In China, Taiwan

Govt Work Report on the Taiwan question signals fighting secessionism become top priority

More actions, less calling out will be trend in addressing the question, expert says.

Originally written by Zhao Yusha, published 5 March 2024, on Global Times

Flags flutter in the wind at Tian ‘anmen Square ahead of the two sessions in Beijing, March 2, 2023. Photo: VCG

 

This year’s Government Work Report omitted the term “peaceful reunification” when talking about the Taiwan question. Instead, it says we will “be firm in advancing the cause of China’s reunification.”

Chinese observers believed this signals that countering secessionism has already become a priority in addressing the Taiwan question and opposing foreign interference, which is also a practical approach in regard of the status quo. Yet the central government’s overall stance on the Taiwan question remains consistent and unchanged.

They said that in this year’s Government Work Report,the terms for the Taiwan question are more concise than those seen in previous years and this implies that more will be done than said in addressing this question in the near future.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang delivered the Government Work Report on behalf of the State Council at the opening meeting of the second session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC), held at the Great Hall of the People on Tuesday morning.

When referring to Taiwan question, Li said that “we will implement our Party’s overall policy for the new era on resolving the Taiwan question, stay committed to the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, and resolutely oppose separatist activities aimed at  ‘Taiwan independence’ and external interference.”

“We will promote the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations, be firm in advancing the cause of China’s reunification, and uphold the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation. By advancing integrated cross-Straits development, we will improve the well-being of Chinese people on both sides so that together, we can realize the glorious cause of national rejuvenation,” Li said.

The 2023 Government Work Report said that “We should implement our Party’s overall policy for the new era on resolving the Taiwan question, adhere to the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, and take resolute steps to oppose ‘Taiwan independence’ and promote reunification. We should promote the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations and advance the process of China’s peaceful reunification.”

The drop of “peaceful reunification” in this year’s Government Work Report has drawn attention from Western media. Reuters reported that “the change in language is closely watched as a possible sign of more assertive stance towards Taiwan.”

Omitting “peaceful reunification” doesn’t mean that mainland will drop its pursuit of this goal; it signals that fighting secessionism and containing Taiwan independence provocations will be more urgent, imminent and practical tasks for the mainland in the coming years when addressing Taiwan question, Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times.

He contributed the reason for such change to candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party Lai Ching-te’s victory over Taiwan’s regional election, strengthening of US-Taiwan cooperation and the flaring cross-Straits tension, including violent chasing by the Taiwan side of a mainland fishing boat, which resulted in the tragic deaths of two fishermen.

Experts reached by Global Times also pointed out that this year’s Government Work Report is more concise compared with that of previous year.

Before the two sessions, there was a meeting on Taiwan affairs held in Beijing on February 23.

During the meeting, Wang Huning, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, called for strong hands against “Taiwan independence” separatist forces and the interference by external forces to safeguard peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits, while stressing upholding and strengthening the Party’s overall leadership over work related to Taiwan.

Li Fei, a professor from the Taiwan Research Center at Xiamen University, stated that both this year’s Government Work Report and the meeting revealed that the central government won’t stop short at calling out opposing secessionism on the island of Taiwan. Instead, it will take actions to fight “Taiwan independence” in addition to fighting foreign interference. “It is expected that more will be done by the central government than has been disclosed to push for reunification,” Li Fei told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Yet experts opined that those strategic adjustments don’t signal overall and fundamental change of the central government’s policies on Taiwan question.

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