Fortnightly Review

Fortnightly Review

Fortnightly Review

President Tsai Ing-wen Calls for “New Mode” of cross-Strait Relations on ROC National Day as PRC doubles down on “One China Principle”

On October 10, in her second National Day address as president of Taiwan (ROC), Tsai Ing-wen called on Beijing authorities to consider “new modes” of cross-Strait relations. Double Ten Day (雙十節)—also referred to as National Day (國慶日) in Taiwan—celebrates the start of the Wuchang Uprising (武昌起義) in 1911 that precipitated the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and led to the establishment of the ROC government. In her remarks celebrating the 106th anniversary of the government’s formation, President Tsai reemphasized her administration’s commitment to maintaining the cross-Strait status quo based on “four nos”: “Our goodwill will not change, our commitments will not change, we will not revert to the old path of confrontation, and we will not bow to pressure.”

Marking the 30th anniversary of cross-strait exchanges, Tsai stated:

As we face new circumstances in cross-Strait and regional relations, leaders from both sides should together work to display the political wisdom that has carried us through over the years. We should search for new modes of cross-strait interactions [emp. added] with determination and patience. This will lay a more solid basis for long-term peace and stability in the cross-Strait relationship.

President Tsai’s remarks at the National Day celebration were closely monitored, as earlier in the year her administration had begun calling for a “new model of cross-Strait interactions” (兩岸互動的新模式)—ostensibly to replace the so-called “1992 consensus”—and observers believed that she intended to elaborate on what such a “new model” might look like during her speech. In her first National Day address, President Tsai forcefully called on Beijing’s leaders “to face up to the reality that the Republic of China [ROC] exists.”

In remarks delivered at the National Day celebration at Twin Oaks (雙橡園) in Washington, DC on October 4, the chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), James Moriarty, noted:

My interactions with President Tsai have reaffirmed my conviction that she is a responsible, pragmatic leader.  The United States appreciates her determination to maintain stable cross-Strait ties in the face of increasing pressure from the PRC on a number of fronts. It’s clear that the current cross-Strait relationship suffers from a lack of trust and communication.  The United States will continue to urge both sides to engage in constructive dialogue and to demonstrate patience, flexibility, and creativity in finding ways to engage with each other, in order to avoid miscalculation and resolve their differences.

Despite expectations, President Tsai speech did not include any reference as to what the Taiwanese president thought a “new model” should look like, but a local media report published before National Day indicated that she will use another forum later this month to respond to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Taiwan policy, which will be officially unveiled at the 19th Party Congress.

Beijing placed a freeze on high-level governmental dialogue in June 2016 in spite of President Tsai’s public commitment to the spirit of the 1992 meeting and to over 20 years of interactions and negotiations, the ROC Constitution, and the Act Governing Relations Between the People of Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) as the legal and policy framework of her administration’s approach to cross-Strait relations.

At a conference in Washington, DC, on October 12, former Pentagon official and executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, Mark Stokes, observed that the Tsai administration’s cross-Strait policy, which is based on the ROC Constitution and the Act Governing Relations between the Taiwan Area and Mainland Area was a “significant concession [to Beijing]” and “implicitly … a form of a ‘One China’ policy.” As such, Stokes questioned the PRC’s complaints, asking “why the pressure on the Tsai administration to adopt the so-called ‘1992 consensus,’ which in effect is the ‘One China’ principle?”

In response to President Tsai’s National Day address, the PRC’s State Council spokesman, Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光), stated: “only by upholding the one-China principle and opposing ‘Taiwan independence,’ can both sides promote communication and cooperation.” The spokesman reportedly added that the critical issue is to clarify the “nature of cross-Strait relations” and recognize that “Taiwan and China belong to One China” (台灣與中國同屬一個中國).

While the spokesman’s comments made no reference to the oft-repeated “1992 consensus”—which has typically accompanied any official statements on cross-Strait relations over the past year—an article on Taiwan policy penned by the CCP Central Committee’s Taiwan Work Office and appearing in Qiushi (求是), a bi-monthly periodical published by the Central Party School and the CCP Central Committee,  during the 18th Party Congress under Xi Jinping, referred to the “1992 consensus” a total of 10 times.

In the article, the CCP’s Taiwan Work Office stated:

“Peaceful unification, one country two systems” is the basic principle of our [the CCP’s] solution to the Taiwan issue and the best way to achieve national unification. The national unification we seek is not only unity in form, more importantly, it is in harmonizing the soul of compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. The key to ensuring peaceful development in cross-Strait relations is to adhere to the “1992 consensus,” and opposing ‘Taiwan independence’ as the common political foundation. The ‘1992 Consensus’ embodies the one-China principle, clearly defines the nature of cross-Strait relations, and serves as the anchor of cross-Strait relations.[1]

Despite early  speculation that the CCP may have abandoned the “1992 consensus,”  the tacit agreement appears to remain a central tenet of the PRC’s policy towards Taiwan. It is unlikely, at this point, that any major change in Beijing’s policy towards Taiwan will come out of the 19th Party Congress, although signals of a shift towards a hardline  approach over the course of the past year are evident and will likely continue through with the appointments of senior personnel to the PRC’s Taiwan policy apparatuses that will be made sometime after the 19th Party Congress and the National People’s Congress, to be held early next year.

The main point: President Tsai calls for a “new mode” of cross-Strait relations as the PRC doubles down on ‘one country, two systems,’ the so-called ‘1992 consensus,’ and its “One China” principle.

PRC Ambassador to UN Liu Jieyi Appointed as TAO Deputy Director

On the heels of the opening for the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 19th Party Congress, the website for the Taiwan Affairs Office (國台辦) in the State Council—the central government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—revealed that the current PRC Ambassador to the United Nations, Liu Jieyi (劉結一), has been appointed as a deputy director (minister rank) of the agency charged with implementing the government’s policy towards Taiwan. Liu’s appointment adds fuel to speculation that he will be in line to replace the beleaguered current director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), who has been under fire for the policy failures of the Xi administration over the past five years, which have seen the return of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to power in Taiwan.

The current makeup of the TAO’s senior management includes the director (minister rank) and four deputy directors (with one deputy with the rank of minister), and an assistant to the director. The director has held his position since 2013 and is not on any publicly available list of delegates to the 19th Party Congress,[2] as such it seems all but certain that Zhang will retire somewhere between the 19th Party Congress and the first quarter of 2018. It is speculated that Zhang may become the vice chairman for the advisory-body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference’s Committee for Liaison with Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Overseas Chinese (全國政協港澳台僑委員會副主任).

The other three non-minister ranked deputy directors in TAO include: Chen Yuanfeng (陳元豐, b. 1963) who has worked at the TAO since 1994 and as a deputy director since 2009 and Zheng Shanjie (鄭柵潔, b. 1961), who served as a vice minister of the National Energy Administration and was only appointed to his current deputy director post in April. The third deputy director without a minister rank is Long Mingbiao (龍明彪, b. 1962), who joined the TAO in 1997 and previously served as assistant (2009-15) to current Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅), when he was the TAO director from 2008-13; he became deputy director in 2015. The current assistant to the director is Zhou Ning (週寧, b. 1960), who concurrently serves as the head of the policy research division. Zhou began his work on Taiwan issues in 1987, first at the CCP Central Committee’s Taiwan Work Office, subsequently entering the TAO in 1994.

Liu could begin his new TAO post as early as this November or as late as the next CCP Central Committee’s Taiwan Work Conference (中共中央對台工作會議), which is typically scheduled in the first quarter of the new year. As a previous brief noted, Liu is a career diplomat who served extensively within the PRC’s Mission to the United Nations and in other posts within the Foreign Ministry that largely involved North American affairs. In 2009, however, Liu was transferred to serve as vice minister of the CCP International Liaison Department, and in 2013 was appointed the PRC’s ambassador to the United Nations where he currently serves.

Despite the prevailing assessment that Liu will replace Zhang, the former’s notable absence from any publicly available list of delegates to the CCP’s 19th Party Congress, which include a list published by the state-run media Xinhua News Agency, raises questions about Liu’s eligibility to serve in a senior party position such as the director of the CCP Central Committee’s Taiwan Work Office (中共中央台辦). Members of the CCP Central Committee are chosen from and elected by delegates to the Party Congress. The head of the CCP Central Committee’s Taiwan Work Office—which is directly subordinate to the CCP Central Committee—doubles as the State Council’s TAO.  Members of the senior management of the TAO, including Liu, are also members of the CCP’s Central Committee Taiwan Work Office.

It remains to be seen whether Liu—presumably a non-delegate member to the 19th Party Congress—will be eligible to serve as the head of a CCP Central Committee’s Taiwan Work Office without being a central committee member, and whether he can become a central committee member before being elected as a delegate to the party congress. The practice of having the director of the CCP’s Taiwan Work Office serve concurrently as head of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office has been in place since 1991 when Wang Zhaoguo (王兆國) served as TAO’s director.

The main point: Liu’s appointment follows in line with a pattern of assigning officials with a high-degree of expertise in international affairs to the Taiwan portfolio. It remains to be seen whether Liu—a non-delegate member to the Party Congress—will be eligible to serve as the head of a CCP Central Committee Taiwan Work Office without first becoming a Central Committee member.

[1] “和平統一、一國兩制”是我們解決台灣問題的基本方針,也是實現國家統一的最佳方式,我們所追求的國家統一不僅是形式上的統一,更重要的是兩岸同胞的心靈契合;堅持兩岸關係和平發展正確道路,關鍵在於堅持’九二共識’、反對‘台獨’的共同政治基礎,’九二共識”體現了一個中國原則,明確界定了兩岸關係的性質,是兩岸關係之錨
[2] An earlier report indicating that the current TAO director is a delegate to the 19th Party Congress is inaccurate. The individual that appeared on the list of delegates is from Baishi city, Jilin province. See, e.g., https://district.ce.cn/newarea/sddy/201706/03/t20170603_23404022.shtml.

Update [October 24, 2017]: Liu Jieyi has been ‘elected’ as a full member to the 19th CCP Congress Central Committee (see e.g., https://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/19cpcnc/2017-10/24/c_1121848878.htm). This development coupled with his recent appointment as deputy director of TAO (see, e.g., https://globaltaiwan.org/2017/10/18-gtb-2-38/#RH101817) make it almost certain that Liu will eventually replace Zhang Zhijun as head of the CCP’s Taiwan Work Office and the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office.