Monday, March 5, 2012

Chinese Provincial Leader Visits to Taiwan: Opportunities for U.S.-Taiwan Relations?

The People's Republic of China (PRC) State Council Taiwan Affairs Office recently announced the visit of Fujian Governor Su Shulin [苏树林] to Taiwan the last week of March 2012.  Su is expected to lead a delegation to meet with local farmers, fishermen and young entrepreneurs in order to “build understanding between mainland and Taiwanese people and promote trade between Fujian and Taiwan.”    While unclear, Su may also promote a proposal for joint governance of Pingtan Island and the long standing concept of a Western Taiwan Strait Economic Zone (“Haixi” for short).

With at least 21 provincial leaders landing on Taiwan over the last three years, visits that were unthinkable only five years ago have become commonplace. However, Su’s visit may be unique.  Su Shulin will be the first potential member of China’s “Sixth Generation” leadership to travel to Taiwan.  Born in 1962, Su has spent most of his career in China’s oil business, and served as chairman of the China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec), ranked seventh on Fortune Global 500’s list of the world’s largest corporations in 2010.  Su Shulin assumed the Fujian governor position last year.

Chinese Influence Operations and the Double Edged Sword

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee has promoted increasingly frequent senior level visits to Taiwan as part of a broader strategy aimed at winning hearts and minds on the island. Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Jia Qinglin [贾庆林], appears to be managing China’s strategy toward Taiwan on behalf of Hu Jintao, or at least coordinating policy on Taiwan.  Jia Qinglin is a member of the CCP Small Leading Group on Taiwan Affairs.

The linkage between the high tempo of exchanges and recent elections on Taiwan is hard to miss.  Pledging economic benefits may be a more effective way of influencing elections than lobbing missiles off the coast.  These visits seek to win hearts and minds.  Committing to opening markets to Taiwanese enterprises and buying sprees, Beijing has targeted the central and southern areas of Taiwan, the traditional power bases of the sovereign-minded Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

From another angle, Chinese provincial/municipal party and government leaders may hope to attract the kinds of investment that could ensure career advancement in the lead up to the 18th Party Congress later this year.  Delegations have generally met with Honorary KMT Chairmen Lien Chan and Wu Po-hsiung, Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, People First Party Chairman James Soong, and New Party Chairman Yu Mu-ming.

Taiwanese enterprises have at least U.S. $150 billion invested in China, and provincial/municipal leaders understand that a successful record in local economic development is the key to career advancement within the CCP. Senior CCP members need Taiwan for personal and professional advancement as much as, if not more than, Taiwan needs China.  The visits have been taking place within the context of a series of KMT-CCP cross-Strait economic, trade, and cultural forum meetings.  To date, forum meetings had been held in Beijing (April 2006); Hainan (October 2006) Beijing (April 2007); Shanghai (December 2008); Changsha (July 2009); Guangzhou (July 2010); and Chengdu (May 2011).  KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung and CPPCC Chairman Jia Qinglin have led each side's respective delegations.

Each provincial visit is a double edged sword.  Spending time on both sides of the Taiwan Strait is one the best ways to understand that Taiwan and China are as different as the United States is from the UK or Australia.  Taiwan, under its existing Republic of China (ROC) constitution, is an independent, sovereign state. Taiwanese hosts are gracious and accommodating to foreign guests, and Chinese visitors should be wined, dined, and granted diplomatic courtesies the same as Americans and other international representatives.

At the same time, the KMT and DPP understand the games authorities play in Beijing.  Based on policy prescriptions of the CCP Small Leading Group on Taiwan, the CCP Propaganda Department seeks to manipulate perceptions that Taiwan is equal to a province in stature, thus expanding the sovereignty gap in China’s favor.

Opportunities for Deepening and Broadening U.S.-Taiwan Relations

Increasingly sensitive to signs of abandonment or neglect, the Ma administration has been consistent in requesting interactions with the Obama administration that in effect seek balance in cross-Strait and U.S.-Taiwan relations.  Senior U.S. officials presumably see these visits as positive.  Expanding cross-Strait interactions offer U.S. policymakers with opportunities, should officials have the foresight to recognize them.  Visits create an environment conducive to relaxed restrictions on more senior U.S. visits to Taiwan.  It’s happening, although slow.  U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel B. Poneman visited Taiwan in December 2011, the most senior official to visit in over a decade.   United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah also visited Taipei in December. However, Congress should be nudging the Executive Branch to pay attention and do more.

The Ma Administration is investing hope in the Obama Administration’s willingness to help address the sovereignty gap.  US-Taiwan relations should maintain pace with growing cross-Strait ties, and six areas need further attention:

  • Further commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and further reaffirmation of the Six Assurances made to Taiwan in 1982; 
  • Regularized arms sales notifications to Congress, including those for direct commercial sales, under Sections 36(b) and 36(c) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA);
  • Increase in frequency and level of senior U.S. Executive Branch visits to Taiwan.  
  • Reinvigorating the economic dialogue, including Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) negotiations that have been frozen since July 2007.
  • Further support for Taiwan's meaningful participation in international organizations, specifically UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

List of Chinese Provincial Level Visits to Taiwan, 2009-2012

For reference purposes, here’s a sampling of provincial-level leadership visits:

Li Chongxi
Sichuan Province
1-6 Nov 09
Li Chongxi, Sichuan’s Deputy Communist Party Chief, led a 250+ member delegation to Taiwan to discuss cooperation in trade and tourism.  The visit was in part intended to express appreciation for Taiwan’s assistance to earthquake relief in May 2008, and to reciprocate for several visits of Lien Chan, Wu Poh-hsiung and Chiang Pin-kung to Sichuan.
Liang Baohua
Jiangsu Province
9-15 Nov 09
At the invitation of the KMT Central Committee, Jiangsu Communist Party Chief Liang Baohua visited Taiwan for six days, the first provincial leader visit since 1949.  In its reporting, China’s Xinhua News Agency referred to Taiwan as a “province” in commemorating the opening of "Jiangsu-Taiwan Week." With the highest per capita GDP in China, Jiangsu is hosts more than 30% of Taiwan’s total investment in China, with half of this concentrated in Kunshan.  Liang Baohua is a member of the 17th Central Committee.
Xu Guangchun
Henan Province
14-20 Dec 09
Henan Province Communist Party Chief Xu Guangchun committed to buying as much as US $500 million in goods.  He also pledged to produce over 100,000 tourists to Taiwan in 2010. He was formerly head of Xinhua’s Shanghai bureau, Minister of State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), and Deputy Director of the CCP Propaganda Department.
Han Zheng
Shanghai Municipality
4-9 Apr 10
Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng led a delegation of more than 200 representatives to Taiwan in the lead up to the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai.  Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin led a delegation to visit Shanghai in June 2008, and Han Zheng’s visit marked the first by a Shanghai mayor in history.  Civic organizations from Taipei and Shanghai had conducted annual exchanges each year since 2001.
Luo Qingquan
Hubei Province
19-25 Apr 10
Hubei Communist Party Chief Luo Qingquan visited Taiwan for a six day visit.  The group pledged purchases of Taiwanese products valued at U.S. $500 million.  Luo, a member of 17th Central Committee, also visited Chungtian TV facilities. 
Huang Xiaojing
Fujian Province
5-10 May 10
Fujian Governor Huang Xiaojing made a six-day visit to Taiwan at the invitation of the KMT’s National Policy Foundation.
Liu Qibao
Sichuan Province
23-28 May 10
Sichuan Party Chief Liu Qibao visited Taiwan for exchanges in the areas of economy, finance, education and culture. 
Lu Zushan
Zhejiang Province
10-18 Jun 10
Zhejiang Governor Lu Zushan made an eight-day visit to Taiwan to initiate cooperative programs in finance, agriculture, tourism, culture and education.
Guo Shengkun
Guangxi Autonomous Region
1-10 Jul 10
Guangxi Communist Party Chief Guo Shengkun led a large delegation to Taiwan in early July 2010 for purchasing of agricultural products machinery valued at U.S. $200 million and to attract Taiwanese investment.  The visit took place in the wake of the ECFA signing in Chongqing on 29 Jun 10.  ECFA was to be in force as of 1 January 2011.
Chen Weigen
Jilin Province
4-10 Jul 10
Jilin Vice Governor Chen Weigen led a buying delegation to Taiwan consisting of representatives from eight major enterprises. The delegation targeted agricultural products, food packaging equipments, auto parts, textile products, handcrafts, and furniture from Taiwan.  Born in 1955, Chen formerly served as Chairman, China National Machinery Import and Export Group.  
Mei Kebao
Hunan Province
3-8 Aug 10
Hunan Communist Party Deputy Chief Mei Kebao led a delegation of over 100 representatives from Hunan for “Hunan-Taiwan week” and the 6th Hunan-Taiwan Exchange and Cooperation Forum on Economy and Trade at the Grand Hotel in Taipei. Mei represented Hunan Party Chief Zhou Qiang, considered to a rising Sixth Generation leader within the CCP.  A Hunan website referred to Taiwan as a province. The visit was followed up by a group from Taiwan that visited Hunan for the 7th Hunan-Taiwan Financial Cooperation Forum, including New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming and Want Want Holdings CEO Cai Yanming.  The group met with Zhou Qiang, Governor Xu Shousheng, and Chen Yunlin.
Zhao Zhengyong
Shaanxi Province
13-19 Sep 10
Shaanxi Governor Zhao Zhengyong visited Taiwan for “Taiwan-Shaanxi Week.” Zhao ran Anhui Province’s Public Security Bureau from 1993 to 2001.  Zhao’s visit was the last before a two month freeze on visits in the lead up to the 27 November 2010 municipal elections on Taiwan.
Pre-Municipal Election Freeze
September 2010 – December 2010
Ji Lin
Beijing Municipality
13-17 Dec 10
After the municipal elections in Taiwan, Beijing Vice Mayor Ji Lin led a 200-member delegation to Taiwan for discussions with senior officials in Taipei and a cross-Strait forum on science and technology held at the Howard Plaza Hotel in Taichung on 15 December.
Before his arrival, Falungong practitioners in Taiwan filed a lawsuit against Ji Lin for abuses in Beijing. Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan adopted a resolution earlier in the month requiring Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and the National Immigration Agency (NIA) to deny entry for Chinese officials known to have been involved in human rights abuses.
Chen Zhenggao
Liaoning Province
15-21 Feb 11
Liaoning Governor Chen Zhenggao led a delegation to Taiwan for a “Liaoning-Taiwan Economic &Trade Corporation Forum. “ The groundwork for Chen’s visit was established in August 2010, when Dalian Deputy Mayor Dai Yulin led a buying delegation, with meetings held at the Taipei International Convention Center.

Chen traveled to Hsinchu and Taichung where he allegedly placed large orders for agricultural products like tea, wine, honey and oranges.  The visit was hosted by the Taiwan Council for Industrial and Commercial Development (CICD). Taiwanese investment in Liaoning is growing, and the 10th annual Liaoning-Taiwan was held in Dandong in September 2011.

Chen Zhenggao’s visit was followed by Vice Minister Jiang Zengwei, who represented Beijing for the first Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Committee (ECC), held in Chungli (Taoyuan County) on 22 February 2011.
Wang Sanyun
Anhui Province
18-25 Apr 11
Governor Wang Sanyun led a 2000-member delegation from Anhui to visit Taipei, Hsinchu, Kaohisung, and other locations on Taiwan. 
Ma Biao
Guangxi Autonomous Region
23-30 Apr 11
Guangxi Communist Party Chief Ma Biao spent most of his time in Hualian, where buyers were focused on tea and clam products.

Closely following the visit was the seventh Cross-Strait Economic, Trade, and Culture Forum held in Chengdu on 6 May 2011.  Representing Taiwan was KMT Honorary Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung, who met with CCP Secretary General Hu Jintao in Beijing afterwards.  Jia Qinglin, CPPCC Chairman urged the people of Taiwan to "choose the right person" in two upcoming major elections on the island in order to maintain the stable development of the cross-strait relationship.
Jiang Jufeng
Sichuan Province
21-26 May 11
Sichuan Governor Jiang Jufeng visited Taiwan for “Taiwan and Sichuan Week.”  The first provincial-level leader to arrive Taiwan via Kaohsiung, Jiang spent most of his time in southern Taiwan and visited areas affected by Typhoon Morakot.  In Taipei, the visit was marked by a scuffle between security at the Grand Hotel and pro-Tibetan protestors. Jiang visited Sichuan pandas at the Taipei zoo.  Until his assignment to Sichuan, Jiang had spent most of his career in Zhejiang.
Zhao Hongzhu
Zhejiang Province
26 May –
5 Jun 11
Zhejiang Party Secretary Zhao Hongzhu led a delegation of more than 660 people to Taiwan.
Jiang Daming
Shandong Province
11-17 Jul 11
Governor Jiang Daming led a delegation from Shandong Province to Taiwan for an economic and trade forum at Taipei's World Trade Center.  Shandong rates fourth after Jiangsu, Guangdong, and Fujian, in level of Taiwanese investment.  Foxconn’s manufacturing plant in Yantai, which employs 80,ooo workers, is Taiwan’s largest single investment in Shandong.  This single factory is said to produce over 10% of Shandong’s exports.
Huang Huahua
Guangdong Province
16-22 Aug 11
Guangdong Governor Huang Huahua supposedly pledged to buy more than U.S. $5 billion in agricultural and electronic products.  Huang resigned his position as governor in November 2011, and was replaced by Zhu Xiaodan [朱小丹].

Before his assignment as governor in 2003, Huang had served in senior party positions in Guangdong’s Shaoguan and Meizhou, cities that host PLA Second Artillery ballistic missile brigades oriented toward Taiwan.
Pre-National Election Freeze
September 2011 – February 2012
Guo Jinlong
Beijing Municipality
16-21 Feb 12
Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong led a delegation of more than 100 people and was the first mayor of Beijing to visit Taiwan.
Su Shulin
Fujian Province
Governor of Fujian Province Su Shulin is scheduled to visit Taiwan the last week of March 2012.  

Other visits this Spring are said to include Jiangsu Communist Party Secretary Luo Zhijun [].  Luo was formerly in charge of the Communist Youth League-managed China Youth Daily and mayor of Nanjing.   Another group from Hubei Province is scheduled to visit Taiwan this Spring.  It had been delayed from last year due to severe flooding of the Yangzi River. 


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