Friday, June 9, 2023

China-Taiwan Weekly Update, June 9, 2023

Authors: Nils Peterson and Roy Eakin of the Institute for the Study of War

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

Data Cutoff: June 7, 2023, Noon ET

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

Key Takeaways  

  1. Ongoing sexual harassment scandals primarily within the DPP may increase the domestic appeal of TPP presidential candidate Ko Wen-je, who promotes cross-strait policies broadly emphasizing economic and political engagement with China.
  2.  Chinese participation in high-level dialogue with the United States may aim to mitigate the risks of additional US sanctions and export controls on Chinese technological sectors.
  3. Chinese military activities in the Indo-Pacific may undermine the Global Security Initiative’s (GSI) ability to re-orient Indo-Pacific security cooperation away from the United States.

Taiwan Developments

This section covers relevant developments pertaining to Taiwan, including its upcoming January 13, 2024 presidential and legislative elections.


The Taiwanese (Republic of China) political spectrum is largely divided between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT). The DPP broadly favors Taiwanese autonomy, Taiwanese identity, and skepticism towards China. The KMT favors closer economic and cultural relations with China along with a broader alignment with a Chinese identity. The DPP under President Tsai Ing-wen has controlled the presidency and legislature (Legislative Yuan) since 2016. This presidential election cycle also includes the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) candidate Ko Wen-je who frames his movement as an amorphous alternative to the DPP and KMT. It is normal for Taiwanese presidential elections to have third party candidates, but none have ever won. The 2024 Taiwan presidential and legislative elections will be held on January 13, 2024 and the new president will take office in May 2024. Presidential candidates can win elections with a plurality of votes in Taiwan.

Terminology: 1992 Consensus: a disputed cross-strait policy formulation supported in different formations by the CCP and KMT that acts as a precondition to cross-strait dialogue. The DPP does not support the 1992 Consensus. 

Ongoing sexual harassment scandals primarily within the DPP may increase the domestic appeal of TPP presidential candidate Ko Wen-je, who promotes cross-strait policies broadly emphasizing economic and political engagement with China. The scandals began on May 31 when a DPP Women’s Department employee said she was sexually harassed during her time with the party.[1] Some sexual harassment claims are also arising in the KMT against tangential party figures.[2] KMT presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih claimed solidarity with all victims of sexual assault.[3] The TPP under their presidential candidate Ko Wen-je has not faced harassment allegations. Ko attacked the DPP for not doing enough for the victims. In concert with societal criticism, this prompted DPP presidential candidate Lai Ching-te and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to publicly apologize and launch three internal party processes to prevent further sexual harassment in the DPP.[4] Ko’s June 4–8 visit to Japan along with absence of sexual harassment allegations toward members of his party has distanced him from press coverage of the scandals. He frames his candidacy as an alternative to the DPP and KMT that can better manage cross-strait relations via unspecified economic and political engagement. He does this without providing details about his policy platform. This framing positions Ko as the candidate who could pick up swing voters offput by the DPP-centric sexual assault scandal but also wary of the KMT’s deep support for the 1992 Consensus.[5]

KMT-leaning media outlets are using the sexual harassment scandals to frame the DPP as immoral, which is unlikely to generate additional support for the KMT while the party maintains its unpopular cross-strait policy. [6] KMT-leaning media outlets frame the DPP as irresponsible and unfit to govern due to the scandal.[7] The KMT endorsed the 1992 Consensus as the basis for cross-strait policy in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. This contributed to the party’s defeat in presidential elections.[8] Swing voters leaning towards voting for the DPP but now having scandal induced doubts have the option of voting for Ko Wen-je, whose amorphous policy positions are closer to the DPP when compared to Hou Yu-ih.

China Developments

This section covers relevant developments pertaining to China and the governing Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Chinese participation in high-level dialogue with the United States may aim to mitigate the risks of additional US sanctions and export controls on Chinese technological sectors. Chinese Foreign Ministry Officials Ma Zhaoxu and Yang Tao met with US State Department Official Daniel Kritenbrink and US National Security Council Official Sarah Beran on June 5. They discussed US-China lines of communication, cross-strait relations, and US-China policy challenges.[9] This is part of a larger resumption of high-level dialogue between US and Chinese officials with the United States signaling that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit China in late June.[10] The United States previously imposed export controls limiting Chinese access to semiconductor manufacturing equipment.[11] This is part of a larger international push to limit China’s ability to leverage technological developments for military purposes, which includes sanctions by US allies like Japan and the Netherlands.[12]  The party views this as a threat to China’s technological and development ambitions, as evidenced by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping previously lamenting “external attempts to contain China” at the CCP’s 20th Party Congress in 2022. [13]  The CCP can use the appearance of dialogue to frame new export controls as unprovoked escalations.

The CCP may also attempt to use dialogue as a way to encourage the United States to change its rhetoric and public discourse towards China. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs frequently condemns the US government and media for supporting a so-called “China threat narrative.”[14] China’s desire for the United States to change its rhetoric is evident with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang calling for US officials to “correct” their perceptions of China.[15]

China conducted aggressive naval actions near US naval ships in the Taiwan Strait ahead of the high-level US-China dialogue, which signals China’s willingness to continue engaging in provocative military activity. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) destroyer Luyang III came within 150 yards of the USS Chung-Hoon destroyer and Canadian HMCS Montreal frigate as they transited through the Taiwan Strait on June 3.[16] Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu defended this action on June 4 by saying that the United States should “not come close to [Chinese] waters and airspace.”[17] China’s unsafe and unprofessional naval interaction in the Taiwan Strait is part of a larger trend involving the PLA projecting control over regional territory the party claims as its own. A People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) J-16 Shenyang fighter jet maneuvered towards a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea on May 26.[18]

China is unlikely to frame itself as the aggressor when engaging in provocative military activity in the Indo-Pacific. China engaged in this activity at time when it frequently frames US actions as being motivated by “bloc confrontation” and a “Cold War mentality.” [19] This framing portrays provocative military activity as a response to US actions that are supposedly motivated by “bloc confrontation.”

Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu introduced a four-point Asia-Pacific security cooperation proposal on June 4 as part of a larger promotion of the Global Security Initiative (GSI), which may aim reduce regional countries’ security cooperation with the United States. The GSI is a Chinese security initiative that aims to reform international security norms.[20] The four points include avoiding “bloc confrontation” and promoting “mutual trust over bullying and hegemony.”[21] Li’s condemnation of “bloc confrontation” and “hegemony” aim to appeal to many Southeast Asian states’ anti-colonial sympathies and reluctance to choose between the United States and China. These points simultaneously aim to encourage Indo-Pacific states to participate in the GSI by framing it as a mutually beneficial initiative with norms appealing to the interests of regional countries.

Chinese military activities in the Indo-Pacific may undermine the GSI’s ability to re-orient Indo-Pacific security cooperation away from the United States. Chinese military activities counter the GSI’s claims to oppose hegemonism and “bloc confrontation.” China maintains ongoing territorial disputes with many states in the Indo-Pacific, especially involving the South and East China Seas.[22] These disputes frequently highlight China’s willingness to bully states in the region with provocative military actions, such as the Chinese Coast Guard’s decision to flash lasers at Philippine Coast Guard vessels near the South China Sea’s Second Thomas Shoal in February.[23] Provocative Chinese military activity in the South China Sea is further evident with China’s militarization of South China Sea artificial islands.[24] A Chinese research vessel also operated within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from May 7 to June 5, despite Vietnamese calls for the vessel to leave.[25] These actions highlight China’s prioritization of its own interests and ambitions over lofty principles that the GSI claims to embody. This type of aggressive activity can prove counter-productive by making states in the region view security cooperation with the United States as a critical tool needed to address Chinese aggression. This is evident with the Philippines’ April decision to expand the United States’ access to Philippine bases as a part of the US–Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.[26]

Chinese Minister of State Security Chen Yixin’s article calling for CCP party cadres to study a new anti-espionage law may aim to set conditions for the party to strengthen existing efforts to counter foreign influences it deems subversive. Chen wrote an article in the CCP Central Party School Study Times that both called for cadres to “focus on the newly-revised [sic] Anti-Espionage Law” and said that “it is necessary to carry out the anti-espionage struggle…and severely crack down on foreign espionage activities.”[27] He did not describe specific espionage activities. Chen wrote the article amid CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s warning that “external” forces aim to undermine China.[28] The CCP previously raided foreign firms in April and May in line with the new anti-espionage law it adopted in April.[29] Continued study of the anti-espionage law indicates the party could target other foreign entities that deal with information that party leadership deems sensitive.

[1] https://news.ltn dot

[2] https://www.storm dot mg/article/4802182

[3] https://www.cna dot

https://news.ltn dot

https://news.ltn dot

[4] https://news.ltn dot

https://news.ltn dot

https://www.chinatimes dot com/newspapers/20230603000359-260118?chdtv


[6] https://www.chinatimes dot com/realtimenews/20230605004197-260407?ctrack=pc_politic_headl_p04&chdtv

[7] https://udn dot com/news/story/123537/7209583?from=udn-catelistnews_ch2

https://www.chinatimes dot com/realtimenews/20230605004197-260407?ctrack=pc_politic_headl_p04&chdtv

https://udn dot com/news/story/123537/7209093?from=udn-referralnews_ch2artbottom


[9] https://www.state dot gov/assistant-secretary-kritenbrinks-meetings-in-beijing-peoples-republic-of-china-prc/

https://www.fmprc dot

[10] https://www.ft dot com/content/f2a3ccf6-6019-4497-9b9e-0ff08d75455e

[11] https://www.bis dot

[12] https://www.cnn dot com/2023/03/31/tech/japan-china-chip-export-curbs-intl-hnk/index.html

https://www.bis dot

[13] https://asia.nikkei dot com/Politics/China-s-party-congress/Transcript-President-Xi-Jinping-s-report-to-China-s-2022-party-congress

[14] https://www.fmprc dot

https://www.fmprc dot

https://www.fmprc dot

[15] https://www.fmprc dot

[16] https://www.washingtonpost dot com/national-security/2023/06/05/china-ship-us-destroyer-taiwan-strait/

https://news.usni dot org/2023/06/03/u-s-canadian-warships-transit-taiwan-strait

[17] https://www.npr dot org/2023/06/04/1180023276/four-takeaways-as-chinas-defense-chief-made-a-barbed-speech-at-a-singapore-summi

[18] https://www.washingtonpost dot com/national-security/2023/05/30/air-force-china-plane-video-pentagon/

[19] https://www.fmprc dot

[20] https://english dot

https://www.fmprc dot

[21] https://english dot

[22] https://www.cfr dot org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/territorial-disputes-south-china-sea

https://www.reuters dot com/world/china/china-coast-guard-enters-disputed-waters-east-china-sea-2023-03-15/

[23] https://www.rappler dot com/nation/china-aims-laser-philippine-coast-guard-ship-west-philippine-sea-february-2023/

[24] https://apnews dot com/article/china-beijing-international-law-south-china-sea-4370828e295d2eec9a4804bba9940273

[25] https://www.reuters dot com/world/asia-pacific/chinese-ships-leave-vietnam-waters-after-us-china-talks-2023-06-06/

[26] https://www.cnn dot com/2023/04/04/asia/us-philippines-military-base-access-intl-hnk-ml/index.html

[27] http://news.hsw dot cn/system/2023/0605/1631755.shtml

[28] https://asia.nikkei dot com/Politics/China-s-party-congress/Transcript-President-Xi-Jinping-s-report-to-China-s-2022-party-congress

[29] https://asia.nikkei dot com/Politics/China-s-party-congress/Transcript-President-Xi-Jinping-s-report-to-China-s-2022-party-congress