China plots its campaign strategy for the 2018 Taiwanese elections

China's Taiwan Affairs Office held a conference in late Dec.to herald a 'new wave' of cross-strait policy

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – China’s Taiwan Affairs Office hosted a conference in late December to discuss cross-strait business ties ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections which include the Taipei mayoral race.

Many in both Taiwan and China view the elections as the “midterm test” for the administration of Tsai Ing-wen, and a possible indicator of what to expect in 2020.

To “ensure the maintenance of business ties across the strait,” the Taiwan Affairs Office invited 150 leaders of Taiwanese-funded business enterprises in China to attend the conference, which was hosted on Dec. 27.

While the focus of the conference was ostensibly business related, the theme of the event was “Announcing the Spirit of the 19th People’s Congress,” and one aim was to highlight the beginning of a new chapter in cross-strait relations under the now state-enshrined “Xi Jinping Thought.”

Reports on the event make it clear the conference was intended to emphasize the idea that Taiwanese businesses with strong ties to China, and Chinese officials are said to have gathered the their feedback and insight about the performance of Tsai government and cross-strait relations, Taiwanese youth employment, and the surge of anti-China sentiment in Taiwan.

The meeting represents a “new wave” of strategy and policy following the 19th People’s Congress last October.

According to the report at upmedia.mg, the director of the Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) emphasized that the standing policy of absolutely zero-tolerance for Taiwanese Independence, was still in effect. He even stated that “clear red lines” should be articulated and impressed upon the Taiwanese government and people moving forward.


Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) (Associated Press Image)

Besides announcements intimating new strategies, while simultaneously emphasizing the inflexibility of old policy, the meeting sought to consider what business incentives could be implemented to win Taiwanese hearts before the upcoming mid-term elections.

One strategy mentioned (in subtle terms) was the intention to perform demographic research on young people and ethnic minorities in Taiwan, while also increasing opportunities for them in China, and in Taiwan through various Chinese-funded programs and exchanges.

The Taiwan Affairs Office considers the 2018 midterms a test run for the main target of the election in 2020, when they hope for a “renewal” of ties between Taipei and Beijing.

While China typically shows a heightened concern with cross-strait ties during presidential election years, 2018 will be the first year that the Taiwan Affairs Office will invest an equal amount of attention and resources into a “test” of their ability to influence a mid-term election.