Map showing the proximity between China and Taiwan
“The CCP wrote the “one country, two systems” formula into its party constitution, which sets more definitive guidance on the party’s Taiwan policy.”
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) is predicting that unification with Taiwan is even higher on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s agenda now that he is in his third five-year term as president. According to Taiwan’s state-run national news agency Zhongyang Tongxunshe (Central News Agency), the MND bases its conclusion on plans and events over the past year. First, during the 20th National Congress in October 2022, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) adopted the “one country, two systems” formula into its party constitution. The MND views this as providing definitive guidance on the CCP’s Taiwan policy. Second, during the 14th National People’s Congress in March 2023, Xi vowed to lead the CCP to “solidly” promote “the great cause of national reunification.”[i]
Finally, the generals appointed as members of the Central Military Commission, the military’s leading authority, have been those with experience in combat, military technology, and handling Taiwan-related matters.[ii] This was evident in the selection of the two vice chairmen, directly subordinate to Xi. First, Zhang Youxia was selected to serve another term as Vice Chairman. Particularly noteworthy is that Zhang’s selection went against China’s retirement norms: while the retirement age for the PLA is 68, Zhang was 72 when selected for this term. The flouting of these conventions is likely because Zhang has combat experience, although dated, from the 1979 Sino-Vietnam War. The second Vice Chairman, He Weidong, recently led the Eastern Theater Command, which is responsible for PLA operations in the East China Sea and Taiwan. These selections underscore Xi’s strategic thinking. Based on the article, it is important to note the MND is not predicting China will use force to unify with Taiwan by 2027. Rather, it assesses that China is ramping up efforts to promote reunification and build its military capability in the event force is used. As the MND points out, the PLA’s Rocket Force plans to establish precision strike capabilities by 2027 in the “first island chain” consisting of Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. However, the PLA also plans to establish a “comprehensive and versatile ground force” and push its naval and air force capabilities by 2035 to the “second island chain” consisting of Japan, Guam, and Micronesia. This will give China more capability to counter a potential offensive in support of Taiwan.
Matt Yu and Shih Hsiu-chuan,“Pursuing Taiwan Unification High on Xi’s Third Term Agenda: MND,” Focus Taiwan: CNA English News (the national news agency of the Republic of China), 31 August 2023. https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202308310023
Pursuing unification with Taiwan is likely to be high on the agenda during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) third five-year term that began earlier this year, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said in a new report.
…At the congress, the CCP wrote the “one country, two systems” formula into its party constitution, which sets more definitive guidance on the party’s Taiwan policy, the MND said.
Another indication was the first speech given by Xi at the 14th National People’s Congress, after he was elected for an unprecedented third term as president, in which he vowed to lead the CCP to “solidly” promote the “great cause of national reunification,” it added.
Xi has prioritized those with expertise in military technology, combat experience and experience handling matters related to Taiwan in the appointing of CMC generals, the MND said.
The MND added that He Weidong (何衛東) was appointed to hold one of the two CMC vice chairmanships because he was well versed with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) military readiness, which would be an asset in the event of a cross-Taiwan Strait conflict.
The MND said the PLA’s Rocket Force aims to establish precise strike capabilities against adversaries in the first island chain by 2027, referring to the chain of islands that make up Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines.It added that the PLA also aims to construct a comprehensive and versatile ground force, to modernize its navy so it is able to counter adversaries spanning from the first island chain to the second island chain by 2035, and to extend the attacking range of the air force to the second island chain by 2035.
[i] For recent statements from the current Chinese leadership regarding the importance of Taiwan, see: Dodge Billingsley, “Chinese Officials Justify Reaction To Western Presence In Taiwan Strait,” OE Watch, 07-2023. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2023/chinese-officials-justify-reaction-to-western-presence-in-taiwan-strait-2/
[ii] For more information on the CMC’s current leadership, see: Brian Waidelich, “China’s New Military Leadership: Possible Strengths and Weaknesses,” Center for Naval Analyses, 11 November 2022. https://www.cna.org/our-media/indepth/2022/11/chinas-new-miliatry-leadership-possible-strengths-and-weaknesses
Image: Map showing the proximity between China and Taiwan
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1995 – /media/File:Taiwan_Strait.png
Attribution: Public Domain