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The much-anticipated 20th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was held on October 16, 2022. It was an important event given the fact that the world was curious to see what the composition of the Chinese central leadership would be for the next five years. One of the most debated questions prior to the 20th Party Congress was – Will Xi Jinping continue to be the paramount leader of China? The answer to this question was always anticipated to be a categorical ‘yes’.


A lot has been said by Xi Jinping during his speech at the 20th Party Congress, regarding the future of the CCP and the direction that China will follow under his leadership. With respect to Taiwan, even during this Party Congress, the focus has been on re-unification. During the speech, Xi asserted, “Resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China’s complete reunification is, for the Party, a historic mission and an unshakable commitment”. To add to this, he said “Taiwan is China’s Taiwan. Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese, a matter that must be resolved by the Chinese”. Asserting that re-unification is an important goal of the CCP under Xi’s leadership and a domestic issue of China.


The China-Taiwan relations in the last decade have become increasingly tense and fragile. Since Xi Jinping and Tsai Ing-wen have held the Presidential offices, the relations have become tenser. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of Tsai has been pro-independence and thus, CCP has not been very comfortable with its victory in the Taiwanese elections. To assert power, China has used its financial clout to increasingly marginalize Taiwan in the international community with ever reducing number of countries which have diplomatic relations with Taipei. Taiwan is left with 14 countries that recognize it as a nation and Nicaragua was the last one to switch recognition to Beijing in December 2021.


Beijing has argued that reunification is the ultimate goal and aspiration of people on both sides of the Straits. Xi said in his speech during the 20th Party Congress, “Blood runs thicker than water, and fellow Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family bound by blood”. However, what needs to be analysed is whether people in Taiwan actually want reunification, or is it now just a Chinese goal. Do the people in Taiwan identify themselves as Taiwanese or Chinese? Can China lay claim on Taiwan arguing that it is part of China?


The statement “Taiwan is China’s Taiwan” underscores an unwavering commitment of the CCP pertaining to the direction that China will follow to achieve reunification. Since the visit of Nancy Pelosi, the situation across the Taiwan Straits has been warlike. China has been showing its full military might and has not shied away from underscoring what will be the outcome of Taiwan’s independence attempt.


To try and answer some of these questions we can look at the way Taiwan and Taiwanese people are trying to assert their independent foreign policy and identity. According to Taipei Times, as a response to the Xi’s statements, the Taiwanese Presidential office had made statements asserting that Taipei will not be “backing down on its sovereignty” and that the Taiwanese people will never accept the “One Country, Two Systems”. There have been opinion polls and other measures undertaken to conclude that Taiwan today does not identify as Chinese or being a part of China. The generation that wanted re-unification and perceives itself to be Chinese is long gone. The younger generation of Taiwanese has  grown up without having any association with Mainland China. They have enjoyed a democratic form of government that has had to function within the limits of threats of a Communist China. Taiwan has been free in its political structure and thus, the singleparty authoritarian system on the mainland does not appeal to the Taiwanese people. The Taiwanese people are conscious of their democratic system. According to an article in BBC, more than 50 percent of the Taiwanese are in favour of full independence. A large number of younger generations is also ready to defend and fight to achieve this independence.


To add to this the handling of Hong Kong under the “One Country, Two Systems” formula is also not very appealing to Taiwanese. It is clearly an example of how Beijing will use a hard-handed approach and policies to try and assimilate the people and also the fact that the CCP is not comfortable with any indication of free media or free political space. The National Security Law has made the situation on Hong Kong very difficult and has totally curtailed the space for free speech and expression of dissent, something which goes against the democratic ideals of Taiwan and Taiwanese society. Thus, it was no surprise that Taiwan was ready to provide asylum to a number of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.


Beijing still looks at Taiwan as a retrograde province which will be re-united for the fulfilment of the Chinese Dream. Statements like “Taiwan is China’s” further underscore the commitment of the CCP to the ultimate goal of re-unification. What needs to be seen is – if a military re-unification actually happens and if Beijing does attack Taiwan, will the world perceive it to be a Chinese domestic issue or hegemonic aspirations of rising China?


As of today, Taipei is asserting its distinct characteristics of being a democracy. The fact that Tsai was ready for the visit by Pelosi even when she was aware of what the Chinese reaction would be like, is an indication of what Taiwan stands for today. Taiwan is ready to move out of the shadow of being just a domestic and historical issue of China. It wants to assert that today’s Taiwan is mutated, developed, and has a very strong independent identity, which is distinct from a Chinese one. The Taiwanese people want to associate and identify themselves as being Taiwanese.


However, the fact that Xi Jinping is in his third term and has achieved this on the agenda of the fulfilment of the Chinese Dream, his policies towards Taiwan may get a bit aggressive. The re-unification is the main goal of the CCP under Xi Jinping and if he fails to achieve it, the people may lose their confidence in him and the CCP. Thus, it is very obvious that the situation across the Taiwan Straits will continue to be aggressive and volatile. Beijing will assert its control over Taiwan, while Taipei will try and assert its distinct identity. How and in what form this tussle will manifest only time will tell. To date China has not directly attacked Taiwan, however, Beijing continues to say that military re-unification is a route it is ready to take.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are personal.