Few mentions of Taiwan in annual speech by Chinese premier: scholars

05/22/2020 08:35 PM
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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang / Photo: China News Service
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang / Photo: China News Service

Taipei, May 22 (CNA) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) made scant mention of Taiwan in an important annual speech Friday, reflecting China's focus on its economy as it juggles a trade war with the United States and the ongoing impact of COVID-19, according to scholars of cross-strait relations.

On Friday morning, Li delivered the government's work report -- a speech often compared to the U.S. state of the union address -- at the opening of China's annual parliamentary meeting, the National People's Congress.

The 14,000 word speech was shorter than in previous years, which have averaged around 20,000 words, and also notable in that its references to Taiwan were limited to about 100 words.

Tung Li-wen (董立文), an advisory board member at Taiwan Thinktank, told CNA Friday that the relatively minor references to Taiwan in the speech show that China currently has its hands full managing the economic impact of its trade war with the U.S. and the COVID-19 pandemic.

As relates to Taiwan, Tung noted that last week China unveiled 11 incentives targeting Taiwanese businesses operating in China, showing that the country needs to retain Taiwanese talent and technology amid the tough economic climate.

Chang Yu-shao (張宇韶), deputy secretary of the Cross-Strait Policy Association, characterized the language on Taiwan in the speech as "soft in tone, but not without its jagged edges."

Li did not invoke political concepts such as "one country, two systems" or the "1992 consensus" in reference to Taiwan, and instead relied on broader appeals to Chinese nationhood, Chang said.

At the same time, the speech omitted the word "peaceful" in its reference to "national reunification," he said.

The speech's more hardline content came in the announcement of new national security legislation for Hong Kong, though this also contained a sort of implicit threat to Taiwan, Chang said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) responded to Li's speech Friday with language from President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) recent inaugural address.

In a statement, the MAC rejected China's "one country, two systems" model for "downgrading Taiwan and undermining the cross-strait status quo."

Instead, it urged Beijing to accept Tsai's principles of "peace, parity, democracy and dialogue" as the foundation for cross-strait interaction.

(By Lai Yen-hsi and Matthew Mazzetta)

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