April 28, 2023
China-Taiwan Weekly Update, April 28, 2023
Authors: Nils Peterson, Roy Eakin, and Virginia Wang of the Institute for the Study of War
Data Cutoff: April 26, Noon ET
The China–Taiwan Weekly Update focuses on Chinese Communist Party paths to controlling Taiwan and relevant cross–Taiwan Strait developments.
- The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Shandong aircraft carrier strike group conducted exercises in the Philippine Sea from April 13 to April 24, likely to maintain operational readiness and demonstrate the ability to isolate the Philippines during Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s visit.
- China may attempt to expand the state security apparatus’ reach in foreign companies via the new anti-espionage law revision.
- Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and potential presidential candidate Ko Wen-je refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus, likely to broaden his appeal to KMT and DPP leaning voters in the upcoming 2024 Taiwanese presidential election.
- The KMT is portraying Taiwanese Vice President and DPP presidential nominee Lai Ching-te (William Lai) as out-of-touch with popular concerns possibly to center the presidential election narrative around livelihood issues while the KMT formulates its cross-strait election messaging.
- Potential KMT presidential candidate Gou Tai-ming (Terry Gou) may frame himself as preserving cross-strait stability and Republic of China (ROC) autonomy by promoting a foreign policy that does not align Taiwan explicitly with the United States or China.
This section covers relevant developments pertaining to China and the governing Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
CCP Leadership Activity
China may attempt to expand the state security apparatus’ reach in foreign companies via the new anti-espionage law revision. The second meeting of the Standing Committee of the 14th National People’s Congress adopted the revision prohibiting “collaborating with spy organizations and their agents” and conducting cyber-attacks against state entities. Its stated aim is to strengthen espionage prevention. The CCP used the alleged hack of Northwestern Polytechnical University by the NSA in June 2022 and a Xinjiang civil servant supposedly interacting with an overseas spy agency via dating app as justification for enacting the law. United States Congressional consideration of TikTok bans did not drive this revision as China already bans foreign tech products like YouTube. The broad definition of “agents” offers the CCP an avenue to justify gathering data from foreign firms and their employees while they do business in China. This may grant the CCP access to sensitive company data or trade secrets under the guise of preventing foreign cyber espionage. The law exemplifies Xi’s contradictory pursuit of increasing private sector growth while simultaneously making the business regulatory environment more stringent on national security grounds since the 20th Party Congress in October 2022.
CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on April 26, likely to mitigate the European fallout of Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye dismissing the sovereignty of former Soviet republics on April 21. Xi did not mention Russia’s role in starting the war and made veiled references to the United States for “exploiting the situation for self-gain” and “adding oil to the fire.” He also cautioned against the use of nuclear weapons as “there is no winner in nuclear wars.“ Zelensky also called for the restoration of peace and resumption of Ukrainian-Chinese trade. He emphasized that no state should seek to support Russia, including in military-technical cooperation and the supply of weapons.
Lu is a prominent wolf warrior, a term for aggressive Chinese diplomacy named after a successful Chinese movie of the same name. His comments came after French President Emmanuel Macron visited China in early April and signified a break from official CCP policy. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning repudiated Lu’s April 21 comments saying that “China respects all countries’ sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity and upholds the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.” Lu previously called in August 2022 for “re-education” campaigns in Taiwan following alleged “unification.” The PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not disavow Lu’s August comments.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Shandong aircraft carrier strike group conducted exercises in the Philippine Sea from April 13 to April 24, likely to maintain operational readiness and demonstrate the ability to isolate the Philippines during Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s visit. The exercises were a continuation of the carrier strike group’s activity in early April closer to Taiwan in the response to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen meeting with Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy. The carrier strike group was comprised of the Shandong, a Renhai-class destroyer, two Luyang III-class destroyers, two Jiangkai II-class frigate, and a Fuyu-class support ship. This is the first time the Shandong conducted exercises in the Philippine Sea since commissioning in December 2019. The ROC Ministry of National Defense (MND) subsequently detected the group on its return voyage 120 nautical miles southeast of Taiwan. The ROC MND reportedly mobilized unspecified forces onto Taiwan’s southernmost peninsula in response to the carrier’s return voyage. PLA carrier strike groups in the Philippine Sea demonstrate Chinese intent and capability to interdict US forces and supplies aimed for American partner nations such as Taiwan or the Philippines in crisis scenarios.
This naval activity coincided with Qin Gang’s meetings with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo on April 22 to convey Chinese displeasure at Filipino security cooperation with the United States. Manalo reassured Qin in his meeting that the Philippines “pursues an independent foreign policy” to assuage concerns of closer US-Philippine military relations in light of the United States’ expanded Philippine military base access. China seeks to limit the US military’s access in the Philippines to contain American operational capabilities in the region.
Chinese state media announced that the Fujian aircraft carrier successfully conducted propulsion and mooring tests since launching on June 17, 2022 to commemorate the PLAN’s 74th anniversary on April 23. The PLAN has not officially commissioned the carrier.
This section covers relevant developments pertaining to Taiwan, including its upcoming January 13, 2024 presidential and legislative elections.
The Taiwanese (Republic of China) political spectrum is largely divided between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT). The DPP broadly favors Taiwanese autonomy, Taiwanese identity, and skepticism towards China. The KMT favors closer economic and cultural relations with China along with a broader alignment with a Chinese identity. The DPP under President Tsai Ing-wen has controlled the presidency and legislature (Legislative Yuan) since 2016. This presidential election cycle also includes the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) candidate Ko Wen-je who frames his movement as an amorphous alternative to the DPP and KMT. It is normal for Taiwanese presidential elections to have third party candidates, but none have ever won. The 2024 Taiwan presidential and legislative elections will be held on January 13, 2024 and the new president will take office in May 2024. Presidential candidates can win elections with a plurality of votes in Taiwan.
Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and potential presidential candidate Ko Wen-je refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus, likely to broaden his appeal to KMT and DPP leaning voters in the upcoming 2024 Taiwanese presidential election. Ko expressed his views on the 1992 Consensus, a broad agreement involving one China that the Kuomintang (KMT) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) subscribe to, throughout his tour of the United States from April 8 to April 27. Before his visit to the United States, Ko questioned the 1992 Consensus on March 27 by saying that Taiwan has a 1996 instead of a 1992 Consensus because “Taiwan’s character largely formed” through the first direct presidential election in 1996. Ko later implied that the differing interpretations of the 1992 Consensus invalidate it by saying that the “biggest failure of the 1992 Consensus is that there is no consensus” during an April 24 interview with Voice of America. Ko seeks to balance his refutation of the 1992 Consensus with calls for cross-strait dialogue to portray himself as a pragmatic moderate who aims to avoid conflict and preserve autonomy. His statements on the 1992 Consensus will resonate with “light green” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-leaning voters who stress the importance of Taiwan’s democratic character and give priority to Taiwanese autonomy prioritize of Taiwanese autonomy over cross-strait initiatives. His messaging also will resonate with “light blue” KMT-leaning voters who seek dialogue with the PRC. April 2023 polls show Ko support from voters is at 22 percent, compared to 33 percent for DPP nominee Lai Ching-te (William Lai), and 29 percent for potential Kuomintang (KMT) nominee Hou Yu-ih.
The KMT is portraying Taiwanese Vice President and DPP presidential nominee Lai Ching-te (William Lai) as out-of-touch with popular concerns possibly to center the presidential election narrative around livelihood issues while the KMT formulates its cross-strait election messaging. KMT Deputy Spokesperson Lu Jian-wei condemned Lai on April 21 for filming an election promotion video inside the Taiwanese Presidential Office Building by asking if Lai’s video is “worthy of the hard-working Taiwanese people” who pay taxes to fund Lai’s salary. KMT Taipei City Councilor Lee Po-yi complemented Lu’s comments by accusing Lai of “not touch[ing] Taiwan’s most serious livelihood issues such as the economy, election bribery, and public security.” Lee also linked Lai to questionable DPP political figures through Lai’s role as DPP Chairman. He specifically referenced corruption and sexual misconduct cases involving former Executive Yuan Spokesperson Chen Tsung-yan and former New Taipei City Deputy Speaker Chen Wen-zhi. He referred to Chen Zong-yan as Lai’s “big disciple.” Lee and Lu’s comments aim to discredit Lai by portraying him as a politician that does not understand the struggles of the Taiwanese working class and maintains connections to corrupt individuals. This type of rhetoric benefits the KMT as KMT-backed cross-strait concepts like the 1992 Consensus remain controversial among the Taiwanese populace. The KMT has not selected its presidential election candidate and will not finalize its cross-strait platform until it announces its selection.
Potential KMT presidential candidate Gou Tai-ming (Terry Gou) may frame himself as preserving cross-strait stability and Republic of China (ROC) autonomy by promoting a foreign policy that does not align Taiwan explicitly with the United States or China. Gou announced his intention to seek the KMT presidential nomination on April 5. Gou is the billionaire founder of Taiwanese electronics company Foxconn, which maintains strong economic interests in China. He is not formally a KMT primary candidate. The party will select a candidate via an internal consensus process involving KMT legislators, mayors, and county magistrates instead of a primary election. He portrayed Taiwan as a pawn in a larger US-China rivalry by saying that “Taiwan is like prey walking on a tightrope” and that Taiwan will “fall to pieces” if China and the United States “tightens a little bit” on April 22. Gou said that Taiwan should not lean towards the United States and questioned the premise of Taiwan being forced to choose between China and the United States. His messaging must resonate with the KMT elite due to the KMT’s presidential nominee selection process.
Gou elaborated on his views in Facebook posts on April 25 by articulating the “Taiwan Powerlessness Theory,” which envisions a third path for Taiwan amid the US-China rivalry. He said the theory is mainstream in Taiwan, with one side believing that Taiwan cannot maintain close relations with China and should thus follow the United States and the other side emphasizing that Taiwan must protect itself by “obey[ing]” China.  Gou argued instead that Taiwan can use its interactions with the United States and China to provide knowledge to both sides amid a US-China rivalry that lacks mutual understanding.  Gou launched his campaign by saying that “Taiwan needs a great CEO” and that he can “solve crises that traditional politicians cannot.”  Gou may use his ”outsider” status to promote his vision as one that looks beyond existing debates and strategies that fail to protect ROC interests. His message also attempts to frame the ROC as an autonomous actor that can navigate the existing US-China rivalry by making decisions that suit its own interests instead of those of either the United States or China. Gou’s messaging comes at a time when KMT frontrunner New Taipei City Mayor Hou Yu-ih is pondering his decision to pursue the KMT presidential nomination.
http://cpc.people dot com.cn/n1/2023/0425/c64094-32672855.html
https://www.scmp dot com/news/china/politics/article/3217931/china-amend-anti-espionage-law-cover-cyberattacks-foreign-spies-and-surrogates
 For Lu Shaye’s comments see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XYDYf1gmtA
 https://www.fmprc dot gov.cn/mfa_eng/zxxx_662805/202304/t20230426_11066785.html
 https://www.president dot gov.ua/en/news/vidbulasya-telefonna-rozmova-prezidenta-ukrayini-z-golovoyu-82489
 https://focustaiwan dot tw/cross-strait/202304240019
http://eng.chinamil dot com.cn/CHINA_209163/TopStories_209189/16219362.html
 https://www.tpof dot org/%e9%81%b8%e8%88%89/%e7%b8%bd%e7%b5%b1%e9%81%b8%e8%88%89/2024%e5%8f%b0%e7%81%a3%e7%b8%bd%e7%b5%b1%e9%81%b8%e6%b0%91%e7%9a%84%e6%94%af%e6%8c%81%e5%82%be%e5%90%91%ef%bc%882023%e5%b9%b44%e6%9c%8818%e6%97%a5%ef%bc%89/
https://www.tpof dot org/%e5%85%a9%e5%b2%b8%e9%97%9c%e4%bf%82/%e5%85%a9%e5%b2%b8%e6%94%bf%e6%b2%bb/2023%e5%b9%b44%e6%9c%8817%e6%97%a5%e3%80%8c%e5%9c%8b%e4%ba%ba%e5%b0%8d%e3%80%8c%e4%b9%9d%e4%ba%8c%e5%85%b1%e8%ad%98%e3%80%8d%e7%9b%b8%e9%97%9c%e5%95%8f%e9%a1%8c%e7%9a%84%e6%85%8b%e5%ba%a6/