November 10, 2023
China-Taiwan Weekly Update, November 10, 2023
Data Cutoff: November 7 at 5pm ET
The China–Taiwan Weekly Update focuses on the Chinese Communist Party’s paths to controlling Taiwan and relevant cross–Taiwan Strait developments.
- The negotiations between the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) and Kuomintang (KMT) about forming a joint presidential ticket have stalled.
- The PRC instigated two aggressive encounters with US-allied militaries in the South China Sea between October 29 and November 6.
- The PRC is using the Israel-Palestinian conflict to bolster its image as a fair, responsible broker in contrast to the “biased” United States.
- The PRC extended a naval deployment in the Middle East during the Israel-Hamas war, possibly as a means of increasing its influence in the Middle East.
Taiwanese Presidential Election
The negotiations between the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) and Kuomintang (KMT) about forming a joint presidential ticket have stalled. TPP presidential candidate Ko Wen-je and KMT chairman Eric Chu agreed on October 30 to inter-party cooperation for the January 13 legislative elections.[i] The parties have not agreed to a joint ticket since their initial meeting on October 31, however. Disagreement about how to determine the ticket order remains the key hurdle.[ii] Each party favors the method that would most likely ensure it heads a joint ticket. The progress the parties make during future meetings will be the basis for future assessments, as ISW previously noted.[iii] The fast-approaching November 24 candidate registration deadline will impose a practical constraint on the feasibility of implementing any selection process.
- KMT chairman Eric Chu proposed two options for selecting which candidate would lead the joint ticket during a phone call with Ko on November 2.[iv] Chu’s first proposal entailed an anonymous vote by all opposition legislative candidates to decide the presidential candidate.[v] The second proposal would consider a calculation of party popularity as a factor.[vi] The KMT offered to give equal consideration to a public poll in both cases. Ko rejected both proposals as disproportionately favoring the KMT.[vii]
- Ko continues to insist on using a public poll to decide the order of a joint ticket and is messaging that he will not accept the KMT’s alternatives.[viii] He cast doubt over the two parties’ ability reach a consensus during a campaign event on November 3.[ix]
The impetus for TPP-KMT cooperation to form a joint presidential ticket remains, however. Polling data indicates that the parties will need a joint ticket to overcome Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Lai Ching-te’s consistent lead.[x] A majority of polls suggest that a joint ticket would enable the parties to outperform the DPP in the elections regardless of who heads the joint ticket.[xi] The entry of independent candidate Terry Gou into the presidential race is also an incentive for the parties to form a joint ticket, as Gou’s candidacy will draw support and votes from the TPP and KMT.
- An October 24 poll from the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation (TPOF) showed Ko and Hou are trailing Lai by 4.1% and 8.6%, respectively, even though Lai’s lead has diminished during the last several weeks.[xii]
- Terry Gou’s campaign office announced on November 2 it has collected over one million signatures, three times the required amount. Gou’s campaign is awaiting certification from the Central Election Commission (CEC).[xiii]
South China Sea military tensions
The PRC instigated two aggressive encounters with US-allied militaries in the South China Sea (SCS) between October 29 and November 6. Canada’s military disclosed on November 3 that PRC military aircraft confronted a Canadian Navy helicopter over international waters near the Paracel Islands on October 29.[xiv] The helicopter took evasive action in response. A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warship and militia vessels followed a US Navy ship within 12 nautical miles of the Taiwan-controlled Itu Aba (Taiping) Island in the South China Sea on November 6.
The PRC falsely blamed the United States and its allies for these types of aggressive interactions in the SCS. The PRC pointed to the United States’ “increased regional military deployment, close-up reconnaissance, and encouragement of other parties’ infringement” in the SCS.[xv] A PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs official made the statement during bilateral maritime security talks on November 3, which followed US reassurances to the Philippines after PRC Coast Guard Vessels obstructed a Philippine resupply mission in the Second Scarborough Shoal.[xvi] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized Canada’s “so-called reconnaissance activities” as “inappropriate.”[xvii] Such statements that frame the US and allied military presence in the SCS as unlawful and provocative are consistent with ISW’s assessment that the PRC is shaping the information environment to blame the United States for geopolitical confrontations.
The PRC is using the Israel-Palestinian war to bolster its image as a fair, responsible broker in contrast to the “biased” United States. The PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and state propaganda outlets repeatedly condemned violence between Palestine and Israel since October 7 but never condemned Hamas. They repeatedly said the core of the conflict was the absence of a Palestinian state and promoted a two-state solution. [xviii] The PRC’s messaging indicates that it supports the Palestinian cause to gain diplomatic influence among Middle Eastern countries sympathetic to Palestine. Beijing’s diplomatic efforts in the UN and bilaterally show an effort to build an image as an important and fair mediator in the Middle East and to garner support as a leader in the international system.
- The MFA and state-owned outlets, such as The Global Times, criticized US support for Israel and re-iterated that the PRC has no “selfish interest” in the conflict and is committed to bringing peace and justice.[xix] PRC officials also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the United States, EU, and Middle Eastern countries including Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the UAE.[xx]
- The PRC assumed the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council on November 1 and stated that its top priority in that role would be to promote a ceasefire and an end to the Israel-Hamas war, prevent more civilian casualties, prevent larger-scale humanitarian disasters, and prevent the conflict from spilling over.[xxi]
The PRC extended a naval deployment in the Middle East during the Israel-Hamas war, possibly as a means of increasing its influence in the Middle East. The PLAN 44th Escort Task Force completed a routine escort mission in the Gulf of Aden on October 2 but remained in the vicinity to conduct a series of “goodwill visits” in Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE until November 3. The Oman and UAE visits included joint maritime exercises with the navies of those countries.[xxii] The task force’s departure on November 3 makes it unlikely that its extended presence was meant to respond to contingencies related to the Israeli-Palestinian violence since the violence is still ongoing. The establishment of PRC naval facilities in the Middle East would support future PLAN deployments.
- US President Joe Biden reportedly received a briefing about PRC-Oman negotiations in October to build a PLA military facility in an unspecified location in Oman. The facility would complement China’s other overseas base in Djibouti and would place a permanent PLA facility near a key chokepoint at the Strait of Hormuz.[xxiii]
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https://www.chinatimes dot com/newspapers/20230928000469-260118
https://news.ltn dot com.tw/news/politics/breakingnews/4478258
[xvii] https://www.fmprc dot gov dot cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/202311/t20231103_11173784.html
https://www.fmprc dot gov dot cn/eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/202311/t20231101_11171773.html
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https://www.globaltimes dot cn/page/202311/1301236.shtml
[xix] https://www.fmprc dot gov dot cn/eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/202311/t20231101_11171773.html
https://www.globaltimes dot cn/page/202311/1301296.shtml
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https://www.fmprc dot gov dot cn/wjdt_674879/sjxw_674887/202311/t20231107_11175357.shtml
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