Fortnightly Review

Fortnightly Review

Fortnightly Review

Xiamen University Launches Research Institutions to Promote Cross-Strait Unification and the “One-China Principle”

On June 3, Xiamen University (廈門大學) announced the launch of two new research institutes focused on cross-Strait unification and applied research on countering Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts. Located in the city of Xiamen (Amoy) in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—which is less than four miles away from the Taiwan-administered Kinmen Islands (Quemoy)—the Graduate Institute for Taiwan Studies (台灣研究院) at Xiamen University established the “Cross-Strait Integration Development and National Unification Policy Simulation Laboratory” (兩岸融合發展與國家統一政策模擬實驗室) and the “Taiwan Diplomacy Research Center“ (涉台外交研究中心). The Graduate Institute for Taiwan Research at Xiamen University is considered to be among a handful of premier “academic” institutions that support the Chinese government’s Taiwan policy. Other organizations commonly grouped in this class include the influential Chinese Academy of Social Science ‘s Taiwan Research Institute (中國社會科學院台灣研究所), which is associated with the country’s civilian intelligence agency the Ministry of State Security, the National Society of Taiwan Studies (全國台灣研究會) coordinated by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) United Front Work Department (中共中央統一戰線工作部), and the Shanghai Taiwan Institute (上海台灣研究所) of the Shanghai Municipal Government.

The Graduate Institute for Taiwan Studies is not the average run-of-the-mill Chinese academic institution. Its predecessor, the Taiwan Research Institute (台灣研究所), was established in July 1980 by the former director of the CCP Central Committee Leading Group for Taiwan Work, Deng Yingchao (鄧穎超)—the wife of Zhou Enlai (周恩来). The current chairman and deputy party-secretary of the institute is Li Peng (李鹏, b. 1973), who has served in that capacity since 2017 and was previously a visiting scholar in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the University of Maryland (Li was the recipient of a State Department award to study in the United States). The Graduate Institute for Taiwan Research is currently headed by another professor, Liu Guoshen (劉國深). 

The director of the new institute is Chen Xiancai (陳先才), who concurrently serves as director of Xiamen University’s Institute of Political Science. Chen has a long academic career studying Taiwan issues. After beginning his work at Xiamen University in 2007 within the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Studies, he served as the institute’s deputy director and as a director of the “Collaborative Innovation Center for Peaceful Development of Cross-Strait Relations” (兩岸關係和平發展協同創新中心), a united front think tank that was jointly established by several prominent Chinese universities. Additionally, he serves as the director of the DPP Research Center (台灣研究院民進黨研究中心), also located within the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Studies. The mission of this institution is to “analyze the historical, social, and realistic roots behind the establishment, development, and evolution of the Democratic Progressive Party.” In 2018, Chen was also invited to provide a briefing to trainees at the Eastern Theater Command (東部戰區)—which would have operational control over a Taiwan contingency—on the current status of cross-Strait relations and domestic developments within Taiwan.

According to Xiamen University’s announcement, the new laboratory will serve the goals of Xi’s “new era,” helping to solve the Taiwan issue and realize the complete unification of “China.” To this end, the new institution will focus on analyzing and predicting the conditions for national unification, generating simulations of national unification strategies, and investigating potential cross-Strait integration development policies. Additionally, it will analyze simulations of unification under “one country, two systems” (一國兩制). Finally, it will carry out research and teaching initiatives, utilizing artificial intelligence, virtual simulations, experimental teaching, and case studies to promote the unification process.

The goals of the new Taiwan Diplomacy Research Center are somewhat similar and complementary. Ostensibly, the mission of this department is to establish a research platform focused on promoting the “One-China Principle” through academic exchanges with various countries. The center reportedly intends to expand its cooperation with the United States by undertaking research, holding academic seminars, and conducting academic exchanges. These efforts will be premised on adherence to the “One-China Principle” (一中原則) rather than the “two Chinas” (兩個中國) or “one China, one Taiwan” (一中一台) models. Furthermore, it will work to establish links with relevant universities that have think tanks focused on Taiwan in Europe, Japan, Singapore, and elsewhere.

In a response to the establishment of the new institutes, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC, 大陸委員會)—the Taiwanese government’s cabinet-level agency in charge of cross-Strait policy—issued a statement highlighting the increasingly aggressive efforts that the CCP has taken to unify Taiwan since it issued “Xi Five Articles” in early 2019 and proposed the “One Country, Two Systems Taiwan Plan.” According to the MAC, these new initiatives by Xiamen University are intended to implement the CCP’s goal of unifying Taiwan. While the MAC restated the government’s position in support of healthy cross-Strait exchanges without preconditions, the agency noted that the PRC has been continuously increasing its United Front operations against Taiwan. Moreover, it discouraged the island’s academic community from carrying out exchanges or cooperation activities with the institutions and their personnel.

The launch of these new initiatives is unlikely to be greeted with great fanfare in Taiwan, whose population has hardened its views toward China and the “one country two systems,” especially in light of ongoing events in Hong Kong. Yet, given the initiative’s apparent emphasis on international engagement, they could be used as a platform for gaining greater international acceptance for Beijing’s formula for cross-Strait unification based on the “One-China Principle” and “one country, two systems.”

The main point: Xiamen University’s new initiatives to explore models for cross-Strait unification based on the “One-China Principle” and “one country, two systems” are likely to be a non-starter in Taiwan, but appear directed at an international audience to gain greater acceptance for China’s policy for cross-Strait unification.

US-Taiwan-Japan Cooperation Going Global as GCTF Celebrates Anniversary

On June 1, the United States, Taiwan, and Japan celebrated the five-year anniversary of the Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF) in Taipei. The trilateral initiative, which was launched in 2015 by the United States and Taiwan, has emerged as a symbol of the growing partnership between like-minded countries in recent years, both in the Indo-Pacific region and increasingly around the world. The approach was addressed by then-Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Tong in 2016 at the launch’s first anniversary:

The idea is simple: the United States and Taiwan conduct training programs for experts from throughout the region to assist them with building their own capacities to tackle issues where Taiwan has proven expertise and advantages. These include, but are not limited to, women’s rights, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, democratization, global health, and energy security.

Beginning as an initiative to expand Taiwan’s international space in the region, GCTF has grown in both scope and scale against the backdrop of China’s increasingly aggressive pressure campaign against Taiwan and its rising challenge to the world order. As a result, it has quickly emerged as a global platform for the countries to promote shared values and interests aligned with Taiwan’s core competencies, helping other nations that would otherwise feel intimidated by Beijing feel comfortable working with Taiwan, even in a semi-official capacity.

Since 2015, there has been a total of 17 workshops held under auspices of GCTF, with hundreds of participants having attended, ranging from senior officials to civil society leaders from multiple countries. The workshops have covered pressing international security issues. For example, the most recent workshop, held in April 2020, focused on combatting COVID-19 disinformation, cybersecurity, and transnational crime. Previous forums have centered on public health, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, energy governance, and the digital economy, among other issues.

Beginning in March 2019, Japan joined the initiative as a coordinating partner, resulting in the forum becoming formally known as the “Taiwan-US-Japan Global Cooperation & Training Framework.” The three partners co-organized the September 2019 forum in the Pacific-nation of Palau, which was the first time that a GCTF workshop took place outside of Taiwan. It is also notable that Sweden, which is now increasingly feeling the political pressure from Beijing, was a guest co-host for the GCTF workshop in September 2019 focused on democracy and media literacy. Planning is underway for another GCTF workshop to be held outside Taiwan in Latin America—probably in Guatemala—focused on the digital economy. At a recent virtual forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Julie Chung stated:

There’s so much again that we [United States] have done with Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific and […] our Western Hemisphere has so many challenges but opportunities, too. And that’s where we’re really looking to cement those partnerships and cooperation, even more than ever. And we thought this GCTF framework has been so successful in Asia, […] and saw how the capacity building at the technical level, at the policymaker level, was able to help people, whether we’re talking about infectious disease issues, or water issues […] it just was a natural partnership for the United States and Taiwan to work in Asia.

On the occasion of GCTF’s five-year anniversary, a joint statement issued by Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), and the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association—the latter two are the names of the de facto embassies of the US and Japan, respectively—highlighted four areas of future cooperation:

1. Expand the frequency, size, and scope of the GCTF workshops, including holding more events outside Taiwan;
2. Expand the depth and breadth of participation from like-minded countries, including co-hosting programs;
3. Establish a GCTF task force under the Department of North American Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the GCTF Secretariat;
4. Establish the GCTF Alumni Network to build and expand networks and organize reunions for former GCTF participants.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, high-level officials representing AIT, the US Department of State, the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), and the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs convened in late March for a virtual forum on expanding Taiwan’s participation on the global stage. While the specific focus of the discussion was on efforts to reinstate Taiwan’s observer status at the World Health Assembly, it also addressed other avenues for closer coordination. According to the statement issued by State Department:

Countries around the world can benefit from better understanding the Taiwan Model, as well as the generous contributions and impressive expertise Taiwan—a vibrant democracy and force for good—brings to the global community.

Indeed, from a long-term perspective, strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world is really between “models” of social, economic, and political development. The development paths that nations take will fundamentally shape the future world order, especially in the post COVID-19 environment. The United States, Taiwan, and like-minded partners should use all tools available to counter China’s authoritarian model and narrative for development.  

Towards that end, the Yushan Forum was established in 2017 as “a platform for Asian regional dialogue initiated by Taiwan, with the purpose of expanding multifaceted opportunities for cooperation and facilitating the exchange of ideas, talent, technologies, and social initiatives.” Organized by the non-governmental Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation and still likely scheduled for later this year—barring unforeseen restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic—the forum for enhancing connectivity among like-minded nations within the region is the ideal international platform to showcase the free and open model. Moreover, this event is the ideal place for like-minded countries, especially the United States, to showcase their support for the Taiwan Model.

As GCTF celebrates its five-year anniversary this month, the mechanism has evolved to become an important vehicle and symbol of the growing partnership between like-minded countries, both in the Indo-Pacific region and increasingly around the world. In particular, its expansion to involve Japan and institutionalization with the creation of a secretariat are meaningful developments that reflect its importance as a vehicle for not only helping facilitate Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the international community and enhance its international space but also to benefit the international community of nations as well. These developments indicate that GCTF is moving in the right direction. As the next step, Washington, Taipei, and Tokyo should work together to find other like-minded and reliable partners in other regions to join as coordinating partners to further expand the scope and scale of GCTF.

The main point: The scope and scale of the Global Cooperation and Training Framework has grown in recent years against the backdrop of China’s increasingly aggressive pressure campaign against Taiwan and the rest of the world.