September 25, 2023

China-Taiwan Weekly Update, September 23, 2023

Authors: Nils Peterson, Ian Jones, and Frank Hoffman of the Institute for the Study of War, Alexis Turek and Jonathan Baumel of the American Enterprise Institute

Editors: Dan Blumenthal and Frederick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute

Data Cutoff: September 19 at Noon

The China–Taiwan Weekly Update focuses on the Chinese Communist Party’s paths to controlling Taiwan and relevant cross–Taiwan Strait developments.

Key Takeaways

  1. Terry Gou aims to unify with the Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ahead of the 2024 presidential election and is unlikely to succeed in bridging differences between the parties.
  2. The consensus among the major Taiwanese political parties to defend the Republic of China’s sovereignty provides the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with opportunities to advance its coercive unification campaign.
  3. The CCP purged Defense Minister Li Shangfu in September 2023 following investigations into corrupt equipment procurement.

Taiwanese Presidential Election

Terry Gou aims to unify with the KMT and TPP against the DPP ahead of the 2024 presidential election and is unlikely to succeed in bridging differences between the parties. Gou’s electoral strategy and chances of winning rely on joining forces with one of the other opposition candidates rather than prevailing in a four-way race. The KMT and TPP have not expressed willingness to merge their campaigns with Gou. Polling released on September 20 after the announcement of Tammy Lai as his vice-presidential candidate still shows Gou in a distant fourth place.[i]

  • Gou’s campaign spokesperson Huang Hsih-hsiu reiterated on September 17 that the purpose of Gou's entry into the presidential race is to “unite the opposition.”[ii] Huang suggested that newly announced vice-presidential candidate Tammy Lai is prepared to step aside if Gou forms a combined ticket with another of the current presidential candidates.[iii]
  • KMT Chairman Eric Chu on September 15 said Gou should “focus on the big picture” and “put self-interest aside.” A recent Taiwanese media report suggests Ko has decided against working with Gou.[iv] A Storm Media report from September 19 stated that high-level KMT officials claim Ko Wen-je’s team indicated that Ko has already ruled out the possibility of collaboration with Gou, which is in line with his late August statement that such a pairing would be “”[v]
  • Gou’s previous outreach to TPP candidate Ko Wen-je on the topic of cooperation did not produce a combined ticket, however.[vi] Ko stated that Ko-Gou cooperation is impossible and called on Gou to first discuss cooperation with the KMT.[vii]

The consensus among major Taiwanese political parties to defend the Republic of China’s (ROC) sovereignty provides the CCP with opportunities to advance its coercive unification campaign. Messaging by KMT presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) candidate Ko Wen-je to the American foreign policy community in conjunction with the DPP’s attacks on Hou shows the Taiwanese political consensus over defending the ROC’s sovereignty. The parties agree on the necessity of defending the ROC’s sovereignty. However, their arguments demonstrate that they disagree over what the term means. This disagreement presents the CCP with opportunities to exacerbate leverage points over each of the three mainstream presidential candidates as a means to achieve unification.

  • Hou stated that Taiwan should strengthen dialogue to decrease the chance of war at a forum hosted by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy on September 15.[viii] Hou promoted his “3D” strategy that calls for deterrence, dialogue, and de-escalation in a speech on September 18 before scholars at the Brookings Institute and in an article published on the same day in Foreign Affairs[ix]
  • On September 19, the DPP criticized Hou’s article for ignoring China as “the biggest source of regional tension.”[x] The party also criticized Hou for supporting the 1992 Consensus without viewing it as a vehicle for the CCP to unify with the ROC.[xi]
  • Ko stated during a September 13 interview with Bloomberg that he would prefer to rename the 1992 Consensus, which would allow him to publicly reject the 1992 Consensus while opening dialogue with China.[xii] Ko stated that “we cannot always tell [China] no, because after ‘no,’ there is no other step.”[xiii]

Meaning of ROC Sovereignty for Leading ROC Presidential Candidates

Terminology: 1992 Consensus: a disputed cross-strait policy formulation supported in different formations by the CCP and KMT that acts as a precondition to cross-strait dialogue. The TPP conceptually supports the 1992 Consensus but rejects openly supporting it due to its polarizing effect in Taiwanese politics. The DPP does not support the 1992 Consensus.

Presidential Candidate (Party)

Meaning of ROC Sovereignty

Lai Ching-te (DPP)

·         An independent ROC willing to engage in dialogue with the CCP, but not under the 1992 Consensus.[xiv]

·         Lai does not aim to declare Taiwanese independence from the governing Republic of China framework.[xv]

Hou Yu-ih (KMT)

·         An independent ROC aiming to reduce cross-strait tension by engaging in dialogue with the CCP under the 1992 Consensus.[xvi]

Ko Wen-je (TPP)

·         An independent ROC aiming to reduce cross-strait tension by engaging in dialogue with the CCP under an unspecified concept similar to the 1992 Consensus.[xvii]


The CCP could falsely messaging to Taiwanese and international audiences that cross-strait economic and political dialogue on the party’s terms is a means to maintain cross-strait peace. This would expand the CCP’s capacity to create cross-strait engagement agreements through which to coerce the ROC into unification.


Chinese Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army Decision Making

The CCP purged Defense Minister Li Shangfu in September 2023 following investigations into corrupt equipment procurement. The Central Military Commission Equipment Development Department announced the investigations in July 2023. Li oversaw the department from 2017-2022.[xviii] Li’s dismissal is the latest in a trend of purges of high-ranking PLA officers. The CCP purged PLA Rocket Force commander Li Yuchao and two of his deputies in July 2023 following corruption investigations.[xix] They were replaced later that month by Wang Houbin and Xu Xisheng, two commanders with no prior experience serving in the Rocket Force. The purges indicate Xi’s perspective that the PLA is not sufficiently loyal to the party and his willingness to risk projecting instability within the CCP in order to establish loyalty within the party.[xx]

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) launched a record number of 103 aircraft as part of a violation of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on September 17.[xxi] This development is part of a trend of increasing PLAAF ADIZ violations. The PLAAF began employing new flight patterns on August 24 in Taiwan’s ADIZ. The new flight patterns involve longer horizontal incursions across the median line and counterclockwise flights in the sensitive northern part of Taiwan.[xxii] Horizontal refers to a parallel flight path to the Taiwan Strait median line, which runs between the PRC and ROC. The PLA very likely increased the number of ADIZ violations in order to wear down Taiwanese military readiness, force difficult decisions regarding ROC resource allocation, as well as create a sense of impenetrable siege among the Taiwanese population.

The PLA also conducted naval exercises in the Yellow Sea from September 17 to 23 in response to the September 15-19 trilateral US-Canada-South Korea exercise further southeast in the Yellow Sea.[xxiii] These exercises messaged CCP displeasure at what it considered sensitive exercises in the Yellow Sea. Exercises in the Yellow Sea are sensitive from the party’s view because of their relative proximity to Beijing. This is consistent with ISW’s September 15 assessment that the CCP may stage a similar reaction to the upcoming US-Canada-South Korea exercise in the Yellow Sea.[xxiv]


[i] https://www.voacantonese dot com/a/taiwan-presidential-poll-shows-lai-s-lead-rise-to-42-percent-20230920/7276426.html

[ii] https://www.storm dot mg/article/4870215

[iii] https://www.storm dot mg/article/4870215

[iv] https://www.storm dot mg/article/4870761

[v] https://www.storm dot mg/article/4870761

 https://www.ntdtv dot

[vi] dot

[vii]  https://www.ntdtv dot

[viii] https://www.cna dot
https://news.ltn dot

https://www.chinatimes dot com/realtimenews/20230918002463-260407?chdtv
https://www.cna dot
https://udn dot com/news/story/123307/7448918?from=udn-catelistnews_ch2

[x] https://udn dot com/news/story/123307/7450607?from=udn-catelistnews_ch2

[xi] https://udn dot com/news/story/123307/7450607?from=udn-catelistnews_ch2



[xiv] https://news.ltn dot
https://www.taiwannews dot

[xv] https://www.chinatimes dot com/newspapers/20230517000363-260118?chdtv
https://www.taiwannews dot

[xvi] https://news.ltn dot
https://www.cna dot

[xvii] https://www.csis dot org/events/fireside-chat-dr-ko-wen-je-chairman-taiwan-peoples-party-and-former-mayor-taipei
https://www.cna dot

[xviii] https://mp dot

[xix] https://www.scmp dot com/news/china/military/article/3229515/china-unveils-new-pla-rocket-force-leadership-after-former-commanders-snared-corruption-scandal

[xx] http://www.qstheory dot cn/yaowen/2023-07/25/c_1129766661.htm

http://www.qstheory dot cn/dukan/hqwg/2023-07/27/c_1129770940.htm



[xxiii] https://www.scmp dot com/news/china/military/article/3234922/pla-holds-drills-yellow-sea-days-after-us-and-allies-flex-muscles-near-northeast-china-coast


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