In a discussion with members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations – and for “high vigilance” against Taiwan independence.
According to Xinhua, Xi made the remarks to political advisers from the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang (RCCK), the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League (TDSGL) and the All China Confederation of Taiwan Compatriots (ACFTC). The RCCK and TDSGL are two of the eight legally permitted minority parties in China. The RCCK was formed in 1948 by leftists who split from the main Kuomintang Party (which now rules on Taiwan), while the TDSGL mostly consists of Taiwanese or those with Taiwanese heritage who now live on the Chinese mainland. The ACFTC, also composed mostly of native Taiwanese who now live on the mainland, is a “people’s group” rather than a party, but has representation on the CPPCC National Committee. All three organizations are tasked with fostering a positive cross-strait relationship; they are also used to showcase Taiwanese representation at China’s annual CPPCC meetings.
In his remarks, Xi urged all Taiwanese to “safeguard” peace in general and specifically the peaceful development of cross-strait ties. He called on both sides of the strait to “unswervingly pursue peaceful development … [and] unswervingly adhere to the common political basis.”
Along with this affirmation of cross-strait ties came a stern rejection of “the separatist forces of the ‘Taiwan independence.’” Xi called Taiwan independence forces “the biggest hindrance for the peaceful development of the cross-strait ties” and the “biggest threat of the cross-strait stability [sic].” Taiwan independence “should be resolutely opposed,” Xi said, calling it a “threat [to] the national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Xi’s remarks are likely meant as a message for Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which scored a major victory in last year’s local elections and is currently favored to win 2016’s presidential and legislative elections. Beijing has drawn a straight line between the DPP and Taiwan independence ever since the last DPP President, Chen Shui-bian. Among other things, Chen tried to call a reference on Taiwan’s governmental system (taken by China as a move toward declaring independence) and used his term to campaign for Taiwan to gain a seat at the United Nations.
Beijing’s wariness toward the DPP has lingered. In June 2014, for example, a spokesperson for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office lumped the DPP and Taiwan independence forces together: “The mainland has been clear and consistent in the policy toward Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party, and the mainland firmly opposes the ‘Taiwan independence’ stance and secessionist attempts.” Those remarks came in response to a DPP mayor saying that Taiwan’s fate should be decided by the Taiwanese people rather than mainland Chinese.
Beijing wants to ensure that, should the DPP come out victorious next year, the new president keeps up the intentional ambiguity that marks cross-strait relations. Thus Xi’s warning against Taiwan independence was paired with an affirmation of the importance of the 1992 consensus, in which both sides agree that “there is only one China,” while reserving the right to interpret “one China” differently (for the mainland, it obviously means the PRC, while Taiwan preserves the fiction that its government has “de jure sovereignty over all of China”).
The DPP has yet to officially accept the 1992 consensus, fostering unease in Beijing. Xi made it clear in his remarks that the 1992 Consensus is a “precondition” for cross-strait relations; if the DPP does not accept this principle, cross-strait ties under a DPP president could grind to a halt. However, Xi assured listeners that as long as Taiwan’s officials embrace the consensus, “there will be no communication obstacles between any Taiwan parties or organizations and the Chinese mainland.”
Interestingly, Xi argued that the single biggest factor in determining cross-strait relations is the “development and progress” of mainland China. Beijing has long hoped that increased economic prosperity on the mainland, coupled with more people-to-people contacts with Taiwan, will inevitably win over the “hearts and minds” of Taiwan’s people and pave the way for voluntary reunification. So far, that hasn’t worked – despite an historic level of cross-strait interactions, more and more people on Taiwan are actually identifying as “Taiwanese” rather than “Chinese.” But Xi’s remarks indicate that Beijing still hopes to woo Taiwan simply by continuing its own development course.