Fortnightly Review

Fortnightly Review

Fortnightly Review

KMT Mayor of Kaohsiung Meets Senior CCP Officials in Chinese Cities

The mayor of Kaohsiung city and potential Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) presidential contender, Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜, b. 1957), is on a high-profile tour of various Chinese cities and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). The KMT mayor’s trip, which is part of a four-city tour from March 22 to 27, included stops in the Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, Shenzhen, and Xiamen. The self-described “baldheaded vegetable vendor” from the southern metropolis of Taiwan who ran—and decidedly won—on a populist platform in what was once a stronghold of the ruling party claimed that these visits were simply for promoting economic and cultural exchanges for Kaohsiung city. Yet, the political undertone was on clear display from the Chinese officials who received him. While in Hong Kong, the first-time mayor met with the head of the People Republic of China (PRC) government in Hong Kong, Wang Zhimin (王志民, b. 1957), and the director of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), Liu Jieyi (劉結一, b. 1957), in Shenzhen.

Hong Kong SAR and the CCP Liaison Office

The Kaohsiung mayor’s itinerary was kept tightly under wraps prior to his meetings and media speculations abounded over whom he would meet, when, and where. In Hong Kong, Mayor Han had dinner with the director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (中央人民政府駐香港特別行政區聯絡辦公室), Wang Zhimin. Director Wang is an experienced Hong Kong hand who began working in the SAR as early as 1992 and served in multiple levels of the Chinese government bureaucracy on matters related to Hong Kong and Macau. In response to questions from the media, Han emphasized that the dinner meeting was very harmonious and suggested that nothing of any political substance was discussed. Specifically, Han said that the two discussed increasing exchanges between Hong Kong and Kaohsiung and both agreed that there are business opportunities to develop between the two cities.

Despite agreements to limit their function in the SAR, the PRC “liaison office” in Hong Kong is increasing its presence and interference in the social and political affairs of Hong Kong. Like their counterparts such as the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office and CCP Taiwan Affairs Office, which is the same organization but with different names, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) organization that it actually represents is the Party’s Central Committee on Hong Kong Affairs Commission (中共中央香港工作委員會). In addition to promoting economic, educational, scientific, cultural, and athletic exchanges and operations, and advancing interaction between the SAR and the PRC, the office is also in charge of liaising with other institutions as the special representative office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Hong Kong and Macau SARS. Additionally, the liaison office assists PRC authorities to manage Chinese-funded institutions in Hong Kong and Macau and handles “Taiwan related affairs.”

In addition to meeting with Wang, the Taiwan Affairs Director for the liaison office, Yang Liuchang (楊流昌), received Mayor Han at the airport, raising suspicion that the mayor’s itinerary had been planned for him by the PRC central government, rather than the local Hong Kong government.

Meeting the TAO Director in Shenzhen

Following Mayor Han’s high-profile meeting with Wang in Hong Kong, he then met with the director of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Liu Jieyi in Shenzhen. In addition to proclaiming that the people on the “the two sides of the strait are one family” (兩岸一家親), Liu emphasized “Xi’s Five Points” (習五條) as the blueprint for cross-Strait development. In response, Mayor Han reportedly stated that he “strongly supported the ‘1992 Consensus’” (我強烈支持九二共識) and that it was “the magic wand” (定海神針) for cross-Strait relations.

While Chinese leaders and state-run media praised Mayor Han’s political leadership, the response from Taiwan’s ruling party and democratic activists on Hong Kong towards Mayor Han’s meetings have been filled with caution. According to Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement leader, Joshua Wong, “Looking at Hong Kong’s economic and social imbalances, the Taiwanese people should think carefully: When the economy and life depend on China, it will be harder to get rid of the red power in politics and ideology.” According to Tung Li-wen (董立文), an adviser to the Taiwan Thinktank and professor at the Central Police University, “although Mayor Han has repeatedly stressed that it [the visit] will not cross any political red lines, but this ‘line’ has been arranged in Beijing. China will help him cross it.” According to Tung, “[with this visit] China is preparing for the future “One Country, Two Systems Taiwan Formula (一國兩制台灣方案).”

The Kaohsiung mayor is facing mounting pressure in Taiwan to deliver on his campaign promise to set aside politics and improve the local economy. Moreover, the sensitivity over Han’s visits is also compounded by the fact that it is occurring in the face of a steady erosion of Hong Kong’s political autonomy as well as growing concerns within Taiwan about Xi Jinping’s model for cross-Strait unification (i.e., “One Country, Two Systems”) that is currently applied to Hong Kong. At a time when Taiwan’s central government is prevented by Beijing to send a representative to Hong Kong, the mayor’s visit, whether or not it had been coordinated by the PRC central government, may be manipulated by Beijing for political propaganda. Indeed, the optic of the mayor’s visit could be seen as a public relations victory for the CCP by portraying a “popular” mayor of Taiwan unwittingly or not, but at least implicitly, endorsing the “one country, two systems” model.

The main point: The populist mayor of Kaohsiung is on a tour of Chinese cities that could be manipulated by Beijing as a means to show support for China’s “One Country, Two Systems” formula.

Xi Jinping Touts Ideological Education for Youths: Implications for Taiwan

On March 18, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Jinping (習近平, b. 1953), reportedly delivered an ideology-laden speech to a forum of retired professors and teachers of ideology and political theory in primary and secondary schools. In his speech, the former president of the CCP Central Party School proclaimed that “in order to build a great cause, we must cultivate talents to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese socialist system from generation to generation.” Xi emphatically added, “We must start from the school and start from when they are babies … [and] guide the students to buckle the first button of a righteous life.” Xi’s speech touting the indoctrination of youths is consistent with an expansive ideological campaign that is not limited to Chinese citizens; youths in Taiwan and other countries could become targets as well.

One example of an exchange that may come under increased scrutiny due to Xi’s ideological push is the Cross-Strait Little Peace Angles Mutual Exchange (海峽兩岸和平小天使互訪交流). On March 11, the 16th Cross-Strait Little Peace Angles Mutual Exchange (第16屆海峽兩岸和平小天使互訪交流) was held in Taipei at the Taipei City Minzu Elementary School (台北市民族國小). Since the establishment of the exchange back in 1992, nearly 2,000 children from Taiwan and the mainland  have reportedly participated in this cross-Strait program. The Shanghai portion of the 16th Cross-Strait Little Peace Angles Mutual Exchange was held in July last year. At that time, nearly 30 Taipei primary school students went to Shanghai to “pair up” with students in Fudan’s primary schools. In the most recent exchange, there were 29 students in Shanghai, 28 people from Taipei—paired children would live together for a week.

According to the PRC state-run Xinhua News Agency, the event is organized by United Front organizations such as the All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots (全國台聯) and the All-China Youth Pioneer National Work Committee (全國少工委), which is an organization under the Communist Youth League (CYL). The All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots supports the CCP’s policies toward Taiwan and endorsed “Xi’s Five Points” during the “Two Sessions” of the National People’s Congress and the
Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The partner organization for this initiative in Taiwan is the Chinese Planner Association (中華企劃人協會). Local schools in Taiwan are invited by the Association to participate in the exchange.

Lin Tang An Yi (林湯安怡) from the propaganda department of the All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots visited Taiwan as part of this event. According to the All-China Federation’s website, the organization’s purpose is to “achieve the reunification [sic] of the motherland in accordance with the basic principle of ‘peaceful reunification [sic], one country, two systems.’” Huang Zhixian (黃志賢), president of the federation, is also a representative of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and advocated for “Xi’s Five Points” at the “Two Sessions” and “One Country, Two Systems.” Fu Zhenbang (傅振邦, b. 1975) is the president for the All-China Youth Pioneer National Work Committee and concurrently the secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League. Fu is also a member of the CPPCC, deputy chairman of the All-China Youth Federation, and vice chairman of China’s Consumers Association. Former Chinese leader Hu Jintao and Premier Li Keqiang were both secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League and director of the AAll-China Youth Pioneer National Work Committee.

The All-China Young Pioneer National Work Committee is the leading organization of the National Young Pioneers organizations throughout the country. Its members are selected by the National Youth Congress of the Chinese Young Pioneers, and formed by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League and the Ministry of Education. The main tasks and responsibilities of the All-China Young Pioneer National Work Committee are to educate children and adolescents according to the requirements of the CCP, propose the work agenda of Young Pioneers during each five-year period, formulate work plans, be responsible for organizing development work, and advocate and guide various forms of Young Pioneers activities. Other tasks include strengthening the guidance of the Young Pioneers, and promote the guidance and development of the Young Pioneers theoretical research work.

In response to CCP political warfare such as through United Front and its insistence on the “One Country, Two Systems” model for cross-Strait unification, the president of Taiwan recently convened a National Security Council meeting highlighting seven areas to counter the CCP: cross-Strait, democracy and law, economy, diplomacy, security, national defense, and society. Specific measures reportedly include: countering the CCP’s use of exchange platforms to engage in United Front activities to interfere in Taiwan’s domestic affairs; revising  the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area to ensure democratic accountability and supervision; encouraging Taiwanese businesses to reinvest in Taiwan and facilitate more trade agreements;  working with like-minded partners to counter CCP attempts to erode the Republic of China’s sovereignty; enhancing national security through better intelligence of China’s political, economic, and social changes; promoting a stable increase of the national defense budget; developing a consensus among the Taiwan public on cross-Strait policy; and promoting solidarity to enhance national sovereignty.

While legitimate people-to-people exchanges between youths across the Taiwan Strait should be encouraged to minimize distrust, the CCP’s widening ideological push under Xi Jinping raises reasonable concerns about the covert political nature of such exchanges. Against the backdrop of the growing ideological competition worldwide, there are increasing calls in other countries for oversight over such exchange activities where United Front organizations are directly involved. While exercising more oversight over infiltration activities, Taiwan and other like-minded countries will need to come up with a strategy to compete in this ideological competition. Working in concert with other like-minded countries is a necessary step, not only for Taiwan, but also for other countries that are facing CCP’s malign influence operations.

The main point: CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping appears to be ramping up its ideological campaign to include indoctrinating youth in China, which could have implications on cross-Strait youth exchanges and beyond.