Mainland dominance to prevail in cross-Straits ties
The Chinese mainland will firmly maintain its strategic dominance to steer cross-Straits relations in the right direction this year, according to observers.
Last year saw turbulence in Taiwan, with unprecedented separatist activities taking place on the island.
Tension in the region escalated in August when then-United States house speaker Nancy Pelosi made a high-profile visit to Taiwan, despite repeated warnings from Beijing. The visit openly violated the one-China principle and also angered Chinese people.
The Chinese government took countermeasures following "provocative meddling" in the Taiwan question — China's internal affairs — by conducting military drills around the island and sanctioning "Taiwan independence" separatists who colluded with foreign forces.
The tense atmosphere has eased in recent months, especially after President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of the Taiwan question while meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in November, and with the defeat of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, in local elections in Taiwan the same month.
Bao Chengke, assistant director at the Institute for East Asian Studies in Shanghai, said these two events had a far-reaching impact on cross-Straits relations by showing that neither the international community nor people in Taiwan accept separatist acts of "Taiwan independence".
However, experts said risks will remain over the Taiwan Straits this year. Conflict could erupt at any time, as factors such as Sino-U.S. strategic competition, a potential visit to Taiwan by new U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and separatist activities are likely to impact the situation in the region.
Delivering his New Year address on Dec 31, Xi called for cross-Straits efforts to ensure prosperity for the Chinese nation.
"The people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits are members of one and the same family. I sincerely hope that our compatriots on both sides of the Straits will work together with a unity of purpose to jointly foster lasting prosperity for the Chinese nation," he said.
Looking back at the increasing challenges over the past year, Song Tao, who became head of the mainland's Taiwan affairs authority last month, said, "The Chinese mainland has maintained the initiative and ability to steer cross-Straits relations."
Song, head of the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said efforts were made to effectively deter external forces from using the island to contain the mainland.
"Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese, and any attempt to separate Taiwan from China will never succeed," he said, adding that the mainland will continue to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and take firm action against separatist activities and external intervention.
Song made the remarks in a New Year message published in the latest issue of Relations Across Taiwan Straits magazine, calling for joint efforts from both sides of the Straits to safeguard peace and stability.
"On the basis of the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, we are ready to conduct extensive and in-depth consultations with people of vision from all walks of life in Taiwan on cross-Straits relations and national reunification," he said.
Bao, the cross-Straits relations expert, said that since the conflict between Russia and Ukraine erupted early last year, the U.S. and other Western countries have attempted to confuse the dispute with the Taiwan question, which is China's domestic affair.
"In the past year, the U.S. has brutally interfered in the Taiwan question to an unprecedented degree since it established diplomatic relations with China," he said.
By sending high-level delegations and members of Congress to visit Taiwan, Washington is conveying the wrong signals to separatist forces on the island and "touching the red line" drawn by the Chinese government on the Taiwan question, he said.
Bao said the military measures taken against Pelosi's visit sent a strong warning to foreign interference forces and "Taiwan independence" forces on the island, adding that although the military exercise in August ended quickly, it had a huge impact.
In an article published recently in Qiushi Journal, the Communist Party of China's flagship magazine, China's senior diplomat Wang Yi said that in adopting the countermeasures China demonstrated its firm determination to protect its sovereignty.
Wang said a total of more than 170 countries and international organizations have expressed strong support for the one-China principle.
Most countries stand with China on the right side of history, and the one-China consensus has been further consolidated in the international community, he added.
Bao said the countermeasures have made the U.S. realize that if it continues to provoke Beijing, this will inevitably lead to a more serious conflict.
During a meeting between Xi and Biden in Bali, Indonesia, in November, Xi stressed that the Taiwan question is "at the very core of China's core interests", while Biden said he did not support "Taiwan independence".
Bao said that although there was a gap between what Biden reiterated in the meeting and actions taken by Washington, the U.S. leader's policy on Taiwan remained clear.
"Biden's stated stance of not supporting 'Taiwan independence' provides an important political foundation for the return of stable Sino-U.S. relations," he added.
Experts said there were positive changes in November, when Taiwan's ruling DPP, which sought confrontation with the mainland, lost in elections for city and county heads, demonstrating that its strategy of seeking "independence" by relying on foreign forces was unpopular with voters.
A recent opinion poll in Taiwan showed that some 47 percent of respondents were satisfied with the election results, while 28 percent were dissatisfied. About 56 percent thought that the DPP would be defeated in the island's leadership election next year.
According to the poll, conducted by Global Views Monthly last month, 59 percent of respondents said there should be more interaction between the two sides of the Straits, while 54 percent said they were not willing to go to war.
Song, head of the mainland's Taiwan affairs authority, said the election results show the pursuit of peace, stability and development is the mainstream view, and "resisting the mainland to protect Taiwan" is an unpopular idea among people on the island.
More Taiwan residents now realize that reunification is the general trend, and peaceful reunification is in the best interests of compatriots on both sides of the Straits and the entire nation, he said.
"As long as compatriots from the two sides work together, they can resolve this family matter," Song added.
A number of factors may affect the situation across the Taiwan Straits, including the island's leadership election early next year. Policies on cross-Straits relations and ties with the U.S. are likely to be typical focuses of the campaign.
Cross-Straits tension could also be triggered this year by a potential visit to Taiwan by McCarthy, the new U.S. House Speaker. In July, the Republican House leader said he would visit the island if he was elected as Speaker.
Outlining the cross-Straits situation for the coming year, Tang Yonghong, deputy director of the Taiwan Research Center at Xiamen University, said the contradiction between unification and "independence" on the two sides of the Straits still exists, as well as that between China and the U.S..
These contradictions might further intensify this year as the U.S. strengthens the strategic containment and suppression of China's development, and competition in Taiwan's leadership election hots up, he said.
Tang said the separatist forces represented by the DPP in Taiwan are certain to promote the concepts of "independence", "sovereignty "and "resisting the mainland" during the election campaign.
Political parties in the U.S. are also likely to continue playing the "Taiwan card" to gain support at home and also obtain interests from Taiwan, he said.
Following Pelosi's visit, the U.S. and Taiwan will continue to collude with each other, and this will include plotting a visit to the island by McCarthy, he added.
To end such provocation, Tang said the mainland will need to take all necessary measures, even at the risk of using force, to resolutely fight separatism and outside interference.
Bao said that faced with such a complex and volatile situation across the Straits, "the mainland will firmly maintain strategic dominance and use all possible means to prevent the situation from getting out of control."
He said that to implement the CPC's overall strategy for solving the Taiwan question in the New Era, which was mapped out at the Party's 20th National Congress in October, the mainland will further advance the process of peaceful reunification between the two sides.
It will also unite with compatriots in Taiwan in opposing secession, and is prepared to smash any attempts at independence made by separatist forces on the island, he said.
March 16: A policy is introduced to allow people in Taiwan to register individually owned businesses in 122 sectors on the Chinese mainland, including fruit planting, beverage manufacturing, pet services and entertainment agencies.
July 11: Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, sends a letter replying to young people from Taiwan who attended the 20th Straits Youth Forum in Xiamen, Fujian province. Xi calls for young people from both sides of the Taiwan Straits to join hands in realizing the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.
July 26: A symposium is held in Beijing to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1992 Consensus, which embodies the one-China principle. Officials and experts attending the event stress that the Consensus is the basis for peaceful development of cross-Straits relations.
Aug 2: United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives in Taiwan by military aircraft for a two-day trip, during which she meets the island's leader Tsai Ing-wen. The Chinese government takes unprecedented countermeasures due to Pelosi's trip, including canceling three cooperative dialogues or meetings with U.S. defense authorities, suspending climate talks, and conducting live-fire drills around Taiwan.
Aug 10: A white paper titled The Taiwan Question and China's Reunification in the New Era is published. It elaborates the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government's position, principles and policies for advancing and realizing national reunification in the New Era.
Aug 16: The mainland sanctions seven "Taiwan independence" diehards, including Hsiao Bi-khim, the island's "representative" to the U.S. who promoted Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, in addition to three DPP politicians already on the list. Punitive measures include barring enterprises related to these people, as well as their sponsors, from engaging in profit-making activities on the mainland.
In October: The report to the 20th National Congress of the CPC stresses that the mainland will implement the Party's overall policy for resolving the Taiwan question in the New Era. Resolutely opposing and deterring separatists who seek "Taiwan independence" is added to the Party's Constitution during the Congress.
Nov 14: President Xi Jinping tells U.S. President Joe Biden during their meeting in Bali, Indonesia, that the Taiwan question is at the very core of China's core interests, the bedrock of the political foundation for China-U.S. relations, and the "first red line" that must not be crossed in Sino-U.S. ties.
Nov 26: Defeated in local elections, Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party wins only five out of 21 positions for county and city chiefs. Tsai Ing-wen resigns as the party's chair to take responsibility for the poor performance.
Dec 23: Biden signs an $858 billion defense spending bill into law, authorizing up to U.S.$10 billion in security assistance and fast-tracked weapons procurement for Taiwan.
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