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Decoding the Noise: A Deep Dive into China’s Taiwan Policy and Its Implications

Decoding the Noise: A Deep Dive into China’s Taiwan Policy and Its Implications

There’s a constant narrative of escalating tensions between Taiwan and China — but scenarios aren’t telling us what’s actually being said. Let's try to cut through the noise and decode China’s policy towards Taiwan.

Inside China, it's all about 'peaceful development' and 'one family across two shores'.

Shielded from the external noise, China stays the course with a relentless emphasis on cooperation, decisively sidelining any talk of a military takeover or aggression.

But what is beneath these layers? How can we decode its policy decisions? Historically, honeyed public statements and a subtle ratcheting up of daily frictions are free. So what we should not be surprised by is outwardly pleasant messaging. However, this itself can tone down outright war.

Any intervention in Taiwan would require a propaganda masterstroke, enough to justify not just the deployment of troops but even the spilling of blood of their so-called 'brothers', 同胞. Invasion requires othering. And that is not what we see in the official narrative.

Indeed, the prevailing narrative within China is that there isn’t even a conflict. Rather, official media portrays the whole China-Taiwan conflict as a fiction, a narrative concocted by Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party and the Western Media to play the villain card against China.

So what do they really believe, and how can we tell?

By dissecting the soundbites echoing from China's corridors of power, we hope to answer this critical question: What are the driving narratives that China is telling its own people?

And how much do they tell us about the Chinese government's stance and the response towards Taiwan and the events surrounding it?

China typically shies away from spelling out specific policies or methods towards reunification, instead hiding behind broad ideologies like 'the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation' and 'one country two systems'.

For our first example, let's examine the period just after the Taiwan Strategic Work Conference. The spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office announced that the major takeaway from the conference was a push for a peaceful relationship with Taiwan. This is not new. Beijing wants to “facilitate
reunification”. And it emphasized that the situation is becoming more complex
due to foreign influences.

But there were no specific work requirements or targets for the Taiwan Affairs Office this year.

If you think you’ve heard this before, that is because you have. It was what we heard back in 2022, the same idea of 'peaceful development'.

If you’re a Chinese policymaker, this ambiguity is useful. It lets you say something while saying nothing.

But it also has drawbacks. Should there be a hypothesis, for example, that rejuvenation needs to occur by a certain date then that can neither be confirmed nor denied. China itself has no public timetable. But it cannot say that it does not want Taiwan to reunify. Rather, it has to say that reunification is a core interest, and hope that the resulting speculation is the type it wants.

The other thing that China can do is use history. Hence, after Nancy Pelosi's fiery trip to Taiwan in late 2022 one of China’s responses was to publish a timeline and fact sheet in the People's Daily, the
nation’s official newspaper of record.

Their goal was to set the record straight – Taiwan has been a part of China since way back in 230 AD, during the Three Kingdoms period, stepping up as China's 20th province in 1855.

It also tried to underscore the 1992 consensus to point to what Beijing says is a track record of peaceful cooperation.

Such a move from China is remarkably rare.

But it highlights that Beijing cannot talk about the future, which means that their intentions will remain unclear.

The final thing that China can use is its own internal hierarchy as signal. Let's recall when Tsai Ing-wen greenlit the stationing of U.S. military in Taiwan. In response, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed the finger squarely at Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party and the U.S., accusing them of stoking the fires of independence and compromising the ‘One China Principle’

To gauge if we're on an escalating trajectory of tensions, let's track the government bodies putting out official statements on this issue. Notably, in the wake of Pelosi's visit, the Chinese government's reaction was intriguing - multiple government bodies repeatedly chimed in about the same incident. An uncommon sight indeed, considering China’s top-down government structure rarely motivates bodies to weigh in on matters outside of their direct authority.

Despite the rare display of government-wide coordination, though, there's a conspicuous absence of specific actions or steps being outlined. The rhetoric, however, remains consistently centered around threats to the 'One China Principle'.

So where does that leave us?

It shows Beijing’s intentions appear more about buying time rather than breaking through. That is definitely contradictory to the reports of the daily frictions and increased military activity.

It is easy to look at that as a cunning Beijing plan to baffle the West and gain strategic ambiguity. But if that’s the case, why do they do it to their own people? This is internal messaging.

In Chinese politics, just as with all politics, the devil is often in the details. Also, though, we can go looking for devils when they may not exist. And in Taiwan, there does not seem to be any evidence that China is preparing to invade within any foreseeable time frame.

The question we are left with is what should be done in response to their tough talk — and what are the incentives of those talking back?


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