CCP’s 2019 Annual Taiwan Affairs Work Conference Reinforces Continuation of Xi Jinping’s Taiwan Policy
Only a few weeks after Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General-Secretary Xi Jinping gave his rousing 40th anniversary “Message to Taiwan Compatriots” (告台灣同胞書) speech—ostensibly directed at both domestic and foreign audiences—the top brass of the Party’s Taiwan policy apparatuses convened for the annual policy-setting 2019 Taiwan Work Conference (2019年對台工作會議). At the work conference, held in Beijing on January 22, the fourth-highest ranking CCP official and deputy director of inter-agency policy-coordinating body Taiwan Affairs Leading Small Group (TALSG), gave opening remarks laying out the central leadership’s guidance on Taiwan work.
In his speech, Wang Yang (汪洋), who is concurrently a member of the all-powerful CCP Politburo Standing Committee and chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), underscored three major guidances for the Party-State’s Taiwan Work in 2019: 1) Xi Jinping’s new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, 2) the spirit of the 19th Party Congress and Xi Jinping’s important exposition on Taiwan work, and 3) Xi’s “Message to Taiwan Compatriots.” Yang Jiechi, a member of the CCP Politburo and director of the CCP Central Committee’s Foreign Affairs Office, chaired the meeting. Liu Jieyi, director of the CCP Central Committee’s and State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), gave the work report. Relevant representatives of departments within the Party, government, and other cadres also attended the meeting.
The directives from the CCP leadership at the meeting were consistent with longstanding policy and reflect a continuation of Xi’s hardening approach to Taiwan under President Tsai Ing-wen. The CPPCC chairman instructed cadres to resolutely implement the spirit of Xi’s 40th anniversary speech and the CCP Central Committee’s directives on Taiwan policy by steadfastly adhering to the principles of “peaceful unification,” “one country, two systems,” the ”One China principle,” and strive to promote the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and ”peaceful unification.” Wang, who also chairs the Central Leading Small Group on United Front—which has grown increasingly influential under Xi—added that in the past year, the CCP has seized the cross-Strait initiative and is leading it in the correct direction. This seems to be a reference to the results of Taiwan’s recent nine-in-one elections that saw the resurgence of the opposition Nationalist Party (KMT), which advocates for a more conciliatory policy towards China.
The CPPCC chairman also emphasized that the situation in the Taiwan Strait in 2019 will be more complicated and severe, and that it will be necessary to strengthen the “four senses” (四個意識), “four self-confidences” (四個自信), achieve “two maintains” (兩個維護) of unifying thoughts and understandings into the scientific judgment of the CCP Central Committee on the current situation of Taiwan. He also highlighted the importance of adhering to the so-called “1992 Consensus” that reflects the “One China Principle,” and promote the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations. Wang added that the Party must resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity and will never leave any space for various forms of “Taiwan independence” separatist activities. To that end, the United Front czar stressed the importance of deepening cross-Strait integration and development, continuously expanding cross-Strait exchanges and cooperation, and comprehensive implementation of policy measures benefiting Taiwan compatriots. “The Party will continue to broaden the channels for cross-Strait youth exchanges, provide more opportunities, and create better conditions for Taiwanese youth to come to China for study, employment, entrepreneurship, and exchanges,” Wang stated.
Wang’s clarion call was issued as the CCP under Xi Jinping has been intensifying United Front work against Taiwan and the rest of the world. There are multiple channels through which the CCP is engaged in United Front against Taiwan. For instance, Taiwan-owned businesses in China have long been a targeted interest group. According to an exposé by the media outlet Al Jazeera, pro-unification Taiwanese businesses in China may be used to funnel cash to pro-unification groups within Taiwan. Since there are restrictions on capital inflows from the PRC into Taiwan, Taiwanese businesses operating in China that support unification are allegedly being helped so that they may ostesibly provide resources to pro-unification groups in Taiwan.
Indeed, just a few days before the Taiwan work conference on January 17, the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland (大陸全國台胞投資企業聯誼會, ATIEM) held its Lunar New Year networking gala in Beijing. The director of the State Council’s TAO, Liu Jieyi, reportedly attended the event and gave a speech. In his remarks, Liu reiterated ”Xi’s Five Points” (習五點) from his 40th anniversary speech. Attendees at the dinner reportedly included ATIEM President Wang Pingsheng and Honorary President Guo Shanhui, and more than 100 local association presidents. Officials from the TAO other than Liu who also attended the event, included Yan Jinjia, deputy director of communication and economics, and Zhang Zhijun, director of the ARATS. Founded in 2007, ATIEM is a business association consisting of around 300 Taiwanese-funded enterprises and their members in China. The organization acts as a lobby group for Taiwanese businesses both in China and in Taiwan. At the gala, the ATIEM president stated that the results of Taiwan’s nine-in-one election last year brought hope for the two sides, and support the fact that the “1992 Consensus” is the trend for cross-Strait peace and development.
As a means to spur cross-Strait political and social integration through economic measures, Beijing launched the “31 measures” in early 2018. As the Chinese central government’s initiative offers equal—if not preferential—treatment for persons and businesses from Taiwan operating in China, a number of provincial as well as city governments began formulating their own measures to entice Taiwanese persons and businesses. The most recent local initiative is from Suzhou City, in Jiangsu Province, which responded to the central directive with its own 55 measures that included permitting a limited number of Taiwanese people to participate in the National People’s Congress. Suzhou is an important city for Taiwanese businesses. According to statistics from Suzhou City cited by Taiwan’s Central News Agency, there are more than 11,000 Taiwan-funded enterprises registered in Suzhou alone. Currently, there are more than 50,000 Taiwanese persons working in Suzhou and more than 6,000 Taiwanese students enrolled in schools in the area.
Ma Shaozhang (馬紹章), a former vice chairman of Taiwan’s Strait Exchange Foundation—a semi-governmental body in charge of conducting cross-Strait relations—pointed out that the function of the CCP’s annual Taiwan work conference is to learn and integrate different thoughts on Taiwan policy. Therefore, it is natural that the focus of this year’s work conference was on Xi Jinping’s ”five points,” which includes how to realize Xi’s second point on promoting unification under the “one country, two systems” model. Ma added that Xi’s speech reflects more continuity than change in the PRC’s Taiwan policy, which include references to the ”One China Principle,” “peaceful unification,” “one country, two systems,” and the “1992 Consensus,” which, according to Ma, demonstrate the long-term outlook of Xi’s Taiwan policy.
The main point: The directives from the CCP leadership at the 2019 Taiwan Work Conference reflect longstanding policy and a continuation of Xi’s hardening approach to Taiwan under Tsai Ing-wen.
Taiwan Highlights China’s Counterintelligence Challenge with Apparent Increase in Detection of Chinese Espionage in 2018
Amid growing tension in the Taiwan Strait, Taipei revealed that it has uncovered 52 Chinese espionage cases involving 174 individuals in 2018. According to the country’s Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau (MJIB)—one of three main intelligence services in Taiwan—Chinese spies are using exchange activities as a cover to collect intelligence, infiltrate, and recruit members to develop spy rings in the island. To put the recent figure into perspective, “between 2002 and 2016, 56 individuals have been charged in Taiwan as clandestine agents of the MSS or PLA.”
The apparent increase in Chinese espionage cases is taking place as concerns over CCP’s covert activities in the United States and elsewhere are growing. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council stated that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has never stopped its intelligence collection in Taiwan and asked all relevant departments to strengthen their counterintelligence efforts to safeguard national security.
In reference to the number of people charged by prosecutors in Taiwan for espionage from 2002-2016, Chinese intelligence expert Peter Mattis wrote in the Global Taiwan Brief, “one might interpret these events as indicating that Taiwanese counterintelligence performed well in capturing so many spies, but it more likely reflects the tip of the iceberg, in terms of the relentless pressure applied by China’s intelligence operations in Taiwan. No part of the Taiwan government has been exempt, including the Office of the President, the National Security Bureau, the Ministry of Justice, and the military.”
Against the backdrop of China’s increasing United Front activities globally, including in the United States, the recent public revelation by Taipei suggests that CCP United Front could be linked to espionage activities. Moreover, the Ministry of State Security (MSS)—the PRC’s primary civilian intelligence agency—may play a role in the CCP’s broader United Front activities. The methods used in several recent spy cases on the island bears relations to that used by the CCP in its United Front activities. In the last couple of years, government prosecutors in Taiwan have issued indictments in several high-profile cases involving Chinese intelligence recruitment of political party members, retired military officers, and businessmen.
For instance, the business community is a well-known target of CCP United Front. In particular, a spy case involving a young Taiwanese businessman, Lin Weilin (林偉琳), who worked at Suzhou city in Jiangsu province and served as president of the Suzhou Taiwan Youth Association (蘇州台青會會長), vice chairman of the Taiwanese Investment Association (台商投資協會副會長), and member of the Youth Federation (青年聯合會), was allegedly recruited as a spy for China.
According to media reports, Taiwan’s national security authorities estimate that about 5,000 individuals are collecting intelligence in Taiwan on behalf of the Chinese government. “Although 80 percent of all detected incidents of Chinese espionage targeted the military, leaving just 20 percent aimed at the civilian government, the disparity was likely due to the military’s higher detection rate, as it has counterintelligence capabilities that are absent from the government’s administrative offices,” the Taipei Times reported.
While PRC intelligence operations against Taiwan represent a clear and present threat to Taiwan’s national security, the apparent success that the PRC has had in penetrating Taiwan could have serious implications for US national security as well. Former American Institute of Taiwan director Bill Stanton highlighted these concerns when he said China’s intelligence successes would “undermine US confidence in security cooperation with Taiwan.” As a close security partner of the United States, which is on the frontline of PRC covert actions, the US government has a direct interest in strengthening counterintelligence cooperation with Taiwan. As recommended by a former counterintelligence official, “This would include training on targeting and recruitment operations.” Moreover, according to Mattis, “one of the few measures that might alleviate anxiety is the sharing of damage assessments to help make way for improved US-Taiwan counterintelligence cooperation of the kind that reportedly helped close the General Lo Hsien-che case. […].”
On the one hand, the apparent increase in the number of detected Chinese intelligence activities should be a cause for concern for national security officials. On the other hand, this seems to merely confirm what some intelligence analysts have long known, which is that previously reported numbers were likely only the “tip of the iceberg.” While there are no publicly available sources to confirm whether the aforementioned recommended cooperations between the United States and Taiwan are taking place, at a time when there are growing worldwide concerns about China’s counterintelligence threat, it is perhaps at least a sign of growing confidence on the part of Taipei in publicly disclosing its counterintelligence successes.
The main point: Amid growing tension in the Taiwan Strait since 2016, Taipei disclosed that it has uncovered 52 Chinese espionage cases involving 174 individuals in 2018. This is perhaps a sign of growing confidence on the part of Taipei in publicly disclosing its counterintelligence successes.