China’s United Front and US Isolation Grow in Asia

Japan is America’s closest ally in Asia. Its Prime Minister Abe has made great efforts to help former US President Obama establish the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to contain China. However, Obama’s successor President Trump, though is trying hard to contain China with trade war now, scrapped TPP as soon as he was inaugurated in spite of Abe’s great efforts in trying to persuade Trump not to do so.

Moreover, Trump has been pressuring Japan to make trade concessions to the US in order to reduce US trade deficit with Japan.

He has thus pushed Japan into China’s arms. According to Reuters’ report “China, Japan to forge closer ties at ‘historic turning point’” on October 25, Abe is now making great efforts to improve relations with China that he previously tried hard to contain and will make efforts to make Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) a reality, which China takes the lead to form in order to counter Obama’s TPP.

There were also Reuters’ reports “Pakistan PM Khan, in search of loans, to visit China next week” and “Iran to boost oil supplies to China in October-November: Rosneft CEO” the same day on Pakistan seeking financial aids from China and Chinese purchase of Iran’s oil to help Iran deal with US sanctions.

However, the most disappointing Reuters’ news for the US on that day is “India aim to hold army drills in China by end of year”. Due to the border dispute between China and India, the US has tried hard to have India join its quad of the US, Japan, Australia and India to counter China. However, India refused to join the other three of the quad in their military drill. On the contrary has been planning to conduct military drill jointly with China that the US wants it to contain.

What India, Japan, Iran and Pakistan have been doing proves that the US is risking being entirely isolated in Asia while China is successful in forming a united front in Asia to counter US hegemony.

What diplomacies!

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ reports, full text of which can repectively be viewed at,, and


Trump Is Driving EU into China’s Arms

This is a very interesting era of world trade war. We may suffer the consequence of such a war, which I hope is not serious, but we shall not fail to be entertained by the developments.

There was the possibility of a real war with military forces between China and the US but due to Chinese President’ Xi Jinping’s resolute fast construction of artificial islands, a military war between the US and China has been avoided.

The US sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to force China to accept Hague arbitration award that deprived China of all its historical interests in the South China Sea but failed as China challenged it with war. US military was well aware that with three airstrips on China’s artificial islands supported by Chinese airbases along China’s coast the US has significant geographical disadvantages to fight a war with China in the South China Sea. Other seas along Chinese coast are too shallow for US huge submarines to maneuver. The US has to invest tens of billions dollars to develop B-21 to attack China.

Now, China has deployed its J-20 heavy stealth fighter jets for air supremacy to make it impossible for the US to win a war near China.

However, Thucydides trap still works in spite of that. The US has to defeat China in order to prevent China from surpassing it. Trump is shrewd to resort to less risky trade war to destroy China or at least hinder China’s rise.

However, he does not seem shrewd enough in trying to break the de facto alliance between China and Russia. The alliance makes it impossible for the US to defeat China even if the US has developed B-21 bombers to bomb Beijing. The US simply cannot break the alliance due to Russia’s economic dependence on China.

Anyway, it is really burdensome to deal with the alliance of two strong powers. Trump is wise to strive to improve relations with Russia so as to be able to concentrate US strength in containing China. But he fails to realize the difficulty to overcome American politicians, media and people’s hostility towards Russia so that his efforts have backfired.

China, however, has been benefited by Trump’s efforts to improve US relations with Russia.

Russia is EU’s major challenge. The two sides have been contending to win over Ukraine for a long time due to their core interests there, but the US has no such conflicts of interests with Russia. Therefore there are no significant obstacles to surmount for improvement of US-Russia relations. Americans’ hostility towards Russia is ideological without major conflict of interests.

If US-Russia relations have improved, EU members have to increase their military budgets for their defense against possible Russian aggression. Removing one enemy while reducing the burden to protect his European allies, that is Trump’s wishful thinking.

However, Trump fails to see that in doing so he is pushing EU to China’s side.

In my previous posts I said China-Russia alliance was impossible if Obama did not pushed them together. The two neighbors have a long history of conflicted interests.

Now, China and EU does not have serious conflicts of interests. EU wants China to open its market while China is precisely doing so as its further reform requires that.

EU fears China’s influence in eastern and central Europe, but China can prove to EU that its influence is purely economical. China has do so in Central Asia to convince Russia. It can also prove that to EU in eastern and central Europe.

Reuters’ report today titled “Forcing China on trade with illegal action will not work: EU’s Malmstrom” precisely proves that the Trump-Putin summit and Trump’s threat of trade war with EU are pushing EU to China’s side.

China is now making every effort to set up a united front with EU against the US. Quite a few analysts believe that such a united front is impossible, but Trump is making it possible.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report “Forcing China on trade with illegal action will not work: EU’s Malmstrom” today, full text of which has been reblogged by him in his post today.

Germany, China should help prevent further trade conflicts: Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang react as they hold a news conference at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Reuters Staff July 10, 2018

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that she hoped a summit later this month between the European Union and China would take further steps toward protecting investments and help prevent further global trade conflicts.

“I hope that the upcoming EU-China in China brings more progress such as in investment protection agreements,” Merkel said at an economic event in Berlin attended by China’s Premier Li Keqiang.

“And I also hope that Germany and China can make a contribution toward ensuring that the world does not end up blundering into a spiral of trade conflicts,” she added.

The Sino-European summit is due to take place in Beijing on July 16-17. European officials have said China is putting pressure on the EU to issue a strong joint statement against President Donald Trump’s trade policies at that meeting.

Reporting by Michelle Martin, editing by Thomas Escritt

Source: Reuters “Germany, China should help prevent further trade conflicts: Merkel”

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

Determined to Fight Trade War with US China Is Forming United Front

United front is one of Chinese Communist Party’s three magic weapons in its war of resistance against Japan and civil war against KMT. China’s busy diplomatic activities to form a united front against US protectionism now raises the questions: Is China determined to fight the trade war with the US so that it is forming an international united front against US protectionism?

Reuters says in its report “China fans trade dispute with hefty deposit on U.S. sorghum imports” yesterday that China slaps 178.6 percent deposit on imports of U.S. sorghum in retaliation of US tariff increase on Chinese exports. China justified its move by the finding of its investigation on US dumping of sorghum, but media regards the move as an obvious counter measure against US sharp increase in tariffs on China’s solar panels and washing machines.

Chinese President Xi Jinping promised reform measures that may ease US complaints and thus gave rise to hope that there would not be a trade war between China and the US as Xi is making concessions to satisfy the US. The sorghum move proves that Xi’s policies aim at pleasing EU and Japan for the establishment of an anti-protectionism united front against the US. That perhaps will be China’s way to subdue the enemy with diplomacy.

Reuters says in its report “Exclusive: China seeks trade firewall with U.S. allies in rush of ambassador meetings – sources” on April 17, 2018, “China’s international trade representative held a series of meetings with the ambassadors from major European nations last week to ask them to stand together with Beijing against U.S. protectionism, according to four sources familiar with the discussions.” Xi’s promise at Boao Forum on further opening obviously aimed at winning over EU to join China’s united front against the US.

On the other hand, China’s sudden warming up of its relations with Japan is obviously China’s such diplomacy too. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s sudden visit to Japan and his joint statements with his Japanese counterpart on opposition to protectionism proves that China has won over Japan as Japan is also US President Trump’s target of protectionism. Reuters covers Wang’s visit in its report “Japan and China’s foreign ministers pledge to pursue improved ties” on April 15, 2018 and “Japan, China agree trade war will harm global economy” on April 16, 2018.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ reports.

China gears up to better project its image abroad — and control its message at home

Three separate developments, all happening on the heels of a major government restructuring plan, show that the Communist Party of China is getting serious about finding its voice and making it heard.

First, it is literally publishing its voice. The Voice of China, a new merged entity of China Central Television (CCTV), China Radio International (CRI), and China National Radio (CNR), is being created, according to a notice (in Chinese) posted by Xinhua on March 21. The news was first reported by Bloomberg, which noted:
•Its name mirrors the U.S.-funded outlet Voice of America, which was “started up during World War II to advance American interests.”
•With probably at least 14,000 employees — 10,000 from CCTV, 2,100 from CNR, and 2,000 from CRI, according to official accounts — Voice of China will be “one of the world’s largest propaganda machines.”
•The list of official duties of the outlet, according to the notice in Chinese, starts with to “promote the Party’s theories, line, principles, and policies” and ends with to “strengthen international communication and tell good China stories.”

Second, media change is also happening on the domestic front:
•China’s publicity department has swallowed the country’s top media regulator. Pang-Chieh Ho reports for SupChina that the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) is being folded directly into the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China.
•This reorganization “follows recent moves by the administration to support ‘main melody films,’ movies that espouse state-approved messages, and utilize their soft power to ‘guide and educate the public,’” Ho notes.

And third, the shadowy United Front Work Department — a covert department responsible for increasing the Party’s influence around the world — is gaining more power and responsibilities, according to another notice (in Chinese) on Xinhua.
•The United Front works to co-opt groups ranging from regular non-Party members and the middle class in China to minority groups, including Tibetans and Uyghurs, as well as people in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
•The department will now “oversee the country’s ethnic and religious issues as well as overseas Chinese affairs,” the South China Morning Post explains.
•“The party used to lead the United Front behind a veil…Under the new structure, it will no longer hide behind various government agencies,” a government source told SCMP.

China’s “favorable” rating remains low in countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Germany, according to a Pew study in 2017, though a Gallup survey released earlier this month showed that in the U.S., “China’s favorability has increased markedly over the past two years, with a majority (53%) now having a favorable view of China for the first time since early 1989.”

But a higher favorability rating is no guarantee of softer treatment. For example, Foreign Policy reports (paywall) that the U.S. Congress has introduced two bills recently, one targeting foreign propaganda — it would require outlets like the Voice of China to “file semiannual disclosures to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and to include conspicuous announcements informing American consumers of the foreign government funding the content” — and another targeting Confucius Institutes.

Source: SubChina “China gears up to better project its image abroad — and control its message at home”

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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”