China says U.S. actions on Taiwan, South China Sea threaten stability


June 1, 2019 / 5:19 PM

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The United States’ actions on Taiwan and the South China Sea are hardly conducive to maintaining stability in the region, a senior Chinese military official said on Saturday, responding to comments by acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

“He (Shanahan) has been expressing inaccurate views and repeating old tunes about the issues of Taiwan and the South China Sea,” Shao Yuanming, a senior official of the People’s Liberation Army, told reporters after Shanahan’s speech.

“This is harming regional peace and stability.”

Shao added that China would defend its sovereignty at any cost should anyone try to separate Taiwan from its territory. It views the self-ruled island as a wayward province and has not ruled out the use of force to return it to the fold.

“China will have to be reunified,” Shao said. “If anybody wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will protect the country’s sovereignty at all costs.”

China translates the Chinese word “tong yi” (This blogger’s note: The word is one word tongyi not two words tong yi in Chinese. Reunification is the reunification of China as Taiwan is a part of China for a long time in Chinese history. It has nothing to do whether China is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party or KMT or anyone else)  as “reunification”, but it can also be translated as “unification”, a term in English preferred by Taiwan independence supporters who say the Communist government has never ruled the island, so it cannot be “reunified”.

Earlier, Shanahan told delegates at a defense forum in Singapore that the United States would no longer “tiptoe” around Chinese behavior in Asia, with stability in the region at threat on issues ranging from the South China Sea to Taiwan.

Shanahan did not directly name China when he spoke of “actors” destabilizing the region, but went on to say the United States would not ignore Chinese behavior.

However, Shao responded by saying it was the United States that was destabilizing the region with its recent actions.

In May, a U.S. warship sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal claimed by China in the South China Sea, angering Beijing at a time of tension over trade between the world’s two biggest economies.

(This story has been refiled to correct the spelling of Shanahan in paragraph 2)

Reporting by Lee Chyen Yee in Singapore

Source: Reuters “China says U.S. actions on Taiwan, South China Sea threaten stability”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

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U.S. eyes Taiwan risk as China’s military capabilities grow


FILE PHOTO: Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles, potentially capable of sinking a U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in a single strike, travel past Tiananmen Gate during a military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Beijing Thursday Sept. 3, 2015. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool/File Photo

Phil Stewart January 16, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is closely watching Chinese intentions toward Taiwan, concerned that Beijing’s growing military prowess may increase the risk it could one day consider bringing the self-ruled island under its control by force, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

The senior U.S. defense intelligence official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, did not predict that China’s military, known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), would take such a step but said such a possibility was the top worry as China expands and modernizes its military capabilities.

“The biggest concern is that … they are getting to a point where the PLA leadership may actually tell Xi Jinping that they are confident in their capabilities,” the official said, referring to China’s president.

Pressed on whether the official was referring to Chinese confidence in its capabilities to be able to successfully win a battle with Taiwan, the official said, “Well, specifically that would be the most concerning to me.”

Taiwan is only one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, including a trade war between the countries, U.S. sanctions on the Chinese military, and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea.

However, in meetings with Pentagon leaders, PLA officials have long described Taiwan as China’s most sensitive issue.

China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills in the past few years and worked to isolate the island internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.

It has also strongly objected to U.S. warship passages through the Taiwan Strait this year, and issued a terse warning about Taiwan after talks in Beijing on Tuesday with the U.S. Navy’s top officer, Admiral John Richardson.

‘WHATEVER IT TAKES’

In the talks, Chinese General Li Zuocheng, chief of China’s Central Military Commission Joint Staff Department, stressed that Taiwan was “China’s internal affairs” and that Beijing would allow “no external interference.”

“If someone tries to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will do whatever it takes to safeguard national reunification, national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to an English-language statement here by China’s defense ministry on the talks.

Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help it defend itself and is the island’s main source of arms. The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taiwan more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.

Xi has stepped up pressure on the democratic island since Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party became president in 2016.

On Jan. 2, Xi said in a speech that China reserved the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but would strive to achieve peaceful “reunification.”

Still, the U.S. defense intelligence official cautioned against over-reacting, noting Xi could believe he has plenty of time to achieve reunification with Taiwan.

The official also cautioned that China’s military still faced gaps in its capabilities.

“They could order them to go today, but I don’t think they’re particularly confident in that capability,” the official said.

Also on Tuesday, the Defense Intelligence Agency released a report describing Taiwan as the “primary driver” for China’s military modernization, which it said had made major advances in recent years.

U.S. defense officials have become particularly alarmed about China’s advances in super-fast “hypersonic” technology, which could allow it to field missiles that are far harder to detect.

“The result … is a PLA on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world. In some areas, it already leads the world,” the report said here

Reporting by Phil Stewart; editing by Will Dunham and James Dalgleish

Source: Reuters “U.S. eyes Taiwan risk as China’s military capabilities grow”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


U.S. reinforces its relationship with Taiwan as part of a pushback on Beijing’s influence


Lucas Niewenhuis February 22, 2018

Earlier this week, it was reported that the U.S. is seriously pursuing a deepened security and economic partnership with Australia, Japan, and India in order to counter Beijing’s influence in the Asia-Pacific, or “Indo-Pacific,” region.

It’s increasingly clear that part of the new U.S. strategy involves reinforcing, if not going so far as to officially deepen, U.S.-Taiwan relations. Here are the signs:

  • A 19-member congressional delegation is visiting Taiwan from the U.S. to express its “love for Taipei,” the Taipei Times reports. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with the delegation and thanked the Americans “for all they have done for Taiwan,” according to Taiwan News.
  • Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and the second-ranking member of his party on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, led the delegation. The New York Times received (paywall) a statement from the senator:

“With China becoming more aggressive and intent on expanding its influence globally, the United States-Taiwan security relationship is now more important than ever… By ensuring they have the ability to defend themselves, Taiwan will continue to be an important part of promoting regional stability.”

  • In January, the House of Representatives in the U.S. passed a bill called the “Taiwan Travel Act,” which if it were to become law would “pave the way for high-level Taiwanese officials to visit the United States and meet U.S. officials, including those from the state and defense departments,” the South China Morning Post reports.
  • An arms sale forum between the U.S. and Taiwan is set to be held in Taiwan, rather than America, for the first time this May, according to the SCMP. Initially, the forum had been identified as the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference, which is held annually in the U.S., but organizers clarified that this forum is separate and not equivalent.
  • The American Institute in Taiwan, an organization that coordinates contact between U.S. and Taiwan government representatives, is set to upgrade its facilities in Taipei in June. The New York Times comments that “the unanswered question is how senior an American official might attend” the groundbreaking.

Other new tests for the Taiwan-mainland China relationship:

  • Taiwanese officials are on high alert about a potential breakthrough in Vatican-Beijing relations, which would sideline Taipei.
  • Activists are furious about the wife of Lee Ming-che 李明哲 being unable to visit him while he is jailed in China, allegedly in part for posts he made on Facebook.
  • China’s reunification dream will remain out of reach as long as Taiwanese feel they don’t belong, says Wang Chi 王冀, president of the U.S.-China Policy Foundation.

Source: SubChina “U.S. reinforces its relationship with Taiwan as part of a pushback on Beijing’s influence”

Note: This is SubChina’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


A warning to Taiwan-independence forces


Global Times Published: 2017/12/10 22:43:42

The minister at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, Li Kexin, said Friday that he had told US lawmakers that the day US Navy vessels arrive in Kaohsiung will be the day the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) unifies Taiwan by force. His remarks have triggered an uproar in Taiwan, with protests from its “Ministry of Foreign Affairs” and Mainland Affairs Council.

Obviously frightened, the Taiwan authorities’ reaction indicates they care about Li’s words and lack faith in their invisible movement toward Taiwan’s independence.

After the US Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018 in September, which enables naval vessels of Taiwan and the US to pay mutual visits, Taiwan authorities have been both delighted and dubious about the bill.

The island under the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has become deficient of both direction and sense of security.

The Chinese mainland has never given up the option of Taiwan reunification by force, which is clear to people across the Taiwan Straits. But Taiwan is not sure what will prompt the PLA’s actions while the DPP has been deceiving Taiwanese that the island will stay safe whatever it does.

Taiwan knows so little of the mainland’s Anti-Secession Law. The DPP is already approaching the boundary of the law and leading Taiwan to a wrong direction. The sustainability of the island’s development remains uncertain.

Li’s words have sent a warning to Taiwan and drew a clear red line. If Taiwan attempts to hold an independence referendum or other activities in pursuit of de jure “Taiwan independence,” the PLA will undoubtedly take action.

This is the cornerstone of Beijing’s policy on Taiwan that can’t be shaken and also the will of the entire Chinese nation.

It shouldn’t be underestimated, otherwise, Taiwan’s laissez-faire attitude will allow the DPP to make fatal mistakes.

After all, the mainland’s determination to prevent Taiwan from gaining independence far outweighs the DPP’s and overrides the US’ play of the Taiwan card. The mainland has the military strength and strategic will to defy any challenge.

Li’s words are like warning bells on Taiwan authorities considering independence by a salami-slicing strategy. Taiwan is facing what Peking faced in 1949 – being encircled by mainland forces. Any move that oversteps the boundary will be in vain.

The mainland certainly wants a peaceful reunification with Taiwan. But if Taiwan authorities brazenly defy the Anti-Secession Law, using force will be the only choice regardless of cost.

Taiwan authorities are playing a ridiculous trick to run counter to the trend of history. They should avoid misjudging the current situation and refrain from making the worst-case scenario happen.

Source: Global Times “A warning to Taiwan-independence forces”

Note: This is Global Times’ op-ed I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the Global Times’ views.


China warns U.S. against allowing stopover for Taiwan’s Tsai


Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks on the phone with U.S. president-elect Donald Trump at her office in Taipei, Taiwan, in this handout photo made available December 3, 2016. Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via REUTERS

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen speaks on the phone with U.S. president-elect Donald Trump at her office in Taipei, Taiwan, in this handout photo made available December 3, 2016. Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via REUTERS

By J.R. Wu | TAIPEI Thu Dec 29, 2016 | 4:56am EST

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will pass through the United States when she visits Latin America next month, the Taiwan Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, angering China which urged the United States to block any such stopover.

China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, who it thinks wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing regards as a renegade province, ineligible for state-to-state relations.

Details of the stopovers will be disclosed before the end of this week, the ministry said.

China said Tsai’s intentions were clear and urged the United States not to let her in.

“We hope the U.S. can abide by the ‘one China’ policy…and not let her pass through their border, not give any false signals to Taiwan independence forces, and through concrete actions safeguard overall U.S. China relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan strait,” Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, told a briefing in Beijing.

The transit details are being closely watched as Taiwan media has speculated Tsai will seek to meet President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team ahead of his January 20 inauguration.

Trump angered China when he spoke to Tsai this month in a break with decades of precedent and cast doubt on his incoming administration’s commitment to Beijing’s “one China” policy.

The United States, which switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, has acknowledged the Chinese position that there is only “one China” and that Taiwan is part of it.

China’s sole aircraft carrier, accompanied by several warships, sailed close to Taiwan this week, which followed on from air force exercises also close to Taiwan.

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun repeated that the drills were routine, but added that such drills did have Taiwan in mind.

“The military’s holding of exercises is beneficial to raising our ability to oppose Taiwan independence and protecting the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and beneficial to protecting the peaceful development of cross-Taiwan Strait relations and peace and stability there,” he told reporters.

Tsai’s office earlier this month said she would visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador in that order. She will leave Taiwan on Jan. 7 and return on Jan. 15.

Taiwan had as many as 30 diplomatic allies in the mid-1990s, but now has formal relations with just 21, mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific and including the Vatican.

The American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy of the United States, had no immediate comment on Tsai’s itinerary.

(Additional reporting by Jake Spring and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: Reuters “China warns U.S. against allowing stopover for Taiwan’s Tsai”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China’s Carrot and Stick in Dealing with Taiwan


Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou wave to photographers as they enter the room at the Shangri-la Hotel where they are to meet, in Singapore November 7, 2015. REUTERS/Joseph Nair

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou wave to photographers as they enter the room at the Shangri-la Hotel where they are to meet, in Singapore November 7, 2015. REUTERS/Joseph Nair

Reuters quotes Tsai Ing-wen, leader of Taiwan’s independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), as saying “Only the majority public opinion on Jan. 16 can decide Taiwan’s future and cross-strait relations” referring to ties with the mainland.

However the majority public opinion can decide everything about Taiwan’s future except Taiwan’s independence as China will never allow that.

Reuters says, “In 1996, then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin ordered missile tests and war games in the seas around Taiwan to try to intimidate voters not to back Lee Teng-hui, who China believed was moving the island closer to formal independence. Lee won by a landslide.” But it fails to mention that at that time the U.S. sent two aircraft carriers into the Taiwan Strait to support Taiwan and at that time China was much weaker than it is now. Its fighter jets were by far inferior to those from U.S. aircraft carriers.

In order to have the strength to take over Taiwan by force, China has since then developed its DF-21D ballistic and YJ-18 cruise anti-ship missiles to ensure killing of U.S. aircraft carriers within their range. If there is a war between China and Taiwan, the U.S. now has to tell its aircraft carrier battle groups to withdraw from the 1,500 km range of such aircraft carrier killers let alone coming into the Taiwan Strait to protect Taiwan.

Therefore, Tsai may win the election and become Taiwan president but she will never dare to pursue independence. Therefore, what China fears is not Tsai or her DPP but Taiwan’s younger generation who strongly advocates Taiwan independence.

Taiwan’s current president Ma Ying-jeou is wise to see the possibility of China’s military takeover of Taiwan in the future; therefore, he has worked hard to seek a peace treaty with China. Even though his term would end soon, he has still worked hard and finally achieved a meeting with Chinese leader after two years of great efforts. However, as always, talents are not understood by most common people. Most Taiwanese youngsters believe that they have the right of self-determination. No, they do not have such right. The Taiwan issue is regarded by China as a domestic instead of international issue. The war to take over Taiwan is regarded by it as the continuance of China’s civil war.

China wants to keep Taiwan as a part of it and allow it to have a high degree of autonomy. That is why Chinese President Xi Jinping was so amicable in meeting Ma and treating his as his equal. That is the carrot.

On the other hand, China is developing aircraft carrier killers to prevent U.S. intervention and has built huge amphibious warships and powerful rocket artillery for taking Taiwan by force if necessary.

The construction of a building similar to the palace of Taiwanese president and the military drill to attack and take the building at China’s Zhurihe military drill base clearly shows China’s stick in dealing with Taiwan.

Only the U.S. is powerful enough to interfere, but it has made clear that it will not support Taiwan independence.

For China, it will be the best timing for it to take Taiwan by force when Tsai has won the election and made some statement that gives the impression that she advocates independence.

The U.S. is at its weakest point now and being harassed by problems in Europe and the Middle East. The public opinion that supports Taiwan independence is not very strong now but will grow when more youngsters have grown up.

Chinese military is used to conduct surprise attack. Xi’s waving of olive branch now will give the best surprise. I am really worried that China may conduct surprise attack at Taiwan after Tsai has won the election and begins to confront China.

Chan Kai Yee’s comments on Reuters’ report.

The following is the full text of Reuters’ report:

Taiwan opposition says only democracy can decide future

TAIPEI/BEIJING By Faith Hung and Ben Blanchard Nov 8, 2015 3:03am EST

Only the people of Taiwan can decide its future and will do so in elections in January, the island’s opposition leader and presidential frontrunner said on Sunday, as China’s top newspaper warned peace was at risk if it opted for independence.

A day after Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou held historic talks in Singapore, Tsai Ing-wen, leader of Taiwan’s independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said the leaders’ meeting had done nothing to make Taiwan’s people feel safer.

“Only the majority public opinion on Jan. 16 can decide Taiwan’s future and cross-strait relations,” Tsai wrote, referring to ties with the mainland.

At the meeting in neutral Singapore, the first get-together of leaders of the two sides since China’s civil war ended in 1949, Xi told Ma they must not let proponents of Taiwan’s independence split them.

Ma in return called for mutual respect for each other’s systems and said Taiwan people were concerned about mainland missiles pointing their way.

Tsai said Ma’s performance had angered many people in Taiwan, and what he did was not a representation of mainstream public opinion.

“As a nation’s leader, President Ma did not make his people proud or feel safe. Instead, he created more anxiety,” she wrote.

China’s Nationalists, also known as the Kuomintang (KMT), retreated to Taiwan after losing the civil war to the Communists, who are still in charge in Beijing. Both agree there is “one China” but agree to disagree on the interpretation.

Beijing views self-ruled and proudly democratic Taiwan as a renegade province, to be bought under its control by force if necessary, and has warned that moves towards formal independence could stoke conflict.

Speaking to reporters on the flight back to Taipei late on Saturday, Ma said while he was not satisfied with Xi’s response on security and military issues, at least a dialogue had now begun.

“This gathering today, if you want to speak about achievements, the most important achievement is that the leaders across the Taiwan Strait finally met and were willing to discuss related issues,” he said.

‘FIERCE AND FRIGHTENING’

In a commentary, the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said the two leaders sitting together showed a desire not to let the “tragedy of history” repeat itself nor to let the fruits of peaceful development be lost.

Progress over the past seven years – referring to the rule of the China-friendly Ma – has been possible due to a joint political will to oppose Taiwan independence and accept there is “one China”, albeit it with different interpretations, the paper said.

“If this ‘magic cudgel’ did not exist, the boat of peace would encounter a fierce and frightening storm, or even flip over completely,” it wrote.

“Compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait must join together and resolutely oppose the Taiwan independence forces and their separatist activities,” the newspaper added.

While bilateral trade, investment and tourism have blossomed – particularly since Ma and his KMT took power in 2008 – there is deep suspicion on both sides and no progress has been made on any sort of political settlement.

One source with ties to the leadership in Beijing said China was not counting on the meeting to help the Nationalists win the presidential elections, but hoped it would at least prevent them from disintegrating.

“If the DPP controls the legislature and amended the constitution (formally) declaring independence, the mainland would be in a very difficult position,” the source said.

In 2005, China enacted an “anti-secession law” that allows it to use force on Taiwan if deemed necessary.

Previous Chinese attempts to influence Taiwan’s elections have backfired.

In 1996, then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin ordered missile tests and war games in the seas around Taiwan to try to intimidate voters not to back Lee Teng-hui, who China believed was moving the island closer to formal independence. Lee won by a landslide.

(Additional reporting by Benjmain Kang Lim in Beijing and J.R. Wu in Taipei; Editing by Robert Birsel)


China, Taiwan Each Making Efforts to Absorb the Other Peacefully


  Pro-China activist Chang An-le, also known as 'White Wolf,' answers a question during an interview with Reuters in Taipei November 14, 2014. Picture taken November 14, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Pichi Chuang

Pro-China activist Chang An-le, also known as ‘White Wolf,’ answers a question during an interview with Reuters in Taipei November 14, 2014. Picture taken November 14, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Pichi Chuang

When I was young, there was serious tension between Chinese mainland and Taiwan. Mao even bombarded Taiwan’s islands near the mainland and according to Henry Kissinger might have triggered a nuclear war.

Deng Xiaoping stopped the bombardment and tried to ease tension in order to attract Taiwanese investment. Seeing Taiwanese businessmen’s contributions to China’s economic growth, Deng switched to the policy of peaceful offensive supplemented by military threat.

This policy switch has been carried on by Deng’s successors. It seems quite effective according to Reuters’ report “Special Report: How China’s shadowy agency is working to absorb Taiwan”. It is really good that military solution is becoming an increasingly unpopular alternative for Mainland China to reunify with Taiwan.

In fact, even if Mainland China is able to take Taiwan by force, what is the use to get an island damaged by war with people hostile to Mainland China due to the war?

From Reuters report, we see the possibility of peaceful reunification as almost all the Taiwanese doing business and having married Mainland wives or traveled there have become pro-Beijing.

It is mainly because Mainland has been able to achieve prosperity and improve the rule of law and human rights.

If it is able to keep on doing so, there will be a peaceful reunification. However, I do not know whether it will be China absorbing Taiwan or Taiwan absorbing China.

In fact while China is trying hard to influence Taiwan, Taiwan is also trying to affect China.

Reuters says in its report, Taiwan’s “Mainland Affairs Council spokesperson Wu Mei-hung said United Front activity shouldn’t be interpreted in an ‘overly negative way’.”

It quotes her as saying “China has some political intentions, but Taiwan has its own advantages in terms of systems, core values and soft power. All of these, we hope, will impact China via exchanges.”

If you believe that China’s system is better then you may come to the conclusion that China will absorb Taiwan peacefully by its United Front efforts.

However, if you believe Taiwan’s system is better than you may think that Taiwan will absorb China peacefully via exchanges.

This blogger believes the final reunited China will either be a mixture that absorbs the advantages of both systems or allow each to maintain its own system as it suits the situation there and is better acceptable by the people concerned

The following is the full text of Reuters report:

Special Report: How China’s shadowy agency is working to absorb Taiwan

Ever since a civil war split the two sides more than 60 years ago, China has viewed Taiwan as a renegade province that needs to be absorbed into the mainland. To that end, the legion of Taiwanese businessmen working in China is a beachhead.

In June, hundreds of those businessmen gathered in a hotel ballroom in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. They were there to toast the new head of a local Taiwan merchants’ association. They sipped baijiu liquor and ate seafood as a troupe performed a traditional lion dance for good luck. An honored guest, senior Communist Party official Li Jiafan, stood to deliver congratulations and a message.

“I urge our Taiwanese friends to continue to work hard in your fields to contribute to the realization of the Chinese dream as soon as possible,” said Li, using a nationalist slogan President Xi Jinping has popularized. “The Chinese dream is also the dream of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait – our dream of reunification.”

Li, who ended his speech to beating drums and loud applause, is a department chief in the Shenzhen arm of the United Front Work Department, an organ of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. Its mission: to spread China’s influence by ultimately gaining control over a range of groups not affiliated with the party and that are often outside the mainland.

United Front documents reviewed by Reuters, including annual reports, instructional handbooks and internal newsletters, as well as interviews with Chinese and Taiwanese officials reveal the extent to which the agency is engaged in a concerted campaign to thwart any move toward greater independence by Taiwan and ultimately swallow up the self-ruled island of 23 million.

The United Front’s 2013 annual work report for the Chinese province of Zhejiang, for instance, includes the number of Taiwanese living in the province, the number of businesses they run as well as an entry on background checks that have been conducted on the Taiwanese community in the province, an entrepreneurial hub near Shanghai.

The United Front hasn’t confined itself to the mainland. It is targeting academics, students, war veterans, doctors and local leaders in Taiwan in an attempt to soften opposition to the Communist Party and ultimately build support for unification. The 2013 work report, reviewed by Reuters, includes details of a program to bring Taiwanese students and military veterans on visits to the mainland.

INFLUENCING POLITICS

Through the United Front and other Chinese state bodies like the Taiwan Affairs Office, which is responsible for implementing policies toward Taiwan on issues including trade and transport, Beijing has also tried to influence politics on the island, in part by helping mobilize Taiwanese businessmen on the mainland.

Many of them are heading back home this weekend to vote in mayoral elections that are being viewed as a barometer of support for Taiwan’s ruling Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), which favors closer ties with China than does the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). A large number of those businessmen, who a senior KMT source said will largely vote for the party, will be flying on deeply discounted airfares being offered by Chinese and Taiwanese airline companies.

“The goal is simple – peaceful unification,” said a person with ties to the Chinese leadership in Beijing. Soft power, not armed force, is the strategy. “To attack the heart is the best. To attack a [walled] city is the worst,” the source said, quoting Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.”

Questions sent by fax to the Beijing office of the United Front Work Department were not answered. The Chinese government’s Taiwan Affairs Office referred Reuters to a statement on its website saying it does not comment on elections on “the island.”

What’s happening in Taiwan is part of a broader effort by Beijing to bolster its control over restive territories on its periphery.

The United Front has long been active in Hong Kong, which is ruled under the “one country, two systems” model that enshrines a wide range of personal freedoms for its residents and which China’s leaders have proposed as a model for Taiwan. Reuters reported in July that United Front operations in Hong Kong had shifted from the backroom courting of academics and businessmen to the streets, where new groups of pro-Beijing agitators were attempting to silence critics of China.

“What the United Front is doing to Taiwan now is the same as what it has been doing in Hong Kong since the 1980s – a quiet, slow but extensive penetration,” said Sonny Lo, a professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education and author of a book on China’s covert control of the city.

Unlike Hong Kong, Taiwan is a fully democratic entity. It has an army but does not have membership in the United Nations, and China has refused to rule out the use of force to gain control of the island.

Since the KMT won the presidential election in 2008, cross-Strait ties have been warmer than ever. More than 20 trade deals, including the establishment of the first direct flights between Taiwan and the mainland, have been inked. No trade agreements were signed under the previous DPP-led administration. Earlier this year, Chinese and Taiwanese officials held their first official meeting since 1949.

Taiwan’s economy has become increasingly intertwined with China’s. About 40 percent of Taiwan’s exports are to China and some key sectors like technology have much of their manufacturing on the mainland. The world’s biggest electronic components maker, Foxconn Technology Group ,, which assembles Apple Inc’s iPhones, has many of its plants in China.

Taiwan presidential spokesperson Ma Weikuo said Taiwanese heading home to vote were exercising their right as citizens. “It is normal that Taiwanese businessmen living in Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, Europe, Japan and other parts of the world want to return to Taiwan to vote,” she said.

PRIZED HONOR

The United Front’s annual work reports and handbooks provide a window into the agency’s methods. It has at least 100 offices in Zhejiang. The 2013 work report said 30,000 Taiwanese businesspeople and their families were living in the province and 6,800 Taiwanese enterprises had operations there at the end of 2012.

United Front officials reported creating a more friendly business environment by helping to smooth investment problems and resolve legal disputes for resident Taiwanese. In the Zhejiang city of Ningbo, one United Front office said it spent 110,000 yuan (about $18,000) to buy life and traffic accident insurance for 137 Taiwanese businessmen.

Under a “three must visit” system in effect across the mainland, United Front officials are instructed to visit Taiwanese businesspeople and their families during traditional holidays, when a family member is ill and when someone is facing economic troubles.

“They help with our business as well as little problems in daily life such as car accidents, illness and schooling for kids,” said a Taiwanese man surnamed Lin, who works in the property sector in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province.

One enticement China has dangled in front of the Taiwanese business community residing on the mainland, is provincial and municipal membership in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which serves as an advisor to the government. It is a prized honor for businessmen whose livelihoods are directly dependent on the mainland. The position affords access to government officials and a form of protection in a country that lacks an independent judicial system.

“There will be a force that helps protect your business on the mainland,” said Lin. “They won’t make trouble if you are a CPPCC member.”

Holding CPPCC membership is a violation of Taiwanese law that bars citizens from taking positions in state or party bodies in China. It is, however, legal to be an honorary, non-voting CPPCC member. The Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland (ATIEM), which lists some 130 Taiwanese business associations across China as members, met with Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou in December 2012 to try changing that.

Their bid to persuade him to allow Taiwanese citizens to become full-fledged CPPCC members ultimately failed. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council announced that same month that Taiwanese could not sit on the CPPCC.

Earlier in 2012, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau had handed a list of 169 Taiwanese suspected of being CPPCC members to the island’s Mainland Affairs Council, which implements policy toward China on a wide array of issues including business, shipping and travel. The council whittled the list down to 32. Ultimately, no one was punished after Taiwanese authorities determined those named were all either honorary CPPCC members or weren’t holders of a Taiwanese passport.

FAR-REACHING DEALS

Taiwanese working on the mainland have actively lobbied for increased trade ties with China. ATIEM, the business lobby, lists some of Taiwan’s largest companies as members on its website. Several of the group’s founding members urged the Taiwanese government to sign far-reaching deals with China, arguing it would boost Taiwanese business on the mainland. They held meetings with Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council to help lay the groundwork, a senior member of the organization told Reuters.

Their efforts were rewarded when Taiwan signed trade deals in 2008 that for the first time allowed direct flights, shipping and mail links with the mainland.

ATIEM hasn’t always been on the winning side. In March, students occupied the Taiwan legislature in a bid to block passage of a deal that would have allowed for freer trade with China. The protests, dubbed the Sunflower Movement, fed off fears the pact would give China greater sway over Taiwan. The protest ended when parliament agreed to suspend a review of the bill.

ATIEM did not respond to questions sent by email.

Some Taiwanese officials warn against United Front encroachment. In late September, the head of Taiwan’s Overseas Community Affairs Council, which handles matters related to citizens living overseas, told a parliamentary committee that the United Front was stepping up work among Taiwanese business leaders and younger Taiwanese on the mainland and abroad.

“They are drawing the Taiwanese who are more receptive to China over to their side, exerting pressure on Taiwan’s government and affecting its mainland policies,” Alexander Huang, a former vice chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which is responsible for ties with China, told Reuters. He didn’t cite specific examples.

Mainland Affairs Council spokesperson Wu Mei-hung said United Front activity shouldn’t be interpreted in an “overly negative way.”

“China has some political intentions,” she said. “But Taiwan has its own advantages in terms of systems, core values and soft power. All of these, we hope, will impact China via exchanges.”

The ruling KMT dismisses charges from the opposition DPP that it is benefitting from United Front activity. Kuei Hung-cheng, the KMT’s director of China affairs, acknowledged the close relationship between Taiwanese businessmen on the mainland and the Chinese authorities, but said that did not mean Beijing held sway over the party. “The KMT will not be influenced or controled by the Chinese Communist Party. That is not possible,” he said.

A MAGIC TOOL

The United Front is a legacy of the earliest days of Leninist communist revolutionary theory. China’s version of the United Front, dubbed a “magic tool” on the agency’s own website, helped the Communist Party become established on the mainland and ultimately prevail in a civil war that forced Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) to retreat to Taiwan in 1949. The United Front has as its primary goal the promotion of “motherland unification” and blocking of “secession.”

A 2007 handbook for United Front workers in Beijing instructs cadres to “unite neutral forces in order to divide and attack enemies.” It also directs them to “make friends extensively and deeply with representatives from all sectors” in Taiwan and abroad to “form a mighty troop of patriots.”

A senior Taiwanese defense official, who did not want to be named, referred to the United Front’s tactics as a “war.” The ultimate goal was “to overturn the Republic of China,” he said, using Taiwan’s official name.

The front’s activities haven’t been confined to harnessing China-friendly forces. The southern Taiwanese city of Tainan, which is a bastion of the pro-independence DPP, has been singled out. One group in the city that has gotten special treatment is doctors, who have been invited on trips to the mainland, according to a 2011 work report from an organ associated with the United Front.

The visits had “successfully enhanced identification with the motherland among some pro-green Taiwanese,” the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League, a nominally independent political group that is permitted to operate by the Communist Party, wrote in its report. Green is the color associated with the opposition DPP.

Some politicians in Taiwan unabashedly favor unification. Among them is Chang An-lo, the head of a pro-unification party. Known as the White Wolf, Chang was once a leader in a triad group, a traditional Chinese criminal syndicate, called the Bamboo Union. He lived for a decade in China as a fugitive from the law in Taiwan but ultimately was never tried. He also spent ten years behind bars in the U.S. on drug-smuggling charges.

Sitting in his office in Taipei dressed in a white jacket and black shirt, Chang says he and his party have regular contact with Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office and he has “friends in the United Front.” The Chinese government, he says, has provided all-expenses paid trips for members of his party to the mainland. “Getting carrots from China is better than getting sticks,” he says.

UNSPOKEN CONSENT

The United Front and the Taiwan Affairs Office are also deeply involved in an activity that in Communist China is strictly prohibited: democratic electoral politics.

Taiwanese businessmen based in Shenzhen and Shanghai told Reuters they have been encouraged by United Front officials to head home to vote in past elections.

This year, the stakes are high for Beijing. The Democratic Progressive Party champions independence. The ruling KMT government backs a status quo position of “no unification, no independence, no war.”

Election airlifts helped the KMT to victory in 2008 and 2012. Close to a quarter million Taiwanese residents on the mainland headed home to vote in the 2012 presidential election, according to a senior member of the ruling party who estimates there are about one million Taiwanese working and living in China. As many as 80 percent voted for KMT leader Ma, who won a second term promising closer ties with Beijing, the official said, citing an internal survey.

This year, the airlift may not be enough to turn the tide in the most important mayoral run-off – in Taipei. Final opinion polls published by Taiwan’s leading media outlets showed the KMT’s candidate trailing an independent by 11.5 to 18 points. A victory for the independent would mark the first time in 16 years that the KMT has not ruled the capital.

But Beijing isn’t giving up. More than a dozen airlines, including state-owned Air China and Taiwan’s largest carrier China Airlines, have agreed to provide discounted flights from the mainland to Taiwan at the end of November, according to a notice sent to members by ATIEM. The Beijing-based organization lists the Chinese minister in charge of the Taiwan Affairs Office as an honorary chairman on its website.

A senior official at Taiwan’s China Airlines told Reuters that “with tickets selling at 50 percent off, airlines will incur losses.” But the carrier would nevertheless “100 percent meet the demand from Taiwanese businessmen.”

China Airlines spokesman Jeffrey Kuo said the company was offering “promotional tickets for all flights” because November was “the low season.” Air China did not respond to questions sent by fax and email to its Beijing office.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said it was aware that Taiwanese businessmen wanted to vote in the elections. ATIEM had negotiated with airline companies to allow them to fly home, it said.

He-tai Chen, president of the Taiwan Merchant Association in Shenzhen, said the Taiwanese business community on the mainland was “China’s best public relations tool.”

“There are 7 to 8 votes in my family,” he said. “And am I not the one who decides to whom those votes go?”

The United Front has also been working to penetrate other layers of Taiwanese society. As part of an operation called “Collecting Stars,” it has targeted military veterans in Taiwan, inviting them to China for visits. In May 2012, retired Taiwanese and mainland generals who were once sworn enemies met for an invitational golf tournament in Zhejiang, United Front documents show.

Outreach to students takes the form of summer camps, corporate internships and discover-your-roots tours to the mainland. Tsai Ting Yu, a 15-year-old junior high school student who joined a trip in 2013 and in 2014, said she attended classes with her mainland hosts and visited popular tourist sites, including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.

“Before the trips, I kind of resisted the idea of China. But through the programs I got to know them better and that resistance gradually disappeared,” said Tsai.

She says she is now considering doing an undergraduate degree on the mainland.

Source: Reuters “Special Report: How China’s shadowy agency is working to absorb Taiwan”