China Amplifies “Soft-Hard” Strategy with Additional 26 Preferential Economic Measures as Taiwan Elections Loom
On November 4, the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) of the Chinese party-state—the organ responsible for implementing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CPP) policy towards Taiwan—announced a raft of 26 measures (26條措施) to attract businesses and persons in the island-democracy to China. These preferential economic measures, which follow a tranche of 31 similar measures announced back in February 2018, are intended to entice people and businesses on the island to live, work, and do business essentially as Chinese legal persons. As the CCP ratcheted up its propaganda for the new measures, China also sailed its Type 001A indigenously-built aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait as a clear show of political force. Taken together, these actions reflect the amplification of CCP’s “soft-hard” strategy laid out by General Secretary Xi Jinping at the 19th Party Congress. As the January 11, 2020 presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan loom on the horizon and the US-China technology war heats up, Beijing is pulling out all the stops to influence the psychology of voters in Taiwan.
Of the 26 new measures—with one half directed at businesses and the other half directed at people—the first 13 measures are directed at Taiwan enterprises and include various incentives for businesses from the island to operate in China. These measures include provisions that permit Taiwan enterprises to participate in China’s massive industrial technology and innovation clusters; 5G communication technology research and development, standard setting, product testing, and network construction; circular economy projects; civil aviation industry and services; tourism sector; and new financial sectors and services. Additionally, new provisions claim to offer Taiwan enterprises a preferential investment environment in China; eligibility of financing from local governments; trade remedy and security measures as Chinese enterprises; export credit insurance for investment risk reduction; and expedited inspection of imports (from Taiwan) in food, agriculture, consumer products; and joint industry standards setting. Other measures for Taiwan enterprises include the development of youth employment and entrepreneurship demonstration bases and national-level technology business incubators, university science parks, and national archives.
Among the 13 provisions directed at the Taiwanese people, the first provision would allow “Taiwan compatriots” (臺灣同胞) to seek consular protection and assistance at PRC embassies and consulates abroad and apply for travel documents. Other provisions target various sub-constituencies, for instance, one of the provisions would allow Taiwanese farmers to become members of farming cooperatives and apply for certified agricultural infrastructure projects and financial projects; it would also provide benefits for Taiwan persons holding the “residence permit” in obtaining mobile phone services, for purchasing homes in China, and transportation services. Other articles target cultural institutions and professionals from Taiwan by allowing them to participate in the development and operation of the Cultural and Creative Park in China, as well as apply for government-sponsored awards and funding. Moreover, eligible Taiwan persons engaged in professional and technical work in universities in China, scientific research institutions, public hospitals, and high-tech enterprises may also obtain equivalent and corresponding grades and titles in China for their professional attainments in Taiwan.
There are also measures providing added educational opportunities for the children of Taiwanese businessmen studying in China and public education qualifications for students and professors teaching there. Provisions will also expand enrollment of Taiwanese students and increase the proportion of institutions in the central and western regions of China. Moreover, Taiwanese students may apply for various types of scholarships and subsidies to attend Chinese universities.
Athletes and sports teams from Taiwan are not outside the embrace of these comprehensive measures. Indeed, the provisions open national sports competitions and professional leagues in China to Taiwanese athletes. The provisions specifically noted that it will make special considerations for the needs of athletes from Taiwan to prepare for the Beijing Olympics 2022, the Winter Olympics, and the Hangzhou Asian Games.
Of these 26 measures, perhaps the most notable provision is Article 14, which states: “Taiwan compatriots may seek consular protection and assistance at the embassies and consulates of the People’s Republic of China and apply for travel documents.” By permitting the citizens of Taiwan—formally known as the Republic of China (ROC)—to seek out People’s Republic of China (PRC) embassies for consular assistance, Beijing may be indirectly playing to a tragic episode in which a Taiwan diplomat committed suicide last September due to public criticisms over the Taiwan consulate that he was responsible for for its perceived lack of support to Taiwan citizens. In an emergency aid operation at Kansai International Airport last September, Taiwan’s consulate office in Osaka came under harsh criticism for allegedly not making similar efforts of the Chinese consulate in Osaka—due in large part to propaganda and misinformation spread online by both Chinese and Taiwanese persons.
The 19th CCP National Congress in October 2017 was an important marker for Xi’s Taiwan policy, which underscored his administration’s two-pronged “soft-hard” strategy of using both soft and hard measures against Taiwan. For the ‘hard’ component of the “soft-hard” strategy, the CCP must uphold the “One-China” principle and the so-called “1992 Consensus,” and resolutely oppose and contain any form of Taiwan secession. For the ‘soft’ element of the “soft-hard” strategy, Beijing stated its intention to expand cross-Strait economic and cultural cooperation; continue to deepen the development of cross-Strait economic and social integration; gradually give equal treatment to Taiwan nationals studying, starting businesses, working, and living in the People’s Republic of China (PRC); and encourage people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to promote Chinese culture and their “spiritual affinity.” This was clearly re-emphasized in General Secretary Xi’s speech to the Taiwan Compatriots in January 2019.
In response to the announcement of the 26 measures, Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, stated that the additional measures are intended to implement Beijing’s Taiwan version of “one country, two systems” (一國兩制台灣方案) and must be rejected. President Tsai tweeted: “Beijing’s new 26 measures are part of a greater effort to force a ‘one country, two systems’ model on #Taiwan. I want to be very clear: China’s attempts to influence our elections & push us to accept ‘one country, two systems’ will never succeed.”
Beyond the cross-Strait context and hanging against the backdrop of the 26 measures are the brewing US-China technology war while Beijing continues to draw Taiwanese enterprises and persons ever deeper into China. While these actions do not represent a departure from policy, what may be troubling ahead for the future of cross-Strait relations is that the Xi administration has been clearly bent on waiting out the administration of Tsai Ing-wen. Yet, with most public opinion polls in Taiwan pointing more towards the likelihood of Tsai Ing-wen winning a second term, Beijing seems more willing and likely to take additional measures to upset the delicate balance in the Taiwan Strait.
The main point: The 26 measures and the sailing of the aircraft carrier across the Strait reflect the amplification of CCP’s “soft-hard” strategy promoted by General Secretary Xi Jinping at the 19th Party Congress. As the January 11, 2020 presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan loom on the horizon and the US-China tech war heats up, Beijing is clearly attempting to influence the psychology of voters in Taiwan.
Green-Blue Opinion Polls Have Incumbent in the Lead to Win 2020 Presidential Election
With the tickets for the three political parties competing in Taiwan’s presidential election in January 2020 set and only around 50 days left until the Taiwanese people vote, opinion polls from both the ruling and opposition-leaning media outlets are showing that the incumbent president, Tsai Ing-wen, is currently the favorite to win a second term as the leader of the island-democracy. Indeed, the latest poll from a green-leaning media show that 45 percent of voters support the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, b. 1956) and William Lai (賴淸德, b. 1959), which is 16 points ahead of the 29 percent who support the Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜, b. 1957) and Simon Chang (張善政, b. 1954); 8 percent expressed support for the People’s First Party’s (PFP) James Soong (宋楚瑜, b. 1942) and Yu Hsiang (余湘). Even the blue-leaning media show support for Tsai-Lai at 45 percent compared to 37 percent supporting Han-Chang, and Soong-Yu receiving 8 percent. Overall, the incumbent’s margin of lead in support to win the presidential election is between eight to 16 percent.
The blue-leaning TVBS Polling Center (TVBS民調中心) provided a detailed break out of voter preferences with three telling signals for the upcoming election. Support for the ruling party’s presidential ticket appears to be stronger among young, independent voters, and those identifying with the newly formed Taiwan People’s Party (TPP). The survey, which was conducted from November 13-15, also shows that 82 percent of the people expressed their willingness to vote in the upcoming elections, 5 percent said that they will not necessarily vote, and only around 13 percent stated that they will not vote. The voting rate is estimated to be about 68 percent.
In terms of voter intent according to age, the Tsai-Lai ticket has a large lead among young voters within the 20-39 age group, and the Han-Chang ticket has an advantage among voters in the 50-59 age group. Among the 30-39-year-old voters, Tsai-Lai has 57 percent support, which is substantially higher than Han-Chang’s 29 percent. Among 40-49-year-old voters, Tsai-Lai’s support is 43 percent, which is roughly equivalent to Han-Chang’s 41 percent; and among 50-59-year-old voters, Han’s support is at 49 percent, which is significantly higher than Tsai at 35 percent. With voters over 60 years old, Han-Chang has 40 percent support, which is only slightly ahead of Tsai-Lai’s 37 percent.
According to the same poll, among self-identified independent voters, 52 percent expressed support for the Tsai-Lai ticket, 22 percent showed support for the Han-Zhang ticket, and 6 percent for the Soong-Yu ticket. In terms of support among party members, for respondents who identified as DPP, 94 percent expressed support for their party’s candidates; whereas for respondents who identified as the Nationalist Party, 88 percent expressed support for their party’s candidates. Among respondents who identified as supporters of Taiwan People’s Party (TPP)—the new non-aligned political party set up by Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je—51 percent expressed support for Tsai-Lai; 24 percent expressed support for Han-Chang; and 22 percent expressed support for Soong-Yu.
The TVBS poll also pointed out that regionally, Han-Chang leads Tsai-Lai in the northern parts of Taiwan (i.e., Taoyuan City, Hsinchu City, Hsinchu County, Miaoli County ranging between 47 percent to 33 percent. Yet, the Tsai-Lai ticket has more than a 10-percent lead over Han-Chang in the central and southern regions. For instance, in the Taichung city, Changhua county, Nantou County areas, Yunlin Country, Chiayi City, Chiayi County, and Tainan City, the Tsai-Lai ticket has more than a 50-percent support with the Han-Chang ticket garnering only around 30 percent, and Soong-Yu less than 10 percent. In the Kaohsiung City, Pingtung County, and Penghu, the Tsai-Lai ticket reportedly received 49-percent support which is 12 points ahead of Han-Chang’s 37 percent, with only 5 percent expressing support for the Soong-Yu ticket; in the New Taipei City, Taipei City, and Keelung City regions, Tsai-Lai received support of 45 percent, leading ahead of Han-Chang’s 37 percent, and Soong-Yu’s eight percent.
According to some green-leaning media, apparent support for DPP’s presidential ticket may also improve the chances of the ruling party’s performance in the legislative elections—which will be held at the same time. Indeed, according to a green-leaning media poll, support for the DPP in the legislative elections has improved, tying with the Kuomintang at 29 percent, whereas the TPP jumped to third place with 8 percent, the People’s First Party to 4th with 4 percent, and the New Power Party to 5th place at 3 percent.
While increased party support may be related to the parties’ vice-presidential pick, there are likely also other factors at play. One such factor that likely contributes to the decrease is the disarray that the KMT appears to be in over controversies concerning the selection of members for their at-large seats. However, despite the controversy, the blue-leaning polling results show that support for the Nationalist Party’s at-large candidates is still relatively strong at 33 percent—although 4 percentage points lower than the last survey (37 percent)—and support for the DPP’s candidates also reduced by two percentage points to 23 percent. The Taiwan People’s Party rebounded to 12 percent, the New Power Party’s candidates continued to decline to 6 percent, and the People First Party increased its support to 4 percent.
KMT Lawmaker Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗, b. 1959), who served as deputy minister of finance and chaired the Financial Supervisory Commission, was cited by FTV News as stating: “This is a serious warning to the KMT. I hope that everyone in the whole party will face this problem and propose possible solutions.”
The main point: With only around 50 days left until the Taiwanese people vote for their president and lawmakers, opinion polls from both the ruling and opposition-leaning media outlets are showing that the incumbent president, Tsai Ing-wen, is currently the favorite to win a second term as the leader of the island-democracy.