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Chinese Communist Party Apparatchik Demands Progress on Taiwan 'Unification'

Newsweek logo Newsweek 1/20/2021 John Feng
Wang Yang, Xi Jinping, Li Zhanshu, Li Keqiang sitting at a table in a suit and tie: Chinese President Xi Jinping (C), Premier Li Keqiang (R) and Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Yang (L) sing the national anthem during the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 22, 2020 © LEO RAMIREZ/AFP via Getty Images Chinese President Xi Jinping (C), Premier Li Keqiang (R) and Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Yang (L) sing the national anthem during the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 22, 2020

Xi Jinping's top political adviser demanded more progress on Taiwan's "unification" with China in 2021 as Beijing looks ahead to this summer's symbolic centennial of the country's ruling party.

Chinese Communist Party grandee Wang Yang, a senior member of the Politburo Standing Committee, urged Taiwan affairs staff to produce "outstanding achievements" in order to help celebrate 100 years of the party's founding on July 23.

To "advance the unification of the motherland," those involved in the Taiwan Affairs Office would need to continue opposing "Taiwan independence" and "external forces" while safeguarding China's "development interests," said Wang at a two-day work conference held in Beijing on Sunday and Monday.

The 65-year-old apparatchik is the fourth-ranked member in the Politburo Standing Committee—China's top policymaking body, currently comprising seven men—behind legislature chief Li Zhangshu, Premier Li Keqiang and party leader Xi himself.

In remarks carried by state media outlet Xinhua and state broadcaster CCTV, the Chinese government's most senior adviser characterized 2020 as having been "extremely unusual" for cross-strait relations with Taiwan.

He said Taiwan affairs staff should promote "peaceful and integrated development" in the Taiwan Strait while insisting on adherence to Beijing's "one-China principle" and the "1992 Consensus," the latter referring to a vague and disputed agreement allowing for different interpretations of which government claims China.

Wang's key suggestions included more support for authorities promoting cross-strait integration in Fujian—the province nearest to Taiwan—and the crafting of policies encouraging more Taiwanese to live and work in China.

Dialog between Taipei and Beijing has been virtually non-existent since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was elected to office for the first time in 2016. Her government has rejected the 1992 Consensus and China's "one country, two systems" model of governance currently applied in Hong Kong and Macau.

The Tsai administration has maintained it is open to dialog but says talks cannot continue under China's preconditions.

Tsai's ruling Democratic Progressive Party was to blame for "restricting and obstructing" cross-strait exchange and cooperation, said Wang, who chairs the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body.

He said "time" and "momentum" were on China's side, suggesting the protracted war to win Taiwanese hearts and minds would continue long after Tsai's term ends in three years' time.

The Mainland Affairs Council, which handles all of Taipei's Beijing-related matters, said Wang's call for unification "ignored the reality of cross-strait public opinion," according to a statement published by Taiwan's government-funded Central News Agency. It reiterated the Tsai administration's stance of not holding talks under any preconditions.

While Beijing has never ruled out taking Taiwan by force—and has promoted the possibility as cross-strait relations deteriorated in recent years—its goal has been to integrate Taiwan by making Taipei reliant on its economy and the massive Chinese marketplace for goods and services.

According to figures released by Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office last month, bilateral trade between Taiwan and China stood at $235 billion for the year until November. Exports from China accounted for just $54 billion, with Taiwan recording a significant trade surplus.

Zhu Fenglian, the office's spokesperson, said the figures showed Taiwan's economy was "inseparable" from China's.

Since the start of her presidency, however, Tsai has sought to address this imbalance by pivoting to trade with regional neighbors, including India and reaching as far south as Australia and New Zealand.

Tsai's "New Southbound Policy," which aims to secure diverse trading partners as well as security partners, has drawn accusations of "provocation" and "secessionism" from China.

On Wednesday, a news site operated by the Taiwan Affairs Office issued a warning on social media, threatening measures including the long-rumored "Taiwan independence" blacklist and the "National Unification Law."

Security and policy analysts in Taiwan have described both as empty threats.

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