China Leadership Monitor
Since 2012, Xi Jinping has crafted a Taiwan policy that features two somewhat contradictory elements. On the one hand, it contains stronger measures aimed at deterring any steps toward independence, including a reduction of Taiwan’s international space, a continued military build-up, and frequent demonstrations of military force and economic coercion. On the other hand, Xi has also employed positive economic incentives, aimed largely at young people and the working class in Taiwan, to secure their support for eventual political unification with China. After the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) returned to power in 2016, Beijing doubled down on this policy that proponents believe has been validated by the results of the 2018 mid-term mayoral elections. However, critics point to major challenges, including increasing American support for Taiwan as well as the uncertain effectiveness of Beijing’s economic incentives given China’s weakening economic outlook. Taiwan’s 2020 presidential campaign has already produced candidates with a wide range of views on cross-Strait relations. Beijing’s goal is to defeat the DPP and support a new leadership friendlier to China, but it is unclear which of the rival candidates can accomplish such a task and whether Chinese attempts to influence the election will prove counter-productive.