China targeting hearts, minds of Taiwanese young people: scholars

2017/10/09 17:24:48 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Xi Jinping (習近平)

Xi Jinping (習近平)

Taipei, Oct. 9 (CNA) The Chinese government will continue to set its sights on capturing the hearts and minds of young people in Taiwan following the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Taiwanese scholars of cross-Taiwan Strait relations said Monday.

As the Oct. 18 opening of the CPC National Congress approaches, Taiwanese government officials and scholars are interested to see whether Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will rethink his strategy for dealing with Taiwan.

According to Wang Hsin-hsien (王信賢), a professor at National Chengchi University's Graduate Institute of East Asian Studies, China will be "directly targeting the youth and general public of Taiwanese society."

Xi realizes that the approval of young people is the biggest problem facing unification, said Wang, who previously served as an advisor to the Mainland Affairs Council, which is why his government has previously attempted to gain support of Taiwanese youth by facilitating visits to China and lowering the bar for enrolling in Chinese universities.

In part, Wang explained, China has been doing this directly rather than relying on Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party government because of the election losses of the more China-friendly Kuomintang.

As Xi has been favoring more of a "carrot and stick" approach, however, there has been a growing uproar in China in response to how the government is dealing with Taiwan.

Following the deaths of Chinese tourists in a Taiwan tour bus fire last year, for which the Chinese public partially blames Taiwan, a majority of the Chinese public are in favor of a military approach to dealing with Taiwan, Wang said.

According to Wang, giving the Taiwanese people benefits has not really helped China.

However, this is where Xi differs with his people on his approach to Taiwan. In Wang's analysis, Xi wants to adopt the most cost-effective measure to resolve the Taiwan issue, and a military approach is not it.

Furthermore, as Hung Chi-chang (洪奇昌), a former head of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation, pointed out, Taiwanese society is still struggling to reconcile factions within the country following the 228 incident that took place over 70 years ago.

This proves to the Chinese government that a military approach to unification will have costly consequences, even if successful, which is why Xi is prioritizing the development of China's economy, military, and rule of law before getting to unification, he continued.

Therefore, as it continues to reiterate an anti-Taiwan independence stance, the Chinese government will continue its soft approach to Taiwan, coupled with a few instances of a hard approach, such as evidenced in the case of detained Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲), to condition the Taiwanese people.

The question then becomes how Taiwan should deal with China. Chang Wu-yueh (張五岳), professor of the Graduate Institute of China Studies at Tamkang University, suggested that the government should attempt to improve communication exchanges between the Chinese and Taiwanese public.

Though top leaders on both sides may differ on politics, they should not do or say anything that leads to standoff or induces the general public on both sides to hate each other, Chang said.

In terms of official communication between governments, Wang said the Taiwanese government should refrain from talks regarding the political definition of Taiwan but should instead use the words and phrases Xi has used in addressing Taiwan as a way of extending an olive branch.

(By Miao Zong-han and Kuan-lin Liu)
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