China-Taiwan Weekly Update, September 15, 2023



China-Taiwan Weekly Update, September 15, 2023

Authors: Nils Peterson, Frank Hoffman, and Ian Jones of the Institute for the Study of War

Editors: Dan Blumenthal and Frederick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute

Data Cutoff: September 12 at 5pm ET

The China–Taiwan Weekly Update focuses on the Chinese Communist Party’s paths to controlling Taiwan and relevant cross–Taiwan Strait developments.

Key Takeaways

  1. Kuomintang (KMT) leaders threatened party disciplinary action against party members supporting independent presidential candidate and former KMT member Terry Gou, which is unlikely to bolster KMT unity before the presidential election.
  2. The CCP responded to the US-Canada-Japan Noble Stingray exercise last week with a naval “show of force” and may stage a similar reaction to the upcoming US-Canada-South Korea exercise in the Yellow Sea.
  3. Chinese Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Zhang Youxia expressed concerns about the quality of People’s Liberation Army equipment, which suggests that the PRC’s defense industrial base is not performing to the satisfaction of CCP leadership.

Taiwan Developments

This section covers relevant developments pertaining to Taiwan, including its upcoming January 13, 2024 presidential and legislative elections.

Kuomintang (KMT) leaders threatened party disciplinary action against the party members supporting independent presidential candidate and former KMT member Terry Gou, which is unlikely to bolster the KMT’s unity before the presidential election. The KMT’s leaders have threatened “strict party discipline” against the pro-Gou members ranging from censure to party expulsion.[1] The KMT leaders also criticized Gou and his supporters for causing division in the party and giving an advantage to the governing Democratic Progress Party (DPP).[2] Prominent pro-Gou KMT members declined to renounce their support.[3] Gou stated that the KMT’s rhetoric towards his supporters was harsher than the party’s rhetoric towards the DPP.[4] The animus between the KMT and Gou indicates the hurdles to unifying the KMT’s support for a single candidate.

  • KMT Chair Eric Chu (Chu Li-lun) stated that “there is no room for ambiguity, party discipline will be strictly enforced” against publicly pro-Gou KMT members.[5] KMT Disciplinary Committee Chair Huang Yiteng also warned against supporting the election of non-party candidates.
    [6] The KMT stripped party power from the Standing Committee of the Central Committee member Fan Chenglian for two years after he appeared with Gou at a campaign event.[7] The KMT stated that this was to promote party unity and support the KMT-nominated candidates.[8]

  • Several KMT legislators and party members publicly urged Gou to rethink his candidacy. KMT members stated that they would support Hou over Gou and framed Gou’s presidency as handing the election to the DPP.[9] The KMT leadership’s rhetoric is framed as uniting behind Hou as opposed to building bridges with Gou.[10]

  • Pro-Gou KMT members have stated that they are unafraid of party discipline. Pro-Gou members have quit the KMT and appeared at rallies with Gou.[11] Gou has criticized the KMT for criticizing his campaign more harshly than the DPP.[12]

The hostility between KMT leadership and Gou may prompt the KMT to reconsider cooperation with the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) in the election. KMT Chairman Eric Chu previously considered cooperation with the TPP, even before Gou entered the race in late August, which KMT presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih opposed.[13] Chu repeated this call for KMT-TPP cooperation in mid-September, while Hou expressed openness to potential working with the TPP.[14] TTP presidential candidate Ko Wen-je has remained noncommittal to working with the KMT.[15] A KMT-TPP coalition would result in competitive races with the governing DPP candidates in the legislative and presidential elections.

  • Chu has implemented a joint-campaign headquarters to consolidate KMT leaning county and local officials behind Hou.[16] Chu stated on August 24 that he is willing to work with the TPP in the interest of defeating the DPP.[17] Chu caveated his calls for cooperation by stating the KMT will only cooperate with parties that have a consensus on cross-strait policies and constitutional reform issues.[18]

  • Hou’s campaign issued a statement that it is “happy to see the possibility of cooperation with opposition forces.”[19] Hou stated he is open to working with the TPP.[20]

  • Ko has repeatedly stated he is open to dialogue with other opposition leaders and that “anything is possible” when asked specifically about cooperation with Hou.[21] Ko’s and Chu’s offices are rumored to be in contact about electoral cooperation.[22] An unnamed Ko staffer allegedly stated that Ko is more likely to work with Hou than Gou because of the grassroots strength of the KMT.[23] Ko has explicitly denied that the TPP and KMT have come to any agreement about cooperation and denied reporting that he and Chu communicated.[24]

China Developments

This section covers relevant developments pertaining to China and the governing Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The CCP responded to the US-Canada-Japan Noble Stingray exercise last week with a naval “show of force” and may stage a similar reaction to the upcoming US-Canada-South Korea exercise in the Yellow Sea. The CCP dispatched the Shandong aircraft carrier and associated People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships east of Taiwan in response to the trilateral Noble Stingray exercise that involved a transit through the Taiwan Strait, which the CCP views as provocative.[25] The United States, Canada, and South Korea will conduct a trilateral exercise in the Yellow Sea from September 15-19, which will be the first “large scale” exercise in the vicinity of the PRC’s northern coast in a decade.[26] Exercises in the Yellow Sea are sensitive from the party’s view because of their relative proximity to Beijing. PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs has consistently framed American regional Asia-Pacific military engagement as interference necessitating a “resolute” retaliatory response.

  • The United States, Canada, and Japan conducted the trilateral naval exercise Noble Stingray in the waters of Okinawa on September 8. Two of the four ships that participated in the exercise, the guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson and frigate HMCS Ottawa, transited through the Taiwan Strait on September 9.[27]

  • The PRC’s Shandong aircraft carrier group sailed in waters 60 nautical miles off the southernmost point of the Taiwanese home island on its way to the western Pacific on September 11.[28] The PRC state-media outlet Global Times framed the event as a “show of force” in response to the transit of the Ralph Johnson and Ottawa.[29] The Global Times claimed that a “large” PLAN task force transiting through the Miyoko Strait to the western Pacific would join the Shandong carrier group to conduct a coordinated exercise. [30][31]

  • The United States, Canada, and South Korea will conduct a trilateral naval exercise to commemorate the 1950 Battle of Incheon from September 15-19. The exercise will consist of over 20 ships, 10 aircraft, and 3,000 service members.[32] The China-based South China Morning Post noted that this will be the first large-scale US exercise” near China’s northern coast in approximately ten years.[33] The PRC Foreign Ministry officials have framed U.S.-South Korean exercises as adding to regional “tension and confrontation” and vowed that US “interference” in the region will be met with “vigilance and opposition.” [34][35]

Chinese Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Zhang Youxia expressed concerns about the quality of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) equipment, which suggests that the PRC’s defense industrial base is not performing to the satisfaction of the CCP leadership. Zhang spoke at a PLA military equipment conference in Beijing in late August.[36] He said that the PLA needs “supplies that can meet our needs in any real battles and struggles.”[37] He also stated the necessity of mobilizing the civilian and military apparatus to enhance equipment quality.[38] Zhang’s emphasis on the need for supplies for battles suggests that the PRC’s defense industry is not performing to the party’s expectations. The lack of commonplace ideological references in official state media reporting on the event indicates that the equipment quality problems are deeply rooted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing met to discuss enhancing Sino-Russian economic relations during the Eastern Economic Forum on September 12. Putin praised Sino-Russian trade volume in 2023 and claimed that the two countries will reach 200 billion USD by the end of 2023.[39] Zhang stated that China is ready to “deepen mutually beneficial cooperation” with Russia.[40] Zhang’s current purview is China‘s advanced manufacturing sector, which has played a key role in Xi Jinping‘s goal for manufacturing self-reliance since the 20th Party Congress in October 2022.[41] Zhang previously spent over twenty years at NORINCO, which is a leading Chinese state-owned defense manufacturing and sales company.[42] His professional background and current responsibilities suggest that increases in Sino-Russian trade volume will involve goods to support the Russian war effort in Ukraine. The CCP has provided Russia with military assistance such as rifles and smokeless powder at varying points in 2023.[43]


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[7] https://news.ltn dot
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[11] https://www.cna dot
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[15] https://news.ltn dot
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[16] https://www.chinatimes dot com/realtimenews/20230906003786-260407?chdtv

[17] https://www.chinatimes dot com/realtimenews/20230824003455-260407?chdtv

[18] https://www.cna dot

[19] https://www.cna dot

[20] https://www.chinatimes dot com/realtimenews/20230826000034-260407?ctrack=pc_main_rtime_p06&chdtv

[21] https://news.ltn dot
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[22] https://www.chinatimes dot com/realtimenews/20230912001321-260407?chdtv

[23] https://www.chinatimes dot com/realtimenews/20230912001321-260407?chdtv

[24] https://www.taipeitimes dot com/News/taiwan/archives/2023/09/06/2003805829
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[25] https://www.globaltimes[dot]cn/page/202309/1297981.shtml

[26] https://www.scmp[dot]com/news/china/military/article/3233385/us-navy-gro...




[29] https://www.globaltimes[dot]cn/page/202309/1297981.shtml


[31] https://www.globaltimes[dot]cn/page/202309/1298051.shtml


[33] https://www.scmp[dot]com/news/china/military/article/3233385/us-navy-gro...

[34] https://www.fmprc[dot] ;


[35] https://www.globaltimes[dot]cn/page/202307/1293640.shtml


[36] http:// www.81 dot cn/szb_223187/szbxq/index.html?paperName=jfjb&paperDate=2023-08-30&paperNumber=01&articleid=914168

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[37] http:// www.81 dot cn/szb_223187/szbxq/index.html?paperName=jfjb&paperDate=2023-08-30&paperNumber=01&articleid=914168

[38] http:// politics dot people dot

[39] http:// en dot kremlin dot ru/events/president/transcripts/72257

[40] https://www.scmp dot com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3234315/very-high-level-putin-plays-russias-economic-ties-china

[41] https://www.scmp dot com/news/china/politics/article/3223239/one-time-weapons-executive-and-now-vice-premier-zhang-guoqing-targets-chinas-manufacturing-sector

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[42] https://www.scmp dot com/news/china/politics/article/3223239/one-time-weapons-executive-and-now-vice-premier-zhang-guoqing-targets-chinas-manufacturing-sector




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