These comments are from the Nelson Report...
I am a long time loyal reader [of the Nelson Report, not my blog!] who has yet to offer any comments but the subject of China's pursuit of reunification is one of considerable interest to me. Having lived and worked in China for five years and with long-standing relationships with many mainland Chinese and with Taiwanese, we frequently discuss and debate this topic.
Xi, as one would expect of any Chinese leader, would dearly love to oversee reunification but knows this is unlikely in the next few decades. His role is to be a near term tactician responsible only to help play out the party line.
If we view China's Taiwan policy through the lens of the actions they have undertaken, instead of what they say, the policy for reunification was laid out 20+ years ago and is right on target. Put simply, China knows that if enough party indoctrinated mainland Chinese gradually immigrate to Taiwan, within a few years many of them will be able to work their way into government positions, eventually being able to exercise enough influence to swing the pendulum to reunification.
Although they have been viewed differently, the efforts to increase cross-strait trade, travel and immigration, are little more than poorly disguised tactics that underlie the overall strategy. This strategy of course will take time but it assures China of an eventual peaceful reunification.
It is for this reason that no Chinese leader dares to risk their reputation on actual military confrontations. They are utterly confident that this long term strategy will pay off. In the near term, leaders such as Xi have only one responsibility...keep up the pressure and be a prominent historical figure to what is surely a winning strategy for the Mainland. Wait them out and build consensus over time with a well managed immigration policy.
Regarding your 'ask' on 'what's next?'....
I am convinced Xi will push the envelope and keep pressure on Taiwan but purely as background noise...He has three audiences and hence three messages to relay:
1.Mainland Chinese love it when their leaders sound tough re Taiwan...Xi will continue the drumbeat of reunification to portray himself as a strong leader whose goal is a One China Global Power. Historically, it is worth noting that the Cross-strait dialog inside China always heats up when China senses growing domestic issues...The talk about Taiwan is to distract from their more serious domestic issues. Recent stock market woes are what really has BJ in jitters, not Taiwan.
2. Taiwanese audience: Occasionally, Chinese leaders take the high road and issue lofty proclamations under the guise of One China Two Systems...When you hear this, it is to placate folks in Taiwan...However, this well worn tactic has lost its sheen in light of Beijing bullying of the HK 'system'.
3. The 3rd audience is the USA. Beijing is hyper-sensitive to US policy/response re Taiwan and often intentionally keeps the USA off balance and distracted with shifts in tone and intent....but (and this is an addendum that is tied to my comment above) its global Taiwan policy over the past few decades has been to strategically weaken support for an independent Taiwan by 'buying' its way through the few nations in South America and elsewhere who once had close ties to Taiwan.
By eliminating other support for Taiwan, Beijing knows that eventually there will only be one leg supporting the stool (mirage) of an independent Taiwan...That 'one leg' is the USA and BJ knows one legged stools don't stand for long. Consequently, when BJ crafts its messages for the USA audience, it implies how the global community now recognizes only One China and that Taiwan is simply an island child yet to return home.
Denny Roy, who is usually quite good, added:
Consequently, as Bonnie Glaser and Jacqueline Vitello mentioned, there is a danger Xi as well will feel pushed against the wall and forced to lash out if the PRC's Taiwan campaign appears to suffer a reversal on his watch. The predictable result of China trying to scare Taiwan back onto the PRC-desired track of eventual political unification is the opposite of what Beijing wants. Past efforts by the PRC to influence Taiwan's elections resulted in the "separatist" candidate getting additional votes.Meanwhile Richard Bush III, the longtime US Taiwan expert, tweeted the other day:
China's military is acting to strengthen support for DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen. That will be the effect of this:[link to Chinese simulation of PLA attack on Taiwan presidential office]_______________________
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