CCP Appoints New Deputy Director for TAO with Hong Kong Experience
On July 23, the website of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) revealed the fourth deputy director of its leadership team. Close observers of the TAO, which is in charge of implementing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) policy towards Taiwan, have been waiting for the TAO to fill this vacancy since the last position in the agency was filled back in December 2018. Liu Junchuan (劉軍川, b. 1963), who most recently served as the TAO liaison department’s (聯絡局) director, was recently appointed as the newest deputy director. In his capacity as the liaison department’s director, Liu has been on the frontline of dealing with Taiwan-related affairs. Liu would often be seen in public accompanying senior officials from the TAO in meetings with senior visitors from Taiwan. Recent meetings included those with Kaohsiung Mayor and Kuomingtang (KMT) presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, and the former Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu. The former two could possibly become the next president of Taiwan. Having worked in various bureaus within the TAO for over 26 years, Liu is a well-known figure among Taiwan counterparts at the working level.
The leadership of the TAO is now comprised of one director and four deputy directors. The last position that was filled within the TAO was in late 2018 when Pei Jinjia (裴金佳, b. 1963) was announced as the TAO’s lead deputy director. The TAO had been busy shuffling the deck of its executive leadership after former deputy director Gong Qinggai (龔清概) was investigated and convicted of bribery in 2016. Prior to his posting at TAO, Pei served as the party secretary of Xiamen city of Fuzhou province. The other two deputy directors are Chen Yuanfeng (陳元豐, b. 1963) and Long Minbiao (龍明彪, b. 1962). The newest deputy director’s appointment seems to break from the trend of previous appointments into the CCP’s broader Taiwan policy apparatuses, which drew from outside the agency and appeared to prefer bureaucrats with functional expertise beyond Taiwan. Another position held by Liu that bears mentioning is that he also taught at the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force Command College and served as the Political Department Officer of the 45th Division of the Airborne Forces.
In an article titled “The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation necessarily requires the complete reunification [sic] of the motherland” (中華民族偉大復興必然要求實現祖國完全統一) in Study Times (學習時報), which was published by the elite CCP Central Party School, Liu wrote:
The 19th Party Congress report continues to clearly define the completion of the motherland’s reunification [sic] as one of our party’s three historical tasks, and unite [this task] with the goal of realizing the ‘China dream’ of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The clear implementation of reunification [sic] of the motherland is the sacred historical mission of our party in the new era, and fully embody the fundamental interests of the majority of the people and the Chinese nation.
According to the Taiwan-based pro-Beijing China Times—which praised his appointment—Liu had previously served in the TAO’s economic bureau as well as its liaison bureau. The paper claimed that Liu was a good friend of many Taiwan businessmen, since he had worked in the economic bureau from 2001 to 2009, and served as the first division’s deputy chief, chief, and deputy director. While serving as deputy director, he worked very closely with Taiwan business associations operating nationally, in Beijing, and in other various cities throughout China.
Prior to his current appointment, Liu served as the director of the liaison department for 10 years from 2009 to 2019. The function of the department is to serve as the interface for political parties and groups in Taiwan, make arrangements for visitors from the island, and serve as the go-between for the central government and local TAOs. During the previous administration in Taiwan of KMT President Ma—during the height of KMT-CCP exchanges—many of these dialogues were reportedly spearheaded by Liu. Moreover, he reportedly played an important role in helping to coordinate the Ma-Xi summit in Singapore in 2015.
In 1998, just after the retrocession of Hong Kong to China, while barely mentioned in most news report covering the appointment, Liu was on secondment to the Xinhua News Agency in Hong Kong (which served as the Central Government’s Liaison Office until 2000) to work on Taiwan-related matters. He served in that role until October 2001 after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won its first presidential election in Taiwan. Liu’s ascension in a senior position within the TAO comes at an interesting time in light of the ongoing political crisis in Hong Kong. Against the backdrop of increasing interaction between the people of Hong Kong and Taiwan, especially following the pro-democracy protests in both Taiwan and Hong Kong in 2014, the new appointment may reflect Beijing’s growing concerns of the increasing connectivity between the people of Taiwan and Hong Kong. Indeed, in March 2018 it had been rumored that the Chinese government was considering to merge the TAO with the Hong Kong and Macao Offices within the State Council—although those speculations have not materialized.
The main point: The appointment of a new deputy director of the TAO comes at an interesting time in light of the ongoing political crisis in Hong Kong and may reflect Beijing’s growing concerns of the increasing connectivity between the people of Taiwan and Hong Kong.
New Polling Data Reflect Deepening Taiwanese Identity, Preference for Status Quo, Party Identification, and Strengthening Will to Fight
In a series of polls conducted annually and released by the National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center in Taiwan, which surveys people’s political attitudes towards national identity, independence or unification, and party identification since 1992, the most recent results released on July 10, 2019 reflect a shift which highlights a strengthening sense of Taiwanese identity, preference for the status quo, and party identification over recent years.
On people’s national identity of being either “Taiwanese” or “Chinese,” the most recent polls conducted in June 2019 show that 56.9 percent of respondents identify as Taiwanese (up from 54.5 in 2018), 36.5 percent identify as being both Taiwanese and Chinese (down from 38.2 in 2018), and those identifying as being only Chinese at 3.6 percent (down from 3.7 in 2018), with a 3.0 percent (down from 3.6 in 2018) of non-respondents. Interestingly, the increase in people’s identification as Taiwanese follows a year-on-year drop since the peak of Taiwanese identification in 2014 at 60.6 percent (the year of the Sunflower Movement) for four consecutive years through 2018 when it reached 54.5 percent.
When asked about people’s preference for independence or unification, the most recent polling data show a consistent and overwhelming support among the respondents for maintaining some form of the “status quo” with an aggregate total of 86.1 percent. More interestingly, a deeper dive into the polling data shows that 30.6 percent of respondents indicated that they prefer to maintain the status quo and decide later (down from 33.4 percent in 2018), 26.9 percent prefer to maintain the status quo indefinitely (up from 24 percent in 2018), whereas 19.9 percent prefer to maintain status quo and move towards independence (up from 15.1 in 2018), and 8.7 percent prefer to maintain status quo and move towards unification (down from 12.8 in 2018). Moreover, 6.3 percent preferred to not respond (down from 6.6 in 2018), 5.8 percent of those polled stated that they prefer independence as soon as possible (up from 5.0 percent in 2018), and only 1.7 percent stated that they want unification as soon as possible (down from 3.1 percent in 2018).
On people’s party identification, the most recent polling data also show that a plurality of respondents still identifies as independent or provided a non-response at 42.5 percent (down from 49.1 percent from in 2018). Interestingly, party identification for both the ruling party (the DPP) and the opposition party (the KMT) increased with 24.5 percent identifying as DPP supporters (up from 20.1), and 27.6 percent of respondents identifying as KMT supporters (up from 25.4 percent). Moreover, 4.7 percent of respondents said they identify themselves as New Power Party (NPP) supporters (up from 4.0 percent), while other parties received less than 1 percent.
In a separate poll publicly released on July 19 by the country’s government-sponsored national democracy assistance foundation, the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), which gauges the people’s willingness to fight against China’s invasion, among those polled, 57.4 percent said that if China were to launch an attack in response to Taiwan’s declaration of independence, they would be willing to go to war to defend Taiwan. This is up from 55 percent in 2018. The same poll also shows that the percentage of respondents who would be unwilling to fight also dropped to 31 percent from 35.9 percent in 2018.
The previous year’s poll, which was released in a public seminar at the Global Taiwan Institute, also unveiled a more detailed look into the question of the youth’s willingness to fight. When asked specifically: “Would you fight for Taiwan if mainland China uses force against Taiwan for unification?” 70.3 percent of the respondents under the age of 39 said “yes” and only 26.5 percent said “no.” Whereas, 66.1 percent of the respondents above 40 years of age said “yes” and 24.9 percent said “no.” When asked: “Would you fight for Taiwan if Taiwan formally announced independence that causes mainland China to use force against Taiwan?” 63.4 percent of respondents under the age of 39 said “yes,” and only 32.6 percent of respondents said “no”; whereas 49.9 percent of the people above 40 said “yes,” and 39.2 percent said “no.”
Contrary to Beijing’s belief and some concerns in Washington of Taiwan’s resiliency, including whether the people in Taiwan have the will to fight, polling data indicates that a majority of people in Taiwan will fight if China invades the island. China’s intensifying pressure campaign against Taiwan has coincided with the increase in the people’s willingness to fight to defend Taiwan, an increased sense of the Taiwanese identity felt among the people in Taiwan, as well as society’s consolidated preference for the status quo.
The main point: China’s intensification of its pressure campaign against Taiwan has coincided with the increase in the people of Taiwan’s willingness to fight, as well as the society’s strengthening sense of a Taiwanese identity, preference for the status quo, and party identification.