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News | April 1, 2024

Xi’s Cross-Strait Policy in the “New Era”

By Derek Grossman and Cindy Zheng Working Paper

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Cross Strait Policy Working Paper

Since the transition from Chinese leader Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping in November 2012, the key principle underlying Beijing’s policy toward Taiwan—that the island is not independent and is an immutable part of China which must ultimately be “reunified” with the mainland—has remained consistent. However, in the last eight years since the inauguration of President Tsai Ing-wen of the Taiwan-centric Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in May 2016, Beijing’s rhetoric, policies, and actions toward the island have changed and ramped up considerably. Following the election in January 2024 of Tsai’s vice president, Lai Ching-te (William Lai) who is also with the DPP, Xi’s New Era will likely make the Taiwan Strait an increasingly tense and dangerous environment, with potentially significant consequences for U.S. policy and strategy both there and throughout the Indo-Pacific.

Our paper seeks to accomplish five things. First, we provide a brief history of cross-Strait relations since Tsai’s election in January 2016 to explain the present circumstances. Second, we describe and analyze Beijing’s evolving cross-Strait policy under Xi during this time by highlighting Chinese policy positions in key authoritative documents. Third, we attempt to predict the trajectory of China’s cross-Strait policy in the coming years, with particular emphasis on how Beijing might react to Lai’s election. Fourth, we consider the potential implications for Taiwan and its partnership with the United States, and finally, we offer several concluding thoughts and policy recommendations derived from our analysis.

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