Wednesday, July 21, 2021 from 9:00AM-10:15AM (ET)
The Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) is pleased to invite you to a virtual seminar on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Taiwan policy after the party celebrated its 100th anniversary. Since the late 1970s, the CCP has framed its goal as “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan. Yet, Beijing has never renounced the use of force to ultimately resolve its dispute with Taipei. Amid the ongoing collapse of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong, offensive “wolf-warrior” diplomacy, and Beijing’s growing belligerence in the Taiwan Strait, it is clear that China’s hardline approach to both Taiwan and the region as a whole is the defining feature of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s external policies. This aggressive stance was plainly underscored in his July 1st speech marking the party’s 100th anniversary, in which Xi proclaimed that those who challenge China “will find their heads bashed bloody.” Some observers believe that Beijing’s “aggressive international behavior can be rooted deep within its internal political dynamics.” Now, as the CCP enters its second century of existence, what will its approach to Taiwan look like? Specifically, what are the domestic political factors at the elite and societal levels that will weigh on the CCP’s policy and approaches to Taiwan? As Xi works to solidify his legacy, what lengths will he go to in order to subjugate Taiwan?
Panelists will include: Norah Huang, director for international studies at the Prospect Foundation; Richard McGregor, senior fellow at the Lowy Institute; and Robert Sutter, professor of practice of international affairs at George Washington University. The event will be moderated by GTI Executive Director Russell Hsiao.
The event webcast will be broadcast live on our website and YouTube on Wednesday, July 21 at 9 AM (ET). Questions for the panel may either be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or through the chat function on the YouTube page.
Norah Huang is director for international studies and associate research fellow at the Prospect Foundation.
Richard McGregor is a journalist and author with experience reporting on the top-level politics and economies of east Asia, primarily China and Japan. He was the Financial Times bureau chief in Beijing and Shanghai between 2000 and 2009, and headed the Washington office for four years from 2011. Prior to joining the FT, he was the chief political correspondent and China and Japan correspondent for The Australian. His book The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers won numerous awards, including the Asia Society in New York award in 2011 for best book on Asia. His latest book, Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of US Power in the Pacific Century, was described as “shrewd and knowing” by The Wall Street Journal, and a “compelling and impressive” read by The Economist. He was a fellow at the Wilson Center in 2015 and a visiting scholar at the Sigur Center at George Washington University in 2016. He has lectured widely, in the United States and elsewhere, on Chinese politics and Asia.
Robert Sutter is professor of practice of international affairs at the Elliott School of George Washington University. Previously, he served as director of the School’s main undergraduate program from 2013-2019. His earlier full-time position was visiting professor of Asian studies at Georgetown University (2001-2011). A Ph.D. graduate in history and East Asian languages from Harvard University, Sutter has published 22 books (four with multiple editions), over 300 articles and several hundred government reports dealing with contemporary East Asian and Pacific countries and their relations with the United States. His most recent book is Chinese Foreign Relations: Power and Policy of an Emerging Global Force, Fifth Edition (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021). Sutter’s government career (1968-2001) saw service as senior specialist and director of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division of the Congressional Research Service, the national intelligence officer for East Asia and the Pacific at the US Government’s National Intelligence Council, the China division director at the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and professional staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Russell Hsiao is the executive director of GTI, senior fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, and adjunct fellow at Pacific Forum. He is a former Penn Kemble fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia. He previously served as a senior research fellow at The Project 2049 Institute and National Security fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Prior to those positions he was the editor of China Brief at The Jamestown Foundation from October 2007- to July 2011 and a special associate in the International Cooperation Department at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. While in law school, he clerked within the Office of the Chairman at the Federal Communications Commission and the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center at the Office of the US Trade Representative. Hsiao received his J.D. and certificate from the Law and Technology Institute at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law where he served as the editor-in-chief of the Catholic University’s Journal of Law and Technology. He received a B.A. in international studies from the American University’s School of International Service and the University Honors Program.
On July 21, 2021, the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) held a virtual panel discussion titled “The CCP’s Taiwan Policy after the Centenary.” Moderated by GTI Executive Director Russell Hsiao, the panel included commentators from Australia, Taiwan, and the United States. Hsiao was joined by Richard McGregor of the Lowy Institute, Norah Huang of the Prospect Foundation, and Professor Robert Sutter of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Hsiao began the conversation by posing a question to the panelists: Given the apparent collapse of “one country, two systems” model, China has seemingly cast aside the principle of peaceful reunification. What will CCP policy towards Taiwan look like in the party’s second century of existence?
To begin, McGregor described the current situation as one of growing confidence for China, which framed its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as a triumph of the CCP system over the West. Additionally, he cited the sluggish recovery from the 2008 financial crisis in the West and the tumultuous 2016 US presidential election as evidence, in the view of the CCP leadership, that the PRC’s system of governance is superior. This confidence is clearly demonstrated in party pronouncements regarding the Taiwan situation, with most government officials speaking of reunification as “China’s birthright.” While he does not view an invasion as imminent, McGregor forecasted that China will seek to incorporate Taiwan before the end of Xi’s term, whenever that may be.
Norah Huang, the director of international studies at the Prospect Foundation, then added that China still views the “stick and carrot” strategy toward Taiwan as the most effective approach. However, advancements made by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), especially with regards to aircraft and missile production, indicate that Taiwan independence is unlikely to be viable in the near-term. Even though the PLA may not have the capability to cross the Taiwan Strait at the moment, Huang views the current state of affairs as a dangerous one. She singled out misinformation campaigns as the biggest issue facing Taiwan in the coming years. China’s efforts to undermine trust in the government during the pandemic and emphasize the success of China’s pandemic control measures could lead to “one country, two systems” re-entering the public conversation in Taiwan, which the CCP would welcome. Huang recommended that more efforts be made to combat misinformation.
Following this, Professor Sutter noted the distinct change in US government opinion towards the CCP’s Taiwan policies, describing the shift to largely negative views of China as rapid and “profound.” Additionally, he cited Taiwan’s importance to the technology sector as a reason for the Biden Administration’s increased focus on this issue. Sutter was less worried about an imminent military conflict, as the CCP is currently worried about technological deficits. Any war with the United States would make these deficits far worse. Instead, he suggested that the current administration stick with the “One China” framework to avoid conflict while also continuing to build a strong relationship with Taiwan.
As for the potential changes in CCP policy towards Taiwan after next year’s 20th Party Conference, the panelists agreed that China is very unlikely to invade or even set deadlines for unification. McGregor and Huang said that gray-zone tactics, united front operations, and military encirclement will likely increase in frequency in an effort to put more pressure on Taiwan. Sutter also reminded the audience that the previous KMT government under Ma Ying-jeou was very amenable towards China. Therefore, it’s likely that China will employ a “wait and see” approach to the issue in case domestic politics in Taiwan become more favorable to them. With that being said, Sutter also stressed the importance of incrementally increasing US support for Taiwan, as a conflict would likely be disastrous for both sides.
This summary was written by GTI Summer 2021 Intern Nicholas Fuhrman.
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