China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) of the State Council began to hold monthly press conferences starting September 5, 2000. The frequency changed to bi-monthly beginning from November, 2003. The timing of the press conferences’ occurrence, contents and form provide the best possible material for studying the transformation of China’s Taiwan policy. The reasons are: (1) the timings straddle the eras of China’s leaders of two generations, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao; and (2) the content coverage is well-defined and may serve as reference for quantitative research.
The content analysis method adopted here is used to divide the 85 articles released at TAO’s press conferences by September 26, 2007 into 9 categories: China’s criticisms on Taiwan, China’s Taiwan policy, suppression against Taiwanese Independence, implications of the united front, economic and trade exchanges, cultural exchanges, international factors of cross-strait crimes, and singling out for criticism. There are in total 2,922 themes. The contents are divided into actively and passively released items.
Findings of the analysis indicate that press releases by the TAO in the era of Hu Jintao still strongly imply a united front and propaganda, and show an upward ladder relationship. Based on the One China principle and the Communist party leadership, the ultimate objective is peaceful unification. Then, prioritization and combination are conducted with all-compassing and diverse approaches that are guided by development and carried out based on scientific development ideas and macro adjustment. An approach for limitless combinations similar to asymmetrical warfare is used to attain limited concrete objectives. It is fair to say that Hu initiates changes to avoid sensitive issues and realistically implement them, while he never deviates in reinforcing his insistence upon the One China principle and Communist party leadership. In China’s Taiwan policy, “change” becomes meaningless without the “changelessness” principle. It is therefore important to first examine changes in the positions of successive Chinese leaders regarding the “changelessness” principle before analyzing the subsequently derivative and developed various approaches in future observations on these leaders’ Taiwan policies.
Therefore, Hu’s Taiwan policy does not have significant principle changes in terms of China’s strategic benefits compared to the era of Jiang Zemin. Changes lie in the various diverse approaches that he has developed based on this principle, the clever use of propaganda tools and internalization; and reflection and actualization of Communist party theories. In this view, Hu remains a typical conservative Communist party member and adheres to traditional principles. His Taiwan policy has no fundamental changes.