tactics this brief identifies five categories of political strategies that the CCP is undertaking against Taiwan. These are:
A United Front: At its most basic level, this political strategy, which originated in the 1920s, is now to remind Taiwan’s population that indeed there is a common bond between China and Taiwan. In particular, that the CCP and the Nationalist party (KMT) have a common history, ancestry, cultural bond, and definitions of territoriality. In the context of the current political environment, this strategy is meant to diminish the emerging trend of Taiwan’s population increasingly seeing itself as “Taiwanese” instead of “Chinese.” This political strategy plays itself out when the PRC calls for joint naval patrols of the South China Sea, and when Beijing sides with Taiwan over a maritime territorial dispute with a third party rival (e.g., the Philippines). But it also manifests itself much more subtly when municipal and provincial governments sponsor “know your roots” tourist travel for Taiwan youth, and invite former Taiwan government officials and veterans to the mainland to participate in reunions and golf tournaments.
Carrots and Sticks: China utilizes a range of economic and financial instruments to incentivize cooperation between the PRC and Taiwan. This has manifested itself in trade agreements (over 20 signed since 2008), incentives for Taiwan to invest in China, commercial air agreements allowing direct flights, mail, and shipping agreements between the two sides, opportunities for Taiwan’s actors and musicians to tap into China’s market, tourism, student exchanges, direct investment of PRC funds into Taiwan’s businesses, and assistance to Taiwan’s entrepreneurs and businessmen. The flip side of a “carrot” political strategy is a “stick” approach. Anger the policymakers in Beijing and incentives rapidly become channels for punishment. During public appearances Taiwan actors who refuse to follow Beijing’s strict guidance on the use of certain pro-Beijing terminology find themselves “blacklisted.” And then there is the infamous example of Hsu Wen-long (許文龍), a pro-independence businessman who founded a multibillion dollar company with factories in China who was, nevertheless coerced into issuing an open letter in Taiwan newspapers supporting China’s Anti-Secession law, and rejecting his secessionist declarations of the past.
Interference in Taiwan politics: There is no question that of the two major political parties on Taiwan, the PRC prefers the Nationalist party (KMT) over the ruling-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). This is due mostly to the fact that the KMT’s traditional party platform is to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of China while at the same time disputing which government—Beijing or Taipei—should be considered the sole, legitimate government of the Chinese people, while the DPP’s party platform calls for greater autonomy for Taiwan (if not overt independence) and does not explicitly accept the so-called “1992 Consensus.”
The PRC’s preference for the KMT plays itself out in its political warfare strategy against Taiwan. One such strategy includes direct interference in Taiwan’s internal political affairs including providing reduced airfare for Taiwan’s businessmen and other citizens working in China to be able to return to Taiwan to cast their votes in major elections. This strategy was also ostensibly a factor in the PRC’s decision in 2015 during the run-up to the 2016 Taiwan presidential election to convene a summit between the heads of the CCP and KMT, Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-Jeou—who were both presidents of the PRC and Taiwan—for the first time since the end of the Chinese civil war. This strategy also includes calling into question the DPP’s ability to effectively govern Taiwan. Consequently, the Taiwan population is relentlessly bombarded with propaganda through social media, which points out that under the DPP Taiwan’s economy is likely to suffer greatly.
You are isolated and alone: An important component of China’s political warfare strategy is to convince the Taiwan population, its officials and anyone with authority on the island, that it stands alone against the PRC. China’s strategy in this regard is multifaceted. First, it endeavors to pick off, through generous economic aid packages, those remaining countries who still formally recognize the Republic of China (ROC) as the legitimate government of China. Second, it attempts to cut Taiwan off from any official recognition or acknowledgement in international forums. The recent removal of Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA) following complaints from the WHA’s China representatives is one such example. Third, Beijing puts on a “full court press” to head off or reduce the effectiveness of any type of arms sale which bolsters Taipei’s ability to defend itself. Finally, Beijing takes actions internationally that it knows Taipei cannot effectively respond to since Taiwan is not internationally recognized, and lacks the resources to match China, such as offering the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) against piracy as escort protection for Taiwan fishermen and shipping.
Resistance is futile: Beijing reserves for its last political strategy against Taiwan the potential to militarily attack and invade Taiwan and to openly advertise and communicate this fact to Taiwan’s population. China’s continued modernization and the build-up of its military forces is a reminder that China could settle the matter violently but has thus far chosen not to. Some key examples: China’s periodic amphibious and airborne military exercise, the Dongshan (東山) exercise is designed to be a reminder to Taiwan that China is developing the capability to conduct a full-scale assault on the island. In 2015, PLA Special Forces troops were observed attacking an exact replica of the Taiwan Presidential palace. Trans-Regional mobility exercises conducted since 2010 serve as reminders that the PLA may be preparing for long-range transportation for major combat operations. PLA Navy exercises in the Western Pacific look suspiciously like rehearsals in areas of operations the PLAN would have to utilize in order to respond to an American and allied response to a PLA attack on Taiwan. At present the PLA does not possess the military capability to successfully execute a full assault against Taiwan militarily, as the United States could interfere in the operation and the Taiwan military still has the capability to extract huge costs from the PLA in terms of lives, equipment and reputation; nonetheless, the increasing capability of the PLA to inflict lethal damage on Taiwan, and the PRC’s ability to repeatedly demonstrate this fact, remains one of Beijing’s political warfare tools in its toolkit.
The Chinese government has developed a very sophisticated political strategy to gradually fold Taiwan back into its political sphere. A first step for Taiwan in countering this strategy is fully recognizing the elements of Beijing’s efforts. Taiwan has shown that it does recognize the elements of this strategy since it has taken vigorous actions to head off Chinese diplomatic efforts to isolate the island. A second step is to make this fact part of a public discourse on how Taiwan’s government, present and future, should respond to this strategy. A third and obvious recommendation is to coordinate efforts with Taiwan’s friends and partners in the region—most notably the United States—to help mitigate or offset these sophisticated political strategies against Taiwan. A final step is for the Taiwan government, whether blue or green, to determine that bolstering the Taiwan population’s resiliency is the government’s responsibility, and to lay out a plan to do so.
The main point: Most assessments of Chinese strategy towards Taiwan focus on China’s possible military actions. Counter-strategies naturally tend to heavily involve military courses of action. However, the essential components of the PRC’s strategy are the psychological and the political. Counter-strategies both within Taiwan and outside must, therefore, center on the psychological and political as well.
 John Q. Tian, Government, Business, and the Politics of Interdependence and Conflict Across the Taiwan Strait (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), p. 115.