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China-Taiwan Relations: What to Expect in 2018

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As a stalemate between China and Taiwan continues, experts say China’s government may seek new efforts in 2018 to try to restart negotiations.

Officials from both countries recently named some of the issues they expect to be important in the coming year.

A statement from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office says the government will continue to emphasize its long-held one-China policy. Chinese officials have said acceptance of this policy is a condition for negotiations.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen rejects that idea, however.

China considers Taiwan a rebel province and believes it must eventually be reunified with China, even if by force. Public opinion studies show most Taiwanese oppose unification.

China’s official Xinhua news agency reported the Taiwan Affairs Office described China-Taiwan relations in 2017 as “complex and severe.” The office said it would oppose all forms of “Taiwan independence” in the coming year, Xinhua said.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech during the year-end media event at the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science & Technology in Taoyuan county, Taiwan, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech during the year-end media event at the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science & Technology in Taoyuan county, Taiwan, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

Tsai, a former law scholar, has said she seeks continued cooperation with China and a peaceful relationship. But she has also promised to strongly defend the country’s security and political system.

During a year-end press conference, Tsai said that as president, she is “responsible for safeguarding national sovereignty and maintaining regional peace and stability.”

She said Taiwan is currently part of an “unpredictable geopolitical environment.” Among the conditions creating this environment, she said, are the growing number of Chinese military activities in the air and at sea. “China's intention to expand their military presence in the region has become increasingly evident.”

She added that other security issues in the area include increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Taiwan South China Sea
Taiwan South China Sea

Tsai said Taiwan has been expanding and upgrading its military capabilities in recent years as a result. She said it is important for the country to be able to depend on its own military.

She also called for respect in future relations with China and promised not to take a “reckless” path.

Many experts say the president’s Democratic Progressive Party will delay making changes to its China policy until after local elections in late 2018.

Wu Chung-li is a political science research fellow at Taipei-based university Academia Sinica. He says voters who do not agree with China policy changes might choose opposition candidates, some of whom might favor Taiwan’s legal independence from China.

Wu said he believes Taiwan’s government sees improving ties with China as an issue of top importance. “But the ruling party is also kidnapped by the local elections. I really don’t know how they can make any change,” he added.

Pigeons are released during the first flag raising ceremony of the year with the Guard of Honor of the Chinese People's Liberation Army taking over the ceremonial duty from the Paramilitary police in Beijing, China, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. (AP Photo)
Pigeons are released during the first flag raising ceremony of the year with the Guard of Honor of the Chinese People's Liberation Army taking over the ceremonial duty from the Paramilitary police in Beijing, China, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. (AP Photo)

Gratiana Jung is a political researcher with the Yuanta-Polaris Research Institute in Taipei. She says she thinks China might decide to use more “creative” means in 2018 to pressure Taiwan to return to talks and accept its one-China position.

This could include increases in Chinese military planes circling Taiwan in a show of force, Jung said. She added that Chinese officials could also attempt to limit Taiwan’s overseas diplomacy. China currently has more than 170 diplomatic allies, compared to Taiwan’s 20.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Ralph Jennings reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted it for VOA Learning English, with additional information from Reuters, Xinhua news agency and other sources. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

stalemate n. dispute in which parties cannot come to agreement

emphasize v. give special attention to something

sovereignty n. a country's independent authority and the right to govern itself

maintain v. to continue something that has been started

regional adj. relating to a specific area

stability n. continuous state of something, not easily changed

geopolitical adj. relating to the political and geographic parts of something

intention n. something you plan to do or achieve

reckless adj. doing something dangerous and not caring about what might happen

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