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Newly-appointed Taiwan's top China affairs chief touted as 'pragmatic'

04/25/2024 02:50 PM
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Straits Exchange Foundation Vice Chairman Chiu Chui-cheng, who will head the Mainland Affairs Council after the new government takes office on May 20. CNA file photo
Straits Exchange Foundation Vice Chairman Chiu Chui-cheng, who will head the Mainland Affairs Council after the new government takes office on May 20. CNA file photo

Taipei, April 25 (CNA) President-elect Lai Ching-te (賴清德) on Thursday touted Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正), his newly-appointed top China affairs chief, as a "rational" and "pragmatic" figure who is capable of advancing work related to cross-Taiwan Strait relations.

"I believe Chiu Chui-cheng will definitely be able to steadily promote work related to cross-strait relations," Lai said at a Taipei press conference where he named eight more key members of his new administration, including the head of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

Chiu, the 58-year-old Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Vice Chairman and former MAC deputy head, has been described by his colleagues as a "rational, pragmatic, and responsible" figure, Lai noted.

After Lai and Vice President-elect Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) assume office on May 20, Chiu will head the MAC, Taiwan's top government agency handling cross-strait affairs, taking over from incumbent MAC head Chiu Tai-san (邱太三).

Chiu Chui-cheng currently serves as the vice chairman and secretary-general of the SEF, a semi-official organization set up by the Taiwanese government to assist Taiwanese businesspeople and their families in China, as well as Chinese spouses and students in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Lai also announced that Vice Premier Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) has been picked to head the SEF, succeeding the incumbent chairman David Lee (李大維).

Lai said the 56-year-old has been heavily involved in coordinating efforts across different ministries since assuming the role of the Cabinet's vice premier in January 2023.

In the face of "the current unique situation across the Taiwan Strait," Lai went on, it is hoped that Cheng will apply his ability to coordinate and extensive experience working in both the central and local governments to promote a "positive development" in cross-strait relations.

CNA photo April 25, 2024
CNA photo April 25, 2024

Cheng's previous posts included head of the now-disbanded Government Information Office under the Executive Yuan from January 2006 to April 2007. He was later elected Taoyuan Mayor in December 2014 and remained in that role for eight years until December 2022.

Chiu Chui-cheng joined the SEF in February last year. Before that, he served as the MAC deputy head and spokesperson for more than six years, dating back to May 20, 2016, when President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) began her first term.

During his previous tenure as MAC spokesperson, Chiu often maintained a tough stance on cross-strait issues, especially when speaking about Taiwan's sovereignty and interests.

In March 2022, Chiu said at a MAC press conference that the Taiwan government neither accepts nor recognizes Beijing's one-China principle, which claims Taiwan as part of Chinese territory. He added that to accept the "1992 consensus" is to deny the existence of the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name.

Any attempt to isolate Taiwan from the international community or exert political and economic pressure on the country will be rejected by the people of Taiwan, Chiu said at the time.

The statement was in response to remarks by then-Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) that Beijing was committed to pushing for a general strategy to "resolve the Taiwan issue in the new era" and insisting on the "one China" principle and "1992 consensus" during the fifth session of the 13th National People's Congress.

Former Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Photo: China News Service
Former Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Photo: China News Service

Li stated that China "firmly opposes any separatist activities seeking Taiwan independence and interference from foreign powers" and continues to promote reunification with Taiwan.

The "1992 consensus" was a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the then Kuomintang (KMT) government of Taiwan and the Chinese government. It has been consistently interpreted by the KMT as an acknowledgement by both sides that there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret what "China" means, but Beijing has never publicly recognized the second part of the KMT's interpretation.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has never acknowledged the "1992 consensus," arguing that Beijing does not recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan) and that acceptance of the consensus would imply agreement with China's claim over Taiwan.

On March 23 this year, Chiu gave a talk at National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taipei, stating that under Xi Jinping's (習近平) presidency, China has undergone several policy reforms, two of which in particular have had a significant impact.

Chiu said the first reform was the shift from collective to centralized leadership, and the second was the surge in nationalism, which led to policies such as "wolf warrior diplomacy" and a focus on military power.

Chiu is also an associate professor at the Department of International and Mainland China Affairs at National Quemoy University in Kinmen County, where he has been teaching courses related to cross-strait affairs since 2008.

Specializing in cross-strait economic and trade relations, Hong Kong and Macao studies, and international political economy, Chiu obtained his PhD from the Graduate Institute of Political Science at the National Taiwan Normal University in 2007, with his thesis titled "Formulating the Peaceful Integration Patterns across the Taiwan Strait."

(By Sunny Lai, Teng Pei-ju and Lee Ya-wen)

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