Since the 1980s, the mainland has taken a series of measures to ease Cross-Strait relations and promote the opening of Cross-Strait exchanges in order to break the ice of isolation between the two sides of the Strait. On October 14, 1987, the relevant person in charge at the State Council issued a speech, expressing a “warm welcome to Taiwan compatriots to visit relatives and travel in the mainland of the motherland.” Inspired by the mainland’s policy and the joint efforts of compatriots on both sides of the strait,1 as well as Taiwan’s abandonment of the policy of “no contact, no negotiation, and no compromise,”2 the door to Cross-Strait exchanges has finally been opened. In the past 30 years, great progress has been made in the development of cross-Strait relations. However, it should also be noted that since the structural contradictions between the two sides of the Strait still exist – in particular, the separatist forces on the island of Taiwan are still unwilling to give up their political persistence, the development of Cross-Strait relations is still turbulent. In particular, the Taiwan Strait crisis and Cross-Strait risks continue, seriously affecting the stability of cross-Strait relations and the situation in the Taiwan Strait. With the opening of the door to cross-Strait people-to-people interactions, the real needs of mainland China to deal with the Taiwan Strait crisis and risks have greatly increased. However, since there is no existing processing model to learn from, it will undoubtedly increase the pressure on the mainland to improve its ability to deal with the Taiwan crisis and Cross-Strait risks. Nonetheless, mainland China has continuously strengthened its crisis management capabilities in dealing with the Taiwan Strait crisis and Cross-Strait risks, which has generally guaranteed the stability of the Taiwan Strait region and the development of Cross-Strait relations.
I. The Taiwan Strait Crisis and Cross-Strait Risks in the 30 Years since the Opening of Cross-Strait Exchanges
(i) The Taiwan Strait Crisis and the Basic Types of Cross-Strait Risks
Since 1987, although the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have written a moving chapter from hostility to reconciliation, the process has been anything but easy, and crises and risks have not been uncommon, having caused considerable impacts on cross-Strait relations and the situation in the Taiwan Strait. These crises and risks are mainly manifested in the following ways:
1. Military security crises and risks
Crises begin with conflicts, with the possibility of war. This is the broadest description of a crisis. Crisis, as a special situation, has a time pressure and requires decisions. Crises are often highly correlated with chaos and turmoil. Generally speaking, a military security crisis is the most aggravated crisis state among actors and usually refers to a unique phenomenon that lies between peace and war. Since 1949, there have been many military security crises and risks between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Even in the past 30 years since the door to people-to-people exchanges across the Strait was officially opened, there have been serious Taiwan Strait crises. For example, in 1995, Lee Teng-hui’s visit to the United States and his provocative remarks detonated a major military security crisis in the Taiwan Strait that lasted from 1995 to 1996. This kind of crisis not only caused huge risks to cross-Strait relations but also almost made the situation in the Taiwan Strait approach the brink of war.3 The military security crisis is undoubtedly the most serious of all types of crises across the Taiwan Strait, its level of confrontation is the most intense, and its crisis management proves the most difficult.
As far as the nature of cross-Strait relations is concerned, since the two sides of the Strait have not officially ended the state of hostility, nor have they signed a cross-Strait peace agreement, there has always been a hidden danger of a military security crisis on both sides of the Strait. However, judging from the development of cross-Strait relations in the past three decades, the military security crisis has not become the protagonist of cross-Strait crises and risks. In fact, with the continuous expansion and deepening of cross-Strait non-governmental exchanges, the frequency of cross-Strait military security crises has been decreasing. Cross-Strait military security crises are extremely harmful and can easily lead to intervention by external forces. Coupled with its high cost, the willingness of all parties to trigger a military security crisis is reduced, such that, objectively speaking, endogenous forces can restrain the outbreak of a cross-Strait military security crisis.
2. Political conflict crisis and risk
Structure determines function, and function reacts to structure. Political conflict crises always exist in the interaction of cross-Strait relations, and it is also the most likely trigger of cross-Strait crises and risks. Its influence is mainly manifested in increasing the emotional distance between people on both sides of the Strait, and even causing an emotional rupture that radiates out, affecting the political sentiment of the people on both sides, infecting their political behavior, increasing political estrangement, and worsening the political environment on both sides of the Strait. The frequent occurrence of political conflicts and crises between the two sides of the Strait is mainly attributable to structural contradictions between the two sides of the Strait. From the emergence of the Taiwan issue to today, there have been competitions and struggles between the two sides in terms of ideology, political system, values, and representation. Although Resolution 2758 passed by the 26th UN General Assembly in 1971 has resolved the question of the legitimate representative of China on both sides of the Taiwan Strait from the perspective of international law and international political reality, the situation within Taiwan is very complicated, and serious differences still exist. Moreover, the essence behind this difference is not all that substantial: Whether it is Blue Camp’s formulation of the “one China, two representatives” or the Green Camp’s “separatism” proposition, the logic behind it, of course, still means dealing with the political positioning and identity representation of the Taiwan authorities. The aforementioned problems are of course structural problems that have existed in cross-Strait relations for a long time and are also the main reason for the frequent outbreak of cross-Strait crises and cross-Strait risks over the past three decades. Political conflict crises and risks in cross-Strait relations can be divided into the following:
1. Cross-Strait crises triggered by Taiwan’s pursuit of international engagement. Any attempt by Taiwan to expand international participation, especially to join an international organization that only sovereign states can participate in, may lead to incidents and the risk of cross-Strait political conflict. In fact, the confrontation and conflict between the two sides in the field of foreign affairs is a major contributor to the tension in the Taiwan Strait and cross-Strait risks. This constitutes a structural problem in the cross-Strait relationship. In the absence of a final solution to the Taiwan issue, such crises and risks naturally cannot be completely eliminated. Although different political parties are in power in Taiwan, and the magnitude and intensity of foreign-related crises across the Taiwan Strait are different, the nature of foreign-related crises has not changed all that much.
2. Cross-Strait crises triggered by “Taiwan independence” separatist behavior. “Taiwan independence” is the political ideology and proposition of separatism. For a long time, Taiwan separatism has been one of the main causes of cross-Strait conflict and Taiwan Strait incidents. Since 2000, as the “Taiwan independence” forces continue to gain momentum on the island, the risk of “Taiwan independence” has increasingly become an important source of cross-Strait crises. The “constitutional revision” and “United Nations membership applications” promoted by the Chen Shui-bian authorities have greatly aggravated the crisis situation in the Taiwan Strait and caused unprecedented tension in cross-Strait relations. After the DPP returned to power in 2016, despite claims to “maintain the status quo,” because Tsai Ing-wen authorities have refused to give up actions such as “de-sinicization,”4 cross-Strait relations have been drastically reversed, and the potential risk of a Taiwan Strait incident has greatly increased.
3. Cross-Strait crises triggered by ideology. The Kuomintang-Communist civil war that broke out from 1946 to 1949 was itself closely related to the serious differences between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party on China’s future development path and system choices. Therefore, since 1949, the cross-Strait struggles and contests in the political system and ideology have never ceased. Even in the past 30 years, although the door to people-to-people exchanges across the Strait has been opened and the social interaction between the two sides has become increasingly frequent, the struggle between the two sides over ideology and values has never stopped.5 The continuous collusion between political forces on the island of Taiwan and various anti-China forces can easily lead to antagonism between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, resulting in the emergence of cross-Strait crises.
4. Cross-Strait crises caused by Taiwan’s handling of internal affairs. Cross-strait relations are extremely sensitive and complex. Even as Taiwan authorities deal with their internal affairs, seemingly simple issues may trigger a crisis situation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. For example, when the Taiwan authorities deal with so-called “constitutional amendments,” “referendums,” and other issues, as well as major election activities in Taiwan, they may stimulate the sensitive nerves of cross-Strait relations, thereby triggering major events such as the Taiwan Strait crisis and cross-Strait risks.
5. Cross-Strait crises caused by Taiwan’s handling of external affairs. The Taiwan authorities’ handling of external affairs or interactions with other countries and regions may also trigger a Taiwan Strait crisis and cross-Strait risks. For example, the foreign military procurement by the Taiwan authorities, as well as the close interaction between Taiwan and certain countries in non-economic and cultural fields such as military and security, may cause crises between the two sides of the Strait.
The cross-Strait political crisis is mainly caused by the structural problems between the two sides of the Strait and usually changes with the situation of cross-Strait relations, especially the change of the ruling party in Taiwan. This is its major feature. When the confrontation between the ruling parties on both sides of the Strait is notable, the political crisis is more prominent. The political crisis across the Taiwan Strait will not only intensify the emotional confrontation between the two sides but may also lead to confrontation and countermeasures between the two sides at a policy level.
3. Social communication crises and risks
Crises and risks in social exchanges have been common problems in cross-Strait exchanges in the past. They mainly refer to the crises and risks to cross-Strait relations and even the situation in the Taiwan Strait caused by accidents, travel incidents, personal safety, and other events during the interaction of social personnel across the Strait. The level of this type of crisis is not high, and its impact on cross-Strait relations is mainly reflected in the rise of confrontation or hostility between the two sides, which may affect all aspects of cross-Strait exchanges and thus cannot be ignored.
In the process of cross-Strait exchanges, it is inevitable that disorder or conflict will occur. Given the large-scale people-to-people exchanges between the two sides of the Strait, it is natural for many social risks to arise. Initially, it has mainly been a matter of cross-border crimes and the smuggling of goods. Since then, there have also been problems such as drug trafficking and triads, as well as environmental, food, and disease transmission issues. This has resulted in the breeding of a series of non-traditional security issues between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and has led to various crises and risks between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. For example, in July 1990, due to the simple, crude, and irresponsible behavior of the Taiwan authorities when dealing with private migrants from the mainland6, a major and vicious incident that eventually resulted in the death of many people shocked society on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and sparked extensive discussions on the need to establish some kind of communication mechanism between the two sides of the Strait to deal with crises. Although the Qiandao Lake Incident in 1994 was just a tragedy that Taiwanese tourists encountered when they traveled to the mainland, its impact on cross-Strait relations should not be underestimated. Since there was not much experience in contact and interaction between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait at that time, there were large differences in the thinking and modes of handling crisis incidents between the two sides. In addition, the Lee Teng-hui authorities took the opportunity to incite public opinion in Taiwanese society and maliciously slander the mainland, all but destroying the benign atmosphere created by the two sides since the Wang-Gu Talks.7 In July 2016, the “burning car incident” occurred in a serious car accident and fire in Taoyuan, Taiwan involving a tour bus for a Liaoning tour group, killing 26 people, including 24 mainland tourists. Although the accident had nothing to do with cross-Strait politics and was a rare tourism crisis, the lack of affection for compatriots by the Taiwan authorities in handling this incident also triggered a strong rebound in mainland public opinion, which had a certain negative impact on cross-Strait relations. Judging from the practice of people-to-people exchanges across the Taiwan Strait over the past three decades, Taiwan Strait crises and cross-Strait risks are mainly reflected in the field of political crises.
(ii) Exploration of the root causes of Taiwan Strait crises and the frequent outbreak of cross-Strait risks
1. Lack of political mutual trust across the Taiwan Strait
Crisis management requires institutionalized communication channels for all parties involved in the crisis. However, due to the lack of political mutual trust between the two sides, it is difficult to establish effective institutionalized communication channels. The main reason why the crises and risks between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have continued in the past three decades is the lack of political mutual trust between the two sides. In other words, since the state of hostility between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait has not yet subsided, the hostility between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait has not been completely resolved. This is the key to causing turbulence in cross-Strait relations and constant crises across the Strait. The formation of the Taiwan issue was mainly caused by the civil war between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party, and with the intervention of the United States, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait finally confronted each other across the Taiwan Strait. In the past three decades, although cross-Strait relations have shifted from isolation to exchanges and significant progress has been made, after all, the state of hostility between the two sides has not ended, and the hostility between the two sides has not been completely resolved. The level of mutual trust between the two sides, whether it is through official or private interactions, is still very low. It is precisely because of the extreme lack of political mutual trust between the two sides that the two sides cannot normally carry out institutionalized consultation and cooperation. Even if some institutionalized measures and arrangements have been established at a certain historical stage, once the political parties are rotated, these arrangements often cannot continue to play a substantial role.
2. Existence of separatist forces in Taiwan
In the past 30 years, although the people-to-people exchanges between the two sides of the Strait have been very lively, due to the significant differences between the two sides on the future prospects and development path of cross-Strait relations, the struggle between the two sides of the Strait has continued, and even major crises in the Taiwan Strait have occurred. Mainland China actively pursues the goal of the ultimate peaceful reunification of the two sides of the Strait, while what Taiwan pursues is to seek peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, not to lead to the ultimate reunification, especially as the Taiwan separatist forces gradually grow in numbers. This is the main source of tension in cross-Strait relations. This has also led to the continuous struggle between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait over peaceful reunification and maintaining the status quo. As the struggle between reunification and “independence” continues,8 crises have frequently occurred. Since the Taiwan separatist forces disregard the public opinion on both sides of the Strait and the overall interests of the Chinese nation, they wantonly promote the separatist movement, which will inevitably lead to tensions and conflicts on both sides of the Strait and increasingly become the main hidden danger of the Taiwan Strait crisis and cross-Strait risks. In addition, Taiwan’s separatist forces attempt to rely on external forces to counter the reunification process across the Taiwan Strait, which will inevitably lead to an escalation of cross-Strait crises and conflicts.
3. The United States has been involved in the Taiwan issue for a long time
The United States has always been an important external factor triggering Taiwan Strait crises. The formation of the Taiwan issue itself also has something to do with the United States. In fact, several major Taiwan Strait crises that broke out since 1949 are inextricably linked with the United States. For example, major crises such as the Kinmen (Quemoy) Artillery Battle in 1958 were inseparable from the direct involvement of the United States in the Taiwan issue, especially the attempt of the United States to concoct “two Chinas” between the two sides of the Strait. At that time, the leaders of mainland China were aware of the conspiracy of the United States, and thus used the Kinmen (Quemoy) Artillery Battle, a crisis event that triggered cross-Strait tensions, to contain Chiang Kai-shek and smash the United States’ attempt to split China. Although great breakthroughs have been made in cross-Strait people-to-people exchanges since 1987, the shadow of the United States is playing a role behind many Taiwan Strait crises and cross-Strait risks. For example, in the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1995-1996, it was precisely because the United States insisted on giving the green light for Lee Teng-hui to visit the United States despite the firm opposition of the Chinese mainland, which triggered tensions in the Taiwan Strait. In this crisis, the United States not only played the role of the initiator of the crisis but also sent an aircraft carrier to the Taiwan Strait region in an attempt to exert military pressure on the mainland. These actions of the United States directly led to the continuous escalation of the Taiwan Strait crisis. In addition to major military security crises, the United States is also an important external source of cross-Strait risks. After the DPP returned to power, even the most basic form of mutual trust between the two sides of the Strait was lacking. However, U.S. President-elect Trump had a direct phone call with Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of the Taiwan region. Such behavior was of course a major event, and it also triggered tensions in cross-Strait relations and elevated cross-Strait risks.
II. Mainland China’s related explorations and results in responding to the Taiwan Strait crisis and risks
Over the past 30 years of people-to-people exchanges across the Taiwan Strait, in the face of the Taiwan Strait crisis and the growing trend of cross-Strait risks, mainland China has begun to actively explore the management of these crises and risks and has achieved profound results. The mainland’s attempts and exploration of the Taiwan Strait crisis and risk management are mainly reflected in the aspects of strategy, means, and root causes.
(i) Attempts and explorations in crisis management strategies
Crisis escalation is an important model that is often used in crisis management. In crises, escalation is both a common occurrence and is often employed as a strategy, including controlled escalations and limited brinkmanship based on the actual needs and possibilities of the crisis situation. Escalation is at the heart of sound crisis management. Crisis escalation is often the only way to effectively resolve a conflict. “The goal of crisis management is to escalate the crisis to the best possible position but at the same time limit it to the lowest possible level.”9 In reality, although crisis escalation is used as a strategy, this use is by no means arbitrary but is rather based on the practical needs of crisis management. Of course, the implementation of the crisis escalation strategy also requires some basic conditions as a premise. Taking the Taiwan Strait crisis in 1995-1996 as an example, mainland China made good use of the crisis escalation strategy at that time. Although the United States had also dispatched aircraft carriers during this crisis, the United States did not want the situation in the Taiwan Strait to go completely out of control. The goal of mainland China at that time was not to cross the sea to reunify Taiwan but to hope that the Lee Teng-hui authorities could return to the existing political consensus of “one China.” At the same time, mainland China wanted to warn the United States about the wrong policy of supporting Taiwan in the hopes of turning the crisis situation in a direction that is beneficial to mainland China. Therefore, the purpose of conducting military exercises in mainland China was to oppose the interference of external forces in China’s internal affairs and the increasingly arrogant “Taiwan independence” separatist forces. The mainland used deterrence to escalate the Taiwan Strait crisis to a limited extent. The purpose was to declare to the international community that China, on issues related to national sovereignty and territorial integrity, will not succumb to any external pressure and hopes to use this to create more opportunities and greater strategic space for handling the Taiwan issue in the future. The mainland’s crisis escalation strategy has indeed achieved certain results objectively. The military action not only caused Taiwan’s stock market to plummet, capital to outflow, and panic to spread, but it also created a favorable environment on the island to ease tensions across the Taiwan Strait. It was the use of this crisis escalation strategy that finally made the United States realize the complexity of the Taiwan issue and made a commitment to “not support Taiwan’s independence.”10 As a result, the situation in Taiwan would develop in a direction that is beneficial to the mainland. At the same time, in our escalation strategy, in order to prevent the crisis from getting out of control, we have also carried out effective management and control. We still hope to promote the peaceful settlement of the Taiwan issue through communication and contact. From the perspective of rational choices, it is also in the interests of mainland China to avoid direct military conflict with the United States and prevent a large-scale war in the Taiwan Strait. For example, even during the most stressful of times of crisis, the channels between China and the United States in maintaining information exchange have always been relatively smooth. Embassy relations between China and the United States, military exchanges, and high-level negotiations were ongoing.11 In particular, Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and U.S. President Clinton also held a summit meeting at the commemorative meeting of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. The maintenance of these communication channels has a very positive effect on crisis management. Clinton also reiterated that the United States respects Beijing’s position that “Taiwan is part of China.”12 Such a statement certainly played a significant role in easing tensions at the time.
(ii) Attempts and explorations in crisis management methods
Over the past three decades, the mainland has also continuously strengthened its attempts and exploration of means of crisis management in the Taiwan Strait. After all, the Taiwan issue involves a wide range and is extremely complex. The management and control of the Taiwan Strait crisis should also be actively explored in practice.
1. Exploration of U.S. role awareness
Mainland China also has gained a gradual understanding of the functions and roles of the United States in the management of the Taiwan Strait crisis. For Beijing’s management of the Taiwan Strait crisis, is the United States a hindrance or a help or is it impossible to draw a simple conclusion? For a long time after 1949, the United States has long been an important external factor that has triggered the outbreak of Taiwan Strait crises. The main reason is that the United States, with its strong military advantages, has been creating crisis situations in the Taiwan Strait in order to achieve its national interests. From this perspective, for the mainland, the role the United States plays in cross-Strait relations and the Taiwan Strait is of course negative. However, in the past three decades, with the rapid increase in the strength of mainland China, the relative strength of China and the United States has drawn closer. The United States has grown increasingly worried about the risk of being drawn into a cross-Strait conflict or even a military confrontation that could directly trigger the rivalry between the two major powers. This is obviously what the United States does not wish to see. Under such circumstances, the United States began to block and oppose Lee Teng-hui’s “two-state theory” and Chen Shui-bian’s “United Nations application,” “constitution referendum,” and other “Taiwan independence” behaviors. Therefore, there have been some changes in the role and function of the United States in cross-Strait relations. As a result, China and the United States have at least a certain degree of space and opportunity for cooperation on the major issue of suppressing “Taiwan independence.” In the past 30 years of cross-Strait crisis management, the role of the United States has begun to show some positive energy. In the least, the United States has become a positive factor in restraining “Taiwan independence” forces. The mainland has also increasingly found that maintaining the peace and stability of cross-Strait relations is crucial. In particular, taking the United States as an important party in the management of the Taiwan Strait crisis will also help the mainland to improve the efficiency of Taiwan Strait crisis management. Of course, the U.S. factor requires dialectical analysis and evaluation, taking into account its negative aspects. At this stage, both sides of the Taiwan Strait cannot completely rule out the intervention and influence of the United States in the management of the Taiwan Strait crisis, and the U.S. factor will still exist for a certain period of time in the future. The negative role of crisis management in the Taiwan Strait is a major issue worthy of consideration.
2. Attempts and explorations of legal means
For a long time, due to the complexity of the Taiwan issue itself and the strong intervention of external forces, in the face of the complex Taiwan Strait crisis situation, mainland China has relatively limited means of crisis management. Especially with the development of “Taiwan independence” forces on the island, the pressure on the mainland to deal with the crisis in the Taiwan Strait is increasing day by day. However, with the continuous enhancement of mainland China’s comprehensive strength and a deeper understanding of the Taiwan issue itself, the mainland has begun to use legal means to strengthen the management of the Taiwan Strait crisis. On March 14, 2005, the National People’s Congress, after deliberation, passed the Anti-Secession Law, which clearly stipulated and provided a legal basis for the argument that the Taiwan issue is a matter of China’s internal affairs. The Anti-Secession Law undoubtedly draws an insurmountable red line for the “Taiwan independence” separatist forces and is also the fundamental bottom line for cross-Strait relations. It also provides legal means for mainland China to strengthen the management of the Taiwan Strait crisis and its risk management.
3. Attempts and explorations to eliminate the root cause of the crisis
Over the past 30 years of cross-Strait exchanges, the outbreaks of Taiwan Strait crises, of course, have complex social and historical roots and backgrounds. For crisis management to have a real effect, it is necessary to eliminate the root causes of the crises. In addition to the structural contradictions between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, the outbreaks of Taiwan Strait crises are directly related to the limited scope and depth of cross-Strait exchanges. For a long time, Taiwanese society’s perception of the mainland has been largely misunderstood. In the past 30 years, although a cross-Strait exchange situation has been formed, the strength of the exchanges is insufficient, and the duration of exchanges has not been long. At the same time, Taiwanese society still doesn’t know much about the connotation of the mainland’s policy toward Taiwan, as well as the development status and prospects of the mainland. These matters must be gradually resolved through cross-Strait non-governmental exchanges. Under this circumstance, mainland China adopted the policy of prioritizing economics before politics, going after the easy before the difficult. By promoting the interaction between people on both sides of the Strait through economic, cultural, social, and other exchanges, China has laid a solid economic foundation and public opinion foundation for continuous breakthroughs in cross-Strait relations. Especially since 2008, cross-Strait relations have entered a stage of peaceful development. Cross-Strait trade, mail, and navigation have been basically realized, and various exchanges have been greatly advanced. It has shortened the distance between the people and the society on both sides of the Strait and has enhanced affection.
At present, cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges flow from Taiwan to the mainland through the flow of people, logistics, and capital. The flow of people, logistics, and capital from the mainland entered the island at a later stage. Today, on both sides of the strait, a positive interaction pattern is taking shape of mutual need. The continuous flow and integration of cross-Strait economies, societies, and demands will connect the two societies on both sides of the Strait, naturally forming a material foundation for cross-Strait crisis management and risk management and providing both sides with greater means and possibilities.
(iii) The effect of crisis management in mainland China is very obvious
The purpose of crisis management in the Taiwan Strait is to strengthen and improve the level and capability of crisis management, prevent the situation in the Taiwan Strait from going completely out of control, maintain regional peace in the Taiwan Strait, and create a relatively favorable cross-Strait environment for the mainland’s reform and opening-up strategy. Therefore, the direct goal of crisis management across the Taiwan Strait is of course not the pursuit of unification. From this point of view, the management of the Taiwan Strait crisis in the past three decades has been quite successful.
Over the past 30 years, the situation in the Taiwan Strait has not been calm. In particular, the intervention of the United States and waves of provocations by the “Taiwan independence” forces on the island have caused constant crises, even major military and security crises, but we have ultimately ensured the situation in Taiwan never went out of control and never led to conflict or war. This has also enabled the long-term and continuous exchanges of cross-Strait relations, especially the continuous development of interactions in the economic, social, and personnel fields, such that the two sides of the Strait continue to move from confrontation to reconciliation. From this point of view, the crisis management objective of the mainland has been fully achieved, and its effect is also positive. The stability of the situation in the Taiwan Strait and cross-Strait relations is also the strategic goal of the Chinese mainland. In particular, the grand strategy of reform and opening up has created a favorable cross-Strait environment. Not only is it conducive to the re-communication and cooperation between mainland China and the international community, but it also makes Taiwan an important participant in the mainland’s reform and opening up. The mainland’s economic development has made significant progress and its overall national strength has been greatly enhanced, a success of the past three decades. All of this is of course closely related to the mainland’s successful management of the Taiwan Strait crisis.
III. Relevant inspirations from mainland China’s response to the Taiwan Strait crisis and risk management
(i) Containing the “Taiwan Independence” forces
From the observation of the situation of the Taiwan Strait crisis and cross-Strait risks in the past three decades, the “Taiwan independence” forces have increasingly become the main source of the outbreak of the Taiwan Strait crisis, which has attracted great attention from the mainland, and the mainland has also continuously strengthened the management and control of the “Taiwan independence” crisis. Regarding the issue of “Taiwan independence,” its essence is a separatist ideology and political proposition, which is particularly harmful to cross-Strait relations. Of course, the struggle for “Taiwan independence” will be a long-term process. Since the development of cross-Strait relations, cross-Strait interaction is no longer just a relationship between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party but now also involves the pressure of resisting and guarding against separatism.
Under the current situation of the DPP’s return to power where cross-Strait relations are at an impasse, the mainland must resolutely oppose any form of “Taiwan independence” activities. As General Secretary Xi Jinping said in his report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, we “will never allow any person, organization, or political party to separate any piece of Chinese territory from at any time and in any form.”13 From a global perspective, separatist movements have spread all over the world, seriously affecting national and regional peace and stability. Over the past three decades, the frequent outbreak of crises in the Taiwan Strait and cross-Strait risks is directly related to the growing arrogance of the “Taiwan independence” forces on the island. It can be said that the “Taiwan independence” forces have become the main hidden danger of detonating Taiwan Strait crises and cross-Strait risks. Mainland China, through proactive and proactive crisis management strategies, has effectively curbed the attempts of the “Taiwan independence” forces to separate Taiwan from Chinese territory. In this way, Taiwan Strait crises and cross-Strait risks can always be controlled to a certain extent and scope so that the situation never goes completely out of control. This, of course, has something to do with the mainland’s appropriate crisis management strategies. Judging from the actual situation, although the DPP has won a ruling position twice, the Green Camp authorities do not dare to ignore the reality on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and do not dare to pursue a radical “Taiwan independence” line and can only adopt the policy orientation of maintaining the status quo. As such, the “Taiwan independence” forces can only admit defeat.14
(ii) Preventing external intervention
Observing the practice of crisis management in the Taiwan Strait in the past three decades, external forces must be prevented from intervening in the Taiwan issue. External causes of Taiwan Strait crises and risk outbreaks must be vigorously eliminated in order to effectively maintain “One China.” Because of this, over the past 30 years, the mainland has resolutely curbed the Taiwan authorities’ various “Taiwan independence” separatist acts in the international community and has actively sought the understanding and support of the international community for China’s position against “Taiwan independence” to great effect. At present, the vast majority of countries in the world adhere to the “One China” policy. More and more countries have clearly expressed their opposition to “Taiwan independence,” opposing any words and deeds of the Taiwan authorities aimed at changing Taiwan’s status and moving towards “Taiwan independence” and any acts by the Taiwan authorities to undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The Taiwan authorities’ attempts to “return to the United Nations” and squeeze into the World Health Organization have been thwarted year after year. The remarkable achievements in Taiwan-related diplomatic work have effectively upheld the one-China principle in the international community.
In terms of preventing external forces, especially the vigorous intervention in the Taiwan issue in the 1990s by the United States, China has successively strengthened its management of the Taiwan Strait crisis through political, economic, and especially military means, and has also made the United States realize the sensitivity and severity of the Taiwan issue. Since then, the leaders of the Taiwan region have not been able to visit the United States during their term of office, which is also an important achievement of our side in strengthening the management of the crisis in the Taiwan Strait. In addition, taking Taiwan’s foreign military relations as an example, it is through crisis management that mainland China has effectively prevented the intervention of external forces. In the 1990s, European countries were keen to carry out arms sales to Taiwan, especially France’s sale of Mirage 2000 aircraft to Taiwan. This undoubtedly triggered pressure on crisis management in the Taiwan Strait. If we did not block the way for France to sell arms to Taiwan and will indirectly induce other European countries and even other regional countries to follow France’s example of selling arms to Taiwan. To this end, China strengthened crisis management, and ultimately, the French government promised not to allow French companies to participate in arming Taiwan in the future.15 For us, blocking the way for France to sell arms to Taiwan dispelled the notion for other European countries to follow the example of France in selling arms to Taiwan. Under the international situation at the time, this was indeed a very difficult achievement.
(iii) Adhering to the idea of development
The core of crisis management in the Taiwan Strait is to face the essence of the Taiwan issue. The Taiwan issue itself is extremely complex, involving not only the entanglements and disputes in the past but also true power and interests. Therefore, dealing with Taiwan-related issues requires grand strategic thinking so that the efficiency of crisis management can be achieved. In fact, as long as the Taiwan issue has not been completely resolved, any form of crisis management across the Taiwan Strait will only serve as a temporary cooling effect, as there is no way to fundamentally eliminate the root cause of the Taiwan Strait crisis. In other words, the outbreaks of Taiwan Strait crises will exist for a long time to come. Therefore, it is necessary to think about the Taiwan issue from the perspective of development and from the perspective of serving the national strategy. Only in this way can Taiwan Strait crises and cross-Strait risks be effectively dealt with.
At present, the use of development thinking and strategies to solve the Taiwan issue and deal with crises in the Taiwan Strait and its risks is to place the solution of the Taiwan issue in China’s overall thinking of state governance. We must strengthen the management of the Taiwan Strait crises by improving the effectiveness of governance. In fact, the concepts of cross-Strait integration and development currently proposed by mainland China well reflect the meaning of governance.
(iv) Promoting institutionalized negotiations
For the management of Taiwan Strait crises, it is particularly important to promote the construction of an institutionalized communication mechanism. Under the circumstance that the structural contradiction between the two sides has not been resolved, the importance of an institutionalized communication and consultation mechanism across the Taiwan Strait for resolving the Taiwan Strait crisis is self-evident. In the past 30 years, the institutionalized consultation mechanism between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait has also made some progress and achieved many achievements. For example, at the beginning of the opening up of cross-Strait non-governmental exchanges, especially around 1990, a small number of people in the coastal areas of Fujian went to Taiwan privately, and this caused several tragic incidents around repatriation. In this situation, the Red Cross organizations on both sides of the strait played an important role in communication and signed a repatriation operation agreement to incorporate the repatriation of smugglers into standardized procedures; this is the famous “Kinmen Agreement” of cross-Strait relations. The SEF and the ARATS were established in 1990 and 1991, respectively, as non-governmental organizations with permanent authorization on both sides of the Strait. The “Two Sessions” were described by the media as having “white glove” roles and functions. With the in-depth development of cross-Strait exchanges, the interaction between the institutions and persons in charge of cross-Strait affairs has become necessary, and it is also an important institutionalized attempt to deal with the Taiwan Strait crisis and cross-Strait risks. In 2014, Zhang Zhijun, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, and Wang Yuqi, head of Taiwan’s “Mainland Commission,” met in Nanjing, officially opening the mechanism for normalized communication between cross-Strait affairs agencies and their leaders. This is one of the important mechanisms for both sides to deal with crises and risks. In addition, the more than 20 agreements signed by the two sides of the Strait in the past are also an important part of the cross-Strait system consultation mechanism, which has played an important role in resolving Taiwan Strait crises.
At present, the difficulties between the two sides of the Strait are mainly due to the unwillingness of the DPP to return to the common political consensus between the two sides after returning to power. This is the biggest challenge in promoting the institutionalized consultation mechanism between the two sides. Observing from the 30-year history of cross-Strait people-to-people exchanges, institutionalized communication channels are very important, and although this communication channel is not enough to resolve all disputes between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, its effectiveness is quite limited. However, for the management of the Taiwan Strait crisis, establishing cross-Strait communication channels are crucial to advance the institutionalized consultation mechanism across the Taiwan Strait.
30 years of people-to-people exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have written a moving chapter from enmity to reconciliation between the two sides of the Strait.16 Although the Taiwan issue is China’s core national interest, based on the overall strategy of national development, the mainland considers the solution to the Taiwan issue under the grand strategy of mainland China’s economic development and national rejuvenation. Mainland China hopes to gradually create a better internal and external environment for resolving the Taiwan issue through the road of development and opening up. This is an important consideration for Taiwan’s strategy. It is under the guidance of this line of thinking that in the past three decades, mainland China has adopted a relatively restrained and pragmatic approach to the management of Taiwan Strait crises and cross-Strait risks. This effectively guarantees the advancement of the main task. At the same time, this has not made the Taiwan issue fall out of control. It has not only provided a more favorable situation for the resolutions of Taiwan Strait crises but has also created more conditions for the final settlement of the Taiwan issue.