The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s sprawling united front (統一戰線) bureaucracy remains one of its key mechanisms for implementing policy towards Taiwan. In order to maintain a veneer of pluralism and representation for Taiwan within the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s one-party system—while excluding any persons or organizations who might possess actual democratic legitimacy as representatives of Taiwan—the CCP maintains a tightly-controlled network of united front organizations focused on the island.  Some of the most prominent among these groups are:
- The Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League (TDSGL, 臺灣民主自治同盟): The TDSGL, frequently abbreviated as “Taimeng” (臺盟), is one of the eight “democratic parties” allowed to operate within the PRC system as stage-managed adjuncts of the CCP. The Taimeng purports to represent pro-unification Taiwanese.
- The China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification (CCPPNR, 中國和平統一促進會).  The CCPPNR is a front organization chaired by CCP Politburo Bureau Standing Committee Member Wang Yang (汪洋). It operates under the direct management of the CCP United Front Work Department, advocating the annexation of Taiwan under Beijing’s “one country, two systems” framework. It also serves as a mechanism for advancing CCP influence over ethnic Chinese communities abroad.
- The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC, 中國人民政治協商會議): A pillar institution of the CCP united front bureaucracy, the CPPCC includes seats for appointed delegates from Taiwan—to include the leadership of the Taimeng.
In early May, an official from Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (大陸委員會) told media representatives that PRC officials—with an eye towards the upcoming July 2021 centennial anniversary of the Communist Party—were ramping up united front efforts in an effort to pressure Taiwanese officials to lower barriers to cross-Strait exchanges. Indeed, in spring of this year, the organizations within the CCP’s Taiwan-oriented united front bureaucracy have held a number of events intended to promote Beijing’s narratives regarding “reunification” (統一), as well as to promote cross-Strait social and economic ties—while excluding representatives of Taiwan’s government. However, the outreach efforts of these CCP united front groups remain inhibited by the hidebound nature of PRC policy, as well as the political imperative to engage in loyalty signaling to CCP leader Xi Jinping (習近平) via participation in internal CCP ideological indoctrination campaigns.
The CCPPNR’s “Reunification Forum” in April
One of most prominent of these events was the CCPPNR’s inaugural “Reunification Forum” (統一論壇), which was convened in Beijing on April 13. The meeting was chaired by Wan Gang (萬鋼), who wears multiple united front hats: in addition to his role as the deputy director of the CCPPNR, he is also one of the vice-chairmen of the CPPCC; as well as chairman of the Zhi Gong Party (致公黨), one of the “democratic parties” that operate under CCP United Front Work Department (UFWD) control. The official theme of the conference was “deeply studying and implementing the spirit of Xi Jinping’s important speech on the 40th anniversary of the ‘Announcement to Taiwan Compatriots,’ firmly opposing ‘independence’ and advancing professional development in the New Era.”
The original “Announcement to Taiwan Compatriots” (告臺灣同胞書) was published in People’s Daily on New Year’s Day 1979, and issued nominally in the name of the PRC National People’s Congress. The document made renewed calls for unification, offered an end to hostile military actions (such as artillery duels with Taiwan-controlled islands), and proposed the “Three Links” (三通) of direct postal communication, direct travel, and trade between the two sides. Wan Gang’s referenced speech by Xi Jinping was delivered on January 2, 2019, which largely reiterated existing PRC positions: demands for adherence to the so-called “1992 Consensus” (九二共識); unification based on the “one country, two systems” formula; a call for vaguely-defined “democratic consultation” on Taiwan’s future; and continued assertion of the PRC’s right to use military force.
Official coverage of the “Reunification Forum” indicated little in the way of substantive policy discussion. Instead, the forum produced a series of verbose and heavy-handed propaganda statements, such as the exhortation to “unite Taiwan compatriots to work together to realize the great rejuvenation of our people and epochal proposition of peaceful reunification of the motherland.” Insofar as there was any actual policy discussion at the event, it was hinted at in the official slogan’s mention of “professional development” (事業發展)—an apparent reference to the economic inducements to be offered to Taiwanese businesspeople interested in working in the PRC, and willing to support PRC positions.
Other Taiwan-Oriented United Front Public Events in Spring 2021
The CCPPNR’s “Reunification Forum” was the most prominent united front event hosted in spring this year, but it was not the only one. Other Taiwan-oriented united front entities hosted a series of public events in April and May, many of them aimed at businesspeople—the Taiwanese group most consistently targeted by CCP cooptation efforts—and especially, younger engineers and entrepreneurs interested in high technology sectors of the economy. Some of these events included:
- April 2: The Taimeng central committee convened the “2021 Taiwan Liaison Work Key Point Work Advancement Conference” (2021 年對台聯絡重點工作推進會) in the city of Hefei (Anhui Province). One of the stated themes was “vigorously striving in work to win the hearts of Taiwan youth” (大力做爭取臺灣青年民心工作).
- April 13: A delegation of united front officials led by Taimeng Vice-Chairman Yang Jianlu (楊健率) toured Taiwan-owned businesses in Guangdong, as part of a program of “Taiwan-invested mainland enterprises fusion development research” (大陸台資企業融合發展研究).
- April 18-19: The “2021 Cross-Strait Traditional Chinese Culture and Modernization Conference” (2021海峽兩岸中華傳統文化與現代化研討會) was convened in Putian (Fujian Province), with the official theme of “Oceanic Culture and Building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road” (海洋文化與21世紀海上絲綢之路建設). The event was sponsored by the China Democracy Promotion Society (中國民主促進會), another of the “democratic” front parties under CCP control.
- May 11: The “2021 Shanghai Cross-Strait Youth Innovation Competition” (2021上海海峽兩岸青年創業大賽) commenced, with plans to conduct coordinated events throughout the summer in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Taipei.
- May 14: Youth from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan were hosted under united front auspices for tours of companies and government offices in the city of Ningde (Fujian Province), as part of a “research exchange activity” (研習交流活動) intended to encourage these young people to work or invest in enterprises in Fujian.
The Need to “Biaotai” to Xi Jinping
As indicated by coverage in state media and official summaries from party-state bodies, much of the recent time and attention of the PRC’s Taiwan-oriented united front bureaucracy has been consumed by the need to display conformity with CCP ideological indoctrination campaigns—and in particular, to obsequiously biaotai (表態), or signal loyalty, to CCP supreme leader Xi Jinping. Many of the public events conducted by these groups in 2021 have centered around the study of Xi’s statements on Taiwan policy; or else have ignored Taiwan issues entirely in order to focus on CCP internal ideological indoctrination campaigns, such as the ongoing “Party History Study and Education Mobilization” (黨史學習教育動員), a major initiative directly associated with Xi.
On March 18, the CCPPNR Secretariat convened a meeting to discuss the ongoing party history campaign, declaring that it was “deepening study and implementation of the spirit of the important speech of General Secretary Xi Jinping” presented at the outset of the campaign. The Taimeng similarly held an event on April 25 to demonstrate its adherence to the campaign, stating that the CCP history program would help the organization to “persist in deepening study and implementation of the essential requirements of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era.”
Even in cases where Taiwan policy was officially on the agenda, Xi’s cult of personality was always front-and-center in these events. In the official summary of the April 13 “Reunification Forum,” the CCPPNR described its role thusly: “In recent years, [CCPPNR] has adhered to the important guidance of General Secretary Xi Jinping for Taiwan work, extensively uniting Hong Kong-Macao-Taiwan compatriots and overseas Chinese to make positive contributions towards achieving the enterprise of reuniting the motherland.” Such stilted language is no doubt beneficial to the leadership of these groups within the CCP bureaucracy, but it is unlikely to win over many people in Taiwan itself.
The PRC’s aviation and naval forces, as well as efforts at economic coercion, have been employed this year as the “stick” in Beijing’s psychological pressure campaign against Taiwan. At the same time, Beijing is attempting to use the various components of its Taiwan-focused united front bureaucracy as the “carrot.” The events organized in the early months of this year serve to illustrate the CCP’s essential united front strategy towards Taiwan: ignore the government, while dangling economic inducements to Taiwan citizens—and sending a message that adherence to PRC narratives on Taiwan is a requirement for business opportunities in the PRC. In particular, the CCP’s united front efforts are seeking to coopt younger Taiwanese who are setting out on careers in business or high technology, encouraging them to live and work in the PRC.
Career inducements will likely be successful in coopting a certain number of people—if not into active affiliation with the CCP, then at least into silent acquiescence. However, the PRC’s Taiwan united front bureaucracy remains hamstrung by Beijing’s policy rigidity. Economic incentives alone are unlikely to move a critical mass of Taiwan opinion towards greater acceptance of Beijing’s “one country, two systems” formula for unification. The united front bureaucracy is also inhibited by the need to maintain repetitive, public, and obsequious biaotai to CCP ideological indoctrination programs and Xi’s cult of personality—a factor that serves as a constant reminder of the identity of the true political masters holding the reins of groups such as the Taimeng and the CCPPNR.
The main point: The PRC’s Taiwan-oriented united front bureaucracy has pursued an active schedule of events in spring 2021, intended both to promote CCP narratives and to co-opt specific constituencies in Taiwan. However, the effectiveness of the PRC’s united front bureaucracy remains hampered by Beijing’s policy rigidity, as well as the need to devote time and resources to internal CCP ideological campaigns.
 The CCP’s united front architecture could be defined narrowly, as those organizations falling specifically under the cognizance of the CCP United Front Work Department (統一戰線工作部); or in a broader sense, encompassing all organizations under CCP direction that serve a united front role, to include those under the cognizance of other party-state agencies. This article adopts the latter definition.
 Previous work by the author (see here and here) has translated the name of this organization as the “Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China,” or CPPRC. The English-language name “China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification” has been adopted by the organization itself. To avoid confusion, the latter name is employed here. The name in the original Chinese (中國和平統一促進會) remains unchanged.
 The “Announcement to Taiwan Compatriots” (告臺灣同胞書) was published in People’s Daily on New Year’s Day 1979, nominally in the name of the PRC National People’s Congress. It made renewed calls for unification, offered an end to hostile military actions (such as artillery duels with Taiwan-controlled islands), and proposed the “Three Links” (三通) of direct postal communication, direct travel, and trade between the two sides.