China’s political leadership and Taiwan-Comparing different approaches for cross-Strait relations in the 21st century

On 5th December, 2018, CSS organized a talk by Mr. Gustavo H. Feddersen who is in Taiwan under Taiwan Fellowship Programme. Mr. Feddersen talked about “China’s Political Leadership and Taiwan”, in this talk he tried to compare different approaches for cross-Strait relations in the 21st century between Taiwan and China.

Mr. Feddersen talked about the complex situation where China’s declared goal of “reunifying with Taiwan” has not changed over time, each administration has employed different methods for its achievement. In his talk he aimed to compare Hu Jintao’s and Xi Jinping’s strategies for cross-Strait relations and the internal politics that underpinned each of them.

He spoke about majorly two reasons why China won’t allow the independence of Taiwan. First, is the legitimacy which is to surpassing the century of humiliation of Chinese under the Japanese colonial times where China was dealt to face and sign many unfair agreements where millions of Chinese were killed. The colonial history has been recently been used a lot to gather the feeling of nationalism by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Secondly, Taiwan is a geo-strategic asset. The geographical location of Taiwan has been an important for all the major powers. Historically, Taiwan has served as having strategic port locations for different European naval forces and at present it lies strategically in the crucial South China Sea (SCS) which is a crucial shipping lane for South East and East Asian nations.

Under Hu Jintao presidency China Initiated a series of steps in 2005, starting with the meeting of Lien Chan belonging to KMT party of Taiwan, followed by another between James Soong (PFP) and Hu Jintao. Such talks paved the way for the Cross-Strait Economic, Trade and Culture Forum, which enabled the convergence of cooperation-related platforms across the Taiwan Straits; forming the basis for planning future economic agreements, such as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement. However, besides all such positive confidence building measures got affected once the DPP party came to power in Taiwan in 2004, DPP traditionally doesn’t accept the 1992 consensus agreed upon by the two sides, which says One China but different perception what One China is. Soon after in 2005, China passed Anti-Secessionist Law in 2005, which stated the conditions for the military intervention on Taiwan (Article 8) and also had internal objectives within China of unshackling its cross-Strait relations officials (Article 6). The context of this was to focus on status-quo and no timetable for unification with Taiwan while continuing economic engagement.

When Xi Jinping came over to power he changed the strategy under which China was engaging with Taiwan.  Xi Jinping scraped equal-footing negotiations with Taiwan and made One China Principle as a Sine qua non condition for any kind of talk besides that the tone of the speeches became harsher, despite Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jinping meeting in 2012 in Singapore, further inter-party diplomacy has not been seen as often as before and it got worse when in 2014 DPP under President Tsai Ing-Wen came over to power in Taiwan. Under Xi Jinping, there has been significant rise of military maneuvers by China around Taiwan which is taken as a training exercise to take over Taiwan when needed.

Some of the key highlights of Xi Jinping’s efforts towards Taiwan are targeting Taiwanese individuals in China by initiating “31 incentives” for Taiwanese who might look options for settling over in China for work or living, China also introduced “Special Residence Permit” which is more like par with its own National ID giving almost the same status to Taiwanese.

 

Mr. Feddersen concluded by saying that both Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping used “carrots and sticks” methods in their style of dealing with cross strait relations with Taiwan. However, the primary difference is Hu Jintao focused more on cooperation and dialogue, versus Xi emphasis on coercion and threats. But not to mention, the cross strait relations also affect by the major powers such as U.S.