Beijing cools Taiwan issues ahead of G7 Summit

Beijing cools Taiwan issues ahead of G7 Summit

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has softened its stance on Taiwan matters and highlighted peaceful reunification in advance of the 49th G7 Summit, which will be held in Japan’s Hiroshima May 19-21.

Chinese media also stress that China will face a huge crisis if it has to divide its army to fight against the US, Japan, South Korea and Australia at the same time in a war in the Taiwan Strait.

Wang Huning, one of the seven standing committee members of the politburo of the CCP’s Central Committee, explained the party’s new strategy on Taiwan in an internal meeting on May 10. He stressed that the mainland will deepen its economic cooperation with Taiwan and increase, step by step, cross-strait exchanges.
Beijing’s softened tone is a big contrast to the People’s Liberation Army’s actions of deploying warplanes, naval vessels and military drones to the Taiwan Strait early this month when 25 US defense contractors attended the Taiwan-US Defense Industry Forum in Taipei on May 3.

Wang Huning is head of the party’s Central Policy Research Office and Xi Jinping's close aide. Photo: Communist Party of China
Wang Huning is head of the party’s Central Policy Research Office and Xi Jinping’s close aide. Photo: Communist Party of China

“It is necessary to fully, accurately and comprehensively implement the party’s overall strategy for resolving the Taiwan issue in the new era, and firmly grasp the dominance and initiative in cross-strait relations,” Wang said in the annual Taiwan Work Conference on May 9 and 10.

“We must adhere to the one-China principle and the ‘1992 Consensus’ to promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations,” he said. “We must uphold the concept of ‘one family on both sides of the strait,’ respect, care for and benefit Taiwan compatriots, strengthen the systems and policies that improve the wellbeing of Taiwanese people and continue to deepen cross-strait integration and development.”

Punditocracy’s warnings

Significantly, over the past weekend, several articles remarkable for their frankness have circulated freely on the normally strictly censored Internet in China, promoting the drawbacks of having a Taiwan Strait war.

On Sunday a Jiangsu-based writer published an article titled, “I don’t support reunification by force! A war will only exhaust the people and waste money and not benefit the general public.”  

“Military reunification will not only cause casualties but also bring irreparable losses to Taiwan’s economy and society,” he says. “Taiwan is our brother province, not our enemy. The peaceful resolution of cross-strait relations is in the fundamental interests of the people on both sides of the strait, and it is also one of the necessary conditions for realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

The writer adds: “Against the backdrop of intensified disputes in the South China Sea, we need to focus more on striving for a peaceful solution to the issue, rather than falling into the vortex of military confrontation. More importantly, the Taiwan issue is the Chinese people’s own issue, and we should not leave the problem to external forces to solve it.”

He says military reunification will only bring more hardships and losses to China’s relatives, friends and compatriots in Taiwan. He says China should adopt a more ingenious approach, through cooperation and negotiation, to let the people of the Taiwan region accept its love and kindness, and let them become friends and partners of the mainland.

Multi-front combat

“Once we start to unify Taiwan by force, we need to prepare for the worst – facing multi-front combat,” a Zhejiang-based columnist writes in an article published Sunday. “In case the US, Japan, South Korea and Australia take actions together, we will have to fight on all four sides from the waters near the Okinawa Island and in the Bohai Sea, the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

“Our main concern is the US has already deployed forces to many military bases around the Taiwan Strait and keeps delivering weapons there,” he says. “The US troops in Okinawa are among the biggest threats to us.”

He says it is likely that the US will dispatch its aircraft carrier strike force and nuclear submarines to the Taiwan Strait one day and pose a great threat to China.

“Due to the unstable situation on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea may not send a large number of troops to the Taiwan Strait but it can still send some there and then start a military action on the peninsula,” he says. “If Australia and the US join hands, it will be a huge crisis for us in the South China Sea region.”

He concludes that although China has the ability to fight on all four sides, it needs to further boost its military strength.

It is not common that articles such as this are permitted to be published on the heavily-censored Chinese internet. As of Monday, they have remained accessible. 

Blinken’s China visit

After the spy balloon incident broke out in late January, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a Beijing trip he had scheduled for early February. After US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in California on April 5, Blinken proposed to visit China in April but was rejected by Beijing.

US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said on May 2 during a webinar organized by The Stimson Center, a Washington-based think tank, that the US wants to resume more communication channels with China and hopes that the Taiwan Strait will remain peaceful going forward.

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang (left) and US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns Photo: Twitter, China’s Foreign Ministry

On May 9, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang told Burns in a Beijing meeting that China will only talk to the US if the latter stops pressing Taiwan issues, avoids overreacting in cases such as the recent balloon incidents and quits imposing new sanctions on the Chinese technology sector. 

The Qin-Burns meeting was followed by Wang’s speech on May 9-10 and a ten-hour meeting between National security adviser Jake Sullivan and top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Vienna on May 11. 

After the Wang-Sullivan meeting, the White House said the two sides had engaged in candid, substantive and constructive discussions on key issues regarding US-China relations, global and regional security issues, Russia’s war against Ukraine and the cross-Strait dispute, among other topics. Xinhua reported that Wang reiterated China’s stance on Taiwan issues during the meeting. 

Wu Xinbo, a professor and dean at the Institute of International Studies and director at the Center for American Studies, Fudan University, said in an interview on May 12 that whether Blinken will be invited to visit Beijing will be determined by Washington’s stance in the G7 Summit. 

“Since the balloon incident, the Sino-US relations have been deteriorating due to the US’s various measures, including Taiwan and trade matters,” Wu said. “China is now asking the US what it will do to stop the further deterioration of the two countries’ relationship.”

“A series of actions recently taken by the US and its allies created a negative impact on the security situation surrounding China and in the Asia Pacific region and affected our core interests and Taiwan matters,” he said.

He said he had told Burns, who visited Fudan University in late April, that if the US uses the G7 Summit to criticize China, it should not hope that Sino-US relations will improve this year.  

On May 12, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said that G7 finance leaders had discussed whether developed countries should diversify their supply chains and reduce their over-reliance on China. He said emerging and low-income countries could come into play.

Prior to this, the media reported last month that US President Joe Biden was set to sign an executive order that would restrict American companies and private equity and venture capital funds from investing in China’s microchips, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology and clean energy projects and firms. Biden was planning then to announce these investment curbs before the G7 Summit and ask US allies for support.

Read: China ‘will talk,’ but only if US changes its tune

Follow Jeff Pao on Twitter at @jeffpao3