What Is the CCP’s “Comprehensive Plan for Resolving the Taiwan Problem”?

What Is the CCP’s “Comprehensive Plan for Resolving the Taiwan Problem”?

What Is the CCP’s “Comprehensive Plan for Resolving the Taiwan Problem”?

In early January, an official report from Taiwan’s cabinet to the Legislative Yuan (立法院) reportedly assessed that the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would take steps to both diversify and intensify its pro-unification propaganda in 2022, including the sustained employment of online disinformation. This prediction is in keeping with an observable trend: in recent months, even as it has ramped up psychological pressure on Taiwan in the military and diplomatic realms, Beijing has attempted to present a friendlier image in terms of its pro-unification propaganda. Events such as the “13th Straits Forum” in December 2021—an event that saw participation by senior members of Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT, 國民黨)—stressed the idea of “people-to-people” exchanges (民間交流) and expanding opportunities in China for young adults and businesspeople. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP, 共產黨) Central Committee Taiwan Affairs Work Conference (中央對台工作會議), held on January 25 in Beijing, further signaled a redoubled focus on “reunification” with the island. (See further discussion on this topic by Norah Huang separately in this issue.)

Beijing’s propaganda messaging regarding the annexation of Taiwan has grown ever-more insistent since at least January 2019, when CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping (習近平) gave a New Year’s address on Taiwan policy that enshrined the current messaging regarding the “inevitable trend” (不可逆轉的趨勢) of unification as a necessary component of China’s “national rejuvenation” (民族復興). The major slogans and policy directions as laid out in this speech remain in effect, and are fundamentally unchanged. However, the CCP propaganda system has continued to produce new messaging on Taiwan policy, with a handful of significant statements emerging in late 2021 and early 2022.

The Commentary on Taiwan in the CCP’s Resolution on History

On November 11, following the proceedings of the CCP Central Committee Sixth Plenum (中國共產黨第十九屆中央委員會第六次全體會議), the CCP released the official third resolution on party history (officially, “The Communist Party Central Committee Resolution Concerning the party’s Hundred Years of Struggle, Major Accomplishments and Historical Experiences,” 中共中央關於黨的百年奮鬥重大成就和歷史經驗的決議) (hereafter, “Resolution”). Although the Resolution touches upon a wide range of topics—with, of course, effusive praise for the wise and forceful leadership of the party in all things—Taiwan features prominently in the text. [1] As stated in one section of the document:

Resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China’s complete reunification is a historic mission and an unshakable commitment of the party. It is also a shared aspiration of all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation, and it is essential to realizing national rejuvenation. […] Guided by the conviction that we are all of the same family, the party has promoted peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, unveiling a host of policies for the benefit of our compatriots in Taiwan and strengthening economic and cultural exchanges and cooperation across the Strait. Since 2016, however, the Taiwan authorities have stepped up separatist activities aimed at “Taiwan independence,” which has seriously impacted the momentum of peaceful development of cross-Strait relations. Upholding the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, we firmly oppose separatist activities seeking “Taiwan independence” and firmly oppose foreign interference […] For realizing China’s complete reunification, time and momentum are always on our side.

Of particular note, the Resolution provided the first apparent mention of the “Party’s Comprehensive Plan for Resolving the Taiwan Problem in the New Era” (新時代黨解決台灣問題總體方略) (hereafter, “Comprehensive Plan”). This term is mentioned in passing once, in one of the document’s repetitive recitations of obsequious praise for CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping: “Comrade Xi Jinping has put forward a series of important concepts [and] major policy positions, forming the party’s Comprehensive Plan for Resolving the Taiwan Problem in the New Era.” However, no further elaboration was provided in the Resolution. So, what is this “Plan”?

The “Five Groups of Keywords” for the “Comprehensive Plan”

In mid-January 2022, the official CCP mouthpiece People’s Daily (人民日報) shed further light on this when it unveiled a new set of propaganda slogans under the heading of “Five Groups of Keywords for Studying and Understanding the party’s Comprehensive Plan for Solving the Taiwan Question in the New Era” (五組關鍵詞讀懂新時代黨解決台灣問題總體方略). These “Five Groups of Keywords” are as follows: [2]

“National Unification, National Rejuvenation” (國家統一、民族復興)

The official commentary on this slogan asserts that “national unification” (國家統一) is an “inevitable trend” (大勢所趨) of history, in keeping with a longstanding theme of CCP propaganda. It is particularly striking how many times the commentary repeatedly invokes the necessity of unification in order to achieve the “rejuvenation” (復興) of the Chinese nation: the word is invoked 8 times in a relatively brief, four-paragraph (558 character) section of text. One such example is this excerpt, which asserts that all Chinese people must “…earnestly reflect upon the position and role of Taiwan in national rejuvenation, advance the country’s complete unification, [and] collaborate in the glorious enterprise of national rejuvenation.”

“Ending Political Antagonisms, Realizing Lasting Peace” (結束政治對立、實現持久和平)

The People’s Daily commentary notes that, due to the unresolved nature of China’s civil war and “interference by external forces” (外部勢力干涉), the two sides of the Strait were divided after 1949. It cites Xi Jinping’s 2019 speech to assert that the PRC will be willing to engage with “Taiwan’s various parties, groups and people” to “extensively exchange views, seek common understanding, [and] advance political talks,” in order to address “cross-Strait political problems and advance peaceful reunification of the motherland.” In this process, it will be critical to adhere to Beijing’s official framework of “One Country, Two Systems” (一國兩制), which is invoked five times in this section.

“Placing Hopes in the Taiwan People, Opposing ‘Taiwan Independence’ Separatism” (寄希望於臺灣人民、反對「台獨」分裂)

Despite the preceding pledge to engage in dialogue with all groups in Taiwan, the commentary reflects Beijing’s hardline policy of denying any legitimacy to Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, 民主進步黨)-led government, and of blaming the DPP for the downturn in cross-Strait relations. The text states that “‘Taiwan independence’ is the greatest obstruction to the reunification of the motherland, [and] the gravest danger to national rejuvenation.” This has been made more severe “Since the DPP authorities appeared on the stage since 2016, joining with foreign forces […] recklessly provoking ‘independence’, continuously making trouble, creating tense upheavals in cross-Strait relations, bringing about extreme peril to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region.” In the face of this, the PRC will continue to maintain “people-to-people” exchanges (民間交流) that will “allow Taiwan compatriots, especially the grassroots masses, to better enjoy the benefits of the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.”

“Integrated Development, Common Market” (融合發展、共同市場)

Efforts to cultivate and coopt Taiwan businesspeople (台商) have been a major theme of the PRC’s united front work directed at Taiwan. This slogan reinforces this line of effort, stressing the economic benefits that will accrue to Taiwan businesspeople by having increased access to production and markets in China. The commentary states that “the mainland resolutely maintains sharing with Taiwan compatriots in development opportunities, offering Taiwan businesses equivalent treatment, [and] persisting in expanding cross-Strait economic cooperation.” 

“Cultural Inheritance, Spiritual Concordance” (文化傳承、心靈契合)

The commentary on this fifth and final slogan states that “Chinese traditional culture is the common spiritual root [and] spiritual home of compatriots across the Strait.” Accordingly, further cultural exchanges, emphasizing shared aspects of Chinese cultural heritage, should be conducted to build closer connections and common feeling among the people living on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.Conclusions

In a press conference held on January 26 (immediately following the CCP Central Committee Taiwan Work Conference), PRC State Council Taiwan Office (國務院臺灣事務辦公室) spokesperson Zhu Fenglian (朱鳳蓮) stressed the need to “thoroughly implement” (深入貫徹落實) the Comprehensive Plan. This phraseology, which was also repeated in PRC state television coverage, has been regularly applied in recent years to concepts linked directly to supreme leader Xi Jinping. It is therefore a further indicator that the “Comprehensive Plan for Resolving the Taiwan Problem in the New Era” has become official doctrine.

It remains somewhat unclear what, exactly, the Comprehensive Plan might be—and whether or not there exists a more fleshed-out version within limited internal party channels. It is possible that the January 19 commentary in People’s Daily laid out the totality of the concept; if so, the Comprehensive Plan is largely a repackaging and reassertion of boilerplate slogans that have long been the foundation for the CCP’s public messaging on Taiwan. If this is the case, then the Plan and its “Five Groups of Keywords” represent merely another periodic propaganda campaign. 

However, the progression in the use of the term—from a possible trial balloon mention in the resolution on party history, to the People’s Daily commentary, to the authoritative language on “thoroughly implementing” the concept unveiled at the time of the Taiwan Work Conference—suggests that this is likely to become another of the major ideological campaigns-cum-policy initiatives directly associated with Xi Jinping. As such, it would herald intensified focus by Beijing on the Taiwan “problem” in the months ahead. The evolution of the “Comprehensive Plan for Resolving the Taiwan Problem”—and what it might mean in real terms for Taiwan itself—will be well worth watching in the lead-up to the CCP’s 20th Party Congress later this year.

The main point: In a series of steps since November 2021, the CCP propaganda system has unveiled a concept called the “Party’s Comprehensive Plan for Resolving the Taiwan Problem in the New Era.” This set of ideas, directly linked to CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, is likely to become a centerpiece of CCP narratives related to Taiwan policy in the lead-up to the CCP’s 20th Party Congress.

[1] Taiwan is mentioned a total of 16 times in the document, in addition to six further mentions of “cross-Strait” issues. This contrasts with Tibet, mentioned twice, and Xinjiang, mentioned three times; Hong Kong was the region mentioned most of all in this count, appearing in the text 21 times.

[2] The translations of these phrases as provided in this article are those of the author. The English edition of People’s Daily translated these terms as follows: “National Reunification & Rejuvenation,” “Terminating Political Confrontation for Lasting Peace,” “Placing Hope On Taiwan People,” “Opposing ‘Taiwan Independence’,” “Integrated Development in Shared Market,” and “Closer Bonds Within the Same Culture.” See: “Keywords Mirror CPC’s Overall Policy for Resolving Taiwan Question in New Era,” People’s Daily online, January 19, 2022, https://en.people.cn/n3/2022/0119/c90000-9947000.html