Xi Jinping’s Taiwan Policy and Its Impact on Cross-Strait Relations


Syaru Shirley Lin
Saturday, June 1, 2019

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.

Resolution of the Taiwan issue has emerged as an integral part of what Xi Jinping has described as the “Chinese Dream.”  At the Nineteenth Party Congress in 2017, Xi emphasized Beijing’s desire for unification and its strong opposition to Taiwanese independence.  In March 2018, as constitutional term limits on the state presidency were lifted and it appeared that Xi would become a long-term leader, he was even more outspoken about the importance of unification for the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”[1]  Overall, Beijing’s Taiwan policy is proceeding on the same path that it has followed during last thirty years with louder pronouncements and greater pressures, but also with sweeter incentives for different parts of Taiwanese society.  The reaction to Xi’s policy in China is mixed.  Supporters of Xi’s approach see some Taiwanese responding positively to his tactics, while others believe Beijing has not changed the island’s long-term trajectory.  The hardline elements in Xi’s policy are also affecting American policy, which under the Trump administration has begun to upgrade relations with Taiwan.


Xi Jinping’s Taiwan Policy


Beijing’s policy toward Taiwan under Xi Jinping remains within the strategy set by Deng Xiaoping, believing that Beijing’s upholding of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and unification reflects the common wish of the Chinese people.[2]  In the December 2018 run-up to the fortieth anniversary of reform and opening, Xi Jinping reiterated his firm opposition to Taiwan independence and the secessionist movement and he insisted that the ’92 Consensus and “one China” principle be the basis for cross-Strait relations.[3]  The continuity in Taiwan policy was underscored during Xi’s July meeting with leaders of Taiwan’s pan-Blue party, including Vincent Siew and Lien Chan, when he demanded that the Taishang uphold the ’92 Consensus.[4]  The most important message in all of Xi’s 2018 speeches was the paramount importance of preventing the emergence of any secessionist movement.


On January 1, 2019, in his first speech on Taiwan as president, Xi reiterated that unification must be the ultimate goal of cross-Strait relations.  While setting no deadline, Xi did not rule out the possible use of force, and he demanded that unification would adopt the One Country, Two Systems (OCTS) framework and that Taiwan’s democracy should not be a “pretext” to reject the OCTS:[5]


Difference in systems is not an obstacle to reunification; it is certainly no excuse for separation.  The principle of “one country, two systems” was proposed precisely to accommodate Taiwan’s actual conditions and to safeguard the interests and wellbeing of our compatriots in Taiwan. …  Provided that China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests are ensured, after peaceful reunification, Taiwan’s social system and its way of life will be fully respected, and the private property, religious beliefs, and lawful rights and interests of our compatriots in Taiwan will be fully protected. 


Internationally, China has convinced five countries to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan after the DPP returned to power in 2016.[6]  Furthermore, Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the World Health Assembly, where Taiwan had been an observer on an ad hoc basis, has again been restricted.[7]  Taiwan’s exclusion from the ICAO was followed by Beijing unilaterally adding three extensions to the M503 flight route through the Taiwan Strait.[8]  


Economically, China has reduced the number of group tourists to Taiwan by 36 percent since the DPP came to power,[9] and China has put pressure on corporations to identify Taiwan as part of China on packaging and brochures as well as on their websites.  The three largest American airlines, as well as hotel chains and Japanese retailers, ­have complied with this Chinese demand.[10]  The party’s ever-expanding United Front efforts are increasingly focused on co-opting Taiwanese businessmen and politicians to support unification and on promoting youth activities through the creation of organizations such as the Association of New Chinese Sons and Daughters and the Chinese Culture Rejuvenation Association at the National Taiwan University.[11]  In addition, China has reportedly provided nearly half a billion U.S. dollars to the cracker-maker Want Want, which owns China Times, one of Taiwan’s leading newspapers, and other proxy companies to penetrate Taiwan through media and social activities.[12]  There was much reporting on fake news, especially on social media and messaging apps originating in Beijing ahead of the Taiwanese local elections.[13]  Tsai Ing-wen and other officials have publicly denounced efforts to influence operations, but only recently has Taiwan’s National Security Bureau reportedly obtained evidence identifying Beijing as the source of these false reports.[14] 


Technologically, China offers benefits to Taiwanese companies for being part of the “Made in China 2025” project.[15]  Historically, Taiwanese firms helped transfer know-how, talent, and capital to jumpstart the Chinese semiconductor industry.[16]  There has long been collaboration and collusion on semiconductors between Chinese and Taiwanese firms and individuals.  But the technology war between the U.S. and China has brought increased scrutiny to this China-Taiwan nexus.[17]  In April 2018, a Taiwan local court indicted a former Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company employee who stole trade secrets for a Chinese IC firm in Wuxi.[18]  In November 2018, a San Francisco court, based on evidence obtained from Taiwan, indicted United Microelectronics Corporation, Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit, and three Taiwanese nationals for theft of intellectual property.[19]


Militarily, Beijing has become increasingly assertive in the air and at sea, conducting numerous drills in the vicinity of Taiwan.  On March 21, 2018, the same day of Xi’s speech on Taiwan policy, the PLA sent an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait.[20]  In April 2019, the PLA Air Force conducted drills involving fighters, bombers, and reconnaissance planes to threaten Taiwan.  The launch of the type-055 destroyer in 2017–18 demonstrated China had had produced the most advanced warships in Asia, surpassing Japanese and Korean destroyers.[21]  In May 2019, Beijing conducted live-fire drills at the northern end of the Taiwan Strait to demonstrate its combat capabilities.


Politically, Beijing is supporting pro-China candidates and their associates in the upcoming 2020 Taiwanese presidential election, with the primary objective of defeating the DPP.  However, the emergence of a diverse set of candidates has complicated Beijing’s strategy.  Several potential opposition front-runners for the 2020 presidential election have visited China, leaving the public wondering whether they have received indirect or even direct support from Beijing.  Most notably, in March 2019 Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu visited Hong Kong, Macao, Shenzhen, and Xiamen and met with the directors of Beijing’s Liaison Office in both of the special administrative regions.[22]  China is also punishing individuals regarded as hostile, preventing them from visiting China, blocking their access to Hong Kong, and even arresting some during their visits to China.[23] 


While sanctioning the DPP government and its sympathizers, Beijing has also provided economic incentives targeting a broader segment of Taiwan’s population, especially those who have not been supportive of the Kuomintang (KMT).  In February 2017, Beijing rolled out the “31 Preferential Measures for Taiwanese Compatriots” to target individuals and businesses that may not have received benefits from cross-Strait cooperation in the past, including creating a “31 measures” app to facilitate access to the incentives.[24]  Beijing’s promotion of a variety of commercial, educational, and employment opportunities to young people, businesses, and professionals has been welcome in many sectors and has sparked a brain drain from Taiwan to China.[25]  Furthermore, economic rewards, such as large import orders for fruits, were offered to cities that had defeated the DPP in the 2018 local elections.  In September 2018, China began accepting applications by Taiwanese and Hong Kongers to gain residency in China and to receive national treatment in terms of medical, educational and pension benefits, just as Beijing is beginning to absorb Hong Kong into the Greater Bay Area.[26] 


Taiwanese Reaction to Chinese Policy


After Taiwan democratized in the late 1980s, and despite greater economic interdependence with China, Taiwan continued to consolidate a national identity that is more Taiwanese than Chinese.[27]  Because of the contradictions between Beijing’s positive and negative incentives and the selective nature of the carrots being offered, Beijing’s policy toward Taiwan has had only a limited impact on Taiwanese public opinion.  The overall trend from 2010 to 2018 reveals that fewer than 4 percent of Taiwanese identify as exclusively “Chinese” and more than 90 percent identify as “Taiwanese” or as “both Taiwanese and Chinese.”  Furthermore, in terms of preference for their political future, more than 85 percent of Taiwanese support maintaining the status quo in some form, and only a minority favor unification.  In March 2014, the strongest backlash against China since the 1995–96 missile crisis took place in the form of a student protest, the Sunflower Movement, protesting the ratification of a service trade agreement with China.  This coincided with a peak in the percentage of people who identified as exclusively “Taiwanese” and supported some form of independence.[28]


However, beginning in 2014, those who support Xi’s Taiwan policy can point to gradual changes in favor of Beijing, some even contending they may represent the beginning of a long-term trend.  The proportion of the population identifying as exclusively Taiwanese has dropped from 61 percent to 55 percent, with an increase in dual Chinese and Taiwanese identity.  In 2018, support for immediate or eventual independence dropped from 24 percent to 20 percent.  Meanwhile, support for immediate or eventual unification has increased from 9 percent to 16 percent.  The biggest gain is in the category of “maintain status quo, move toward unification” rather than immediate unification.[29]  These survey results may reinforce Beijing’s belief that the “bigger sticks and sweeter carrots” have produced results, especially in the face of Taiwan’s worsening socio-economic problems.[30]  The desire of many Taiwanese for certainty and stability may also have contributed to the slight uptick in support for eventual unification.


Nonetheless, there are two issues that these survey results do not address.  First, Beijing has made it clear that unification must be based on the OCTS framework, which Deng Xiaoping had said would apply to Taiwan as well as to Hong Kong.  Skeptical about the OCTS framework even before the Hong Kong handover, the Taiwanese now have even greater doubts given the recent events in Hong Kong.[31]  Despite Beijing’s efforts to encourage the restoration of a Chinese identity in both Hong Kong and Taiwan, young people seem to have developed an even stronger separate identity under Xi’s hardline policy.[32]  This was most evident in the backlash against Xi’s January 2019 speech, which was delivered just after Tsai resigned as chairman of the DPP to take responsibility for the party’s crushing defeat in the 2018 local elections.  Xi’s aggressive approach gave Tsai an unexpected opportunity to regain public support.  After she issued a forceful rejection of Xi’s speech in which she emphasized that “democratic values are the values and way of life that Taiwanese cherish,” her popularity rose dramatically.[33]  Polls conducted after the Tsai-Xi exchange and again in March 2019 confirm that the majority of Taiwanese do not accept either the OCTS framework or the 1992 Consensus.[34]  Furthermore, respondents identifying with the KMT and the People First Party, as well as those affiliated with the DPP, all rejected the OCTS formula.[35]  


Second, these non-age-specific polls do not reflect the degree of resistance to Chinese overtures among young people.  During the last thirty years, the increase in a Taiwanese identity has been highest among the younger generations.  While open-minded and pragmatic, young Taiwanese have a “naturally green” attitude and a firm Taiwanese identity, reflecting the fact that they have grown up in a democratic and free society.  One of the age-specific surveys showing such trends, Duke University’s Asian Security Studies Program, has tracked self-identification by age group since 2002.  The 2019 survey shows that the youngest cohort, under the age of 30, has the lowest percentage of respondents identifying as exclusively “Chinese,” at 0.5 percent in 2019 and 0 percent in 2015.[36]  This youngest cohort also displayed the lowest support for unification, which remained at 5 percent in 2019, the same as that in 2015, and the highest support for independence at 28 percent.  Many analysts therefore believe that the slight shifts in the polls were mainly among the older generations, ages 40–49 and 50–59.[37]  The political views of the youngest Taiwanese, more than half a million of whom will be eligible to vote for the first time in 2020, are very different from those of their elders as well as from those of young people on the mainland.  They are overwhelmingly Taiwanese, and they insist on living in a democratic and autonomous country.  They prioritize equity and sustainability as well as growth; they want a more inclusive and just society and promoted the legalization of same-sex marriage.[38]  Most importantly for Beijing, they mistrust existing institutions and established political parties, with 60 percent not supportive of either the DPP or the KMT, much higher than the percentage in the general population, and nearly half report that they do not belong to either party.[39] Although eager to work and study in China, they are also insistent on safeguarding Taiwan’s democracy and they are not interested in moving to China permanently.[40]  They are dissatisfied that Taiwan must compete in the Olympics and participate in international organizations under names like “Chinese Taipei” rather than “Taiwan” or the Republic of China.  


The best example of this generational divide is young people’s support for Taipei’s non-partisan mayor Ko Wen-je, who is a far more controversial figure among the older generations.[41] On cross-Strait relations, Ko has maintained an ambiguous stance, not affirming the ‘92 Consensus but also declaring that “both sides of the Strait belong to one family.”  The deep green believe that Ko goes too far, and the deep blue feel that he does not go far enough.  However, young voters who are firmly Taiwanese prefer Ko, regarding him as having a strong commitment to progressive values, a no-nonsense approach to governance, and pragmatic views about cross-Strait relations.[42]


Results of Taiwan’s 2018 Mid-term Mayoral Election


For Beijing, more reassuring than these slight changes in Taiwanese society’s attitudes toward unification and national identity are the outcomes of the frequent rounds of elections on the island.  Soon after the 2014 Sunflower Movement, the KMT suffered a huge defeat in the 2014 local elections and then in the 2016 national election, allowing the DPP for the first time to gain control of both the executive and legislative branches.  In addition, five first-time anti-China young legislators, all of whom were leaders in the Sunflower Movement, formed the New Power Party and successfully entered the Legislative Yuan.


Beijing’s vindication came in the November 2018 mid-term local elections when the political landscape changed once again and the KMT won 15 of the 22 mayoral elections.  In a most surprising victory for the KMT, Kaohsiung voters elected Han Kuo-yu, ending the DPP’s twenty-year hold on the southern city.  Much of what Taiwan’s voters had given to the DPP in 2014 and 2016, they took away in 2018.  China Daily immediately returned the verdict that the DPP’s “secessionism has forced cross-Straits ties into a deadlock, causing Taiwan to fall behind the mainland market in many industries, including tourism and agricultural exports.”[43] 


There are many explanations about the implications of the results of the election.  But it is clear that these dramatic political developments occurred in the context of Taiwan’s deepening socio-economic problems after Ma Ying-jeou’s eight years of pro-China economic policies.  During Ma’s last two years in office, Taiwan’s GDP growth rate dropped to under 2 percent and Taiwan’s trade surplus with China fell to a ten-year low.  To make matters worse, China’s own economic growth has begun to slow as it enters its own middle-income trap, a situation exacerbated by its trade war with the United States.  The prospect that China can serve as an engine of growth for Taiwan—the basic assumption behind Ma’s economic strategy—has therefore declined.  Ironically, under Tsai, cross-Strait interdependence has actually deepened and the trade surplus has recovered since 2016, reaching a new peak of US$43 billion in 2018.  Investments in China, however, have declined to the lowest level since 2006—US$8.5 billion—that may reflect both pressure from the US-China trade war as well as the increasing costs of manufacturing in China.[44]


After taking office, Tsai Ing-wen immediately sought to find new economic partners in Southeast and South Asia through the New Southbound Policy and to develop new sources of domestic economic growth through stimulus plans, such as the 5+2 Industrial Innovation Plan and the Forward-Looking Infrastructure Development Program.  Although there has been some success in expanding markets for Taiwanese exports and outbound investments and in finding new sources of inbound tourists, most of these policies have yet to produce substantial results.  Tsai has also implemented long-needed domestic reforms in order to address some of Taiwan’s structural issues, including pension reforms to reduce the payout to civil servants and the military, labor reforms to limit working hours and raise the minimum wage, and energy policies to phase out nuclear power and preserve environmental sustainability.  But because of poor policy design and lack of consultation with different stakeholders, these well-intentioned reforms have created more public opposition than anticipated.[45] 


Thus after only two years of DPP leadership, in 2018 voters returned to the polls to deliver a rebuke to the DPP that was as dramatic as the reproach the KMT experienced two years earlier.  These quick changes in voter preferences from KMT to DPP and back again confirm that Taiwanese voters have weak party affiliations.  Most analysts see the 2018 election results as primarily reflecting a high level of dissatisfaction with the design and implementation of policy under the Tsai administration and not necessarily closely tied to the candidates’ views on cross-Strait relations.


In the run-up to the January 2020 presidential election, there is already a long list of candidates and many potential combinations of tickets and outcomes.[46]  In addition to independent Mayor Ko, the KMT has several candidates vying for nomination, including rising star Mayor Han, old guard Mayor Eric Chu of New Taipei, and businessman Terry Gou.  In an attempt to show voters that he is endorsed by both the U.S. and China, Gou has visited Donald Trump and the governor of Wisconsin, where his primarily China-based company Foxconn is making a major investment.[47]  On the DPP side, former premier William Lai with his deep green base is contesting the DPP nomination, while Tsai Ing-wen is trying to hold on to her support from moderates.[48]  No candidate can afford to appear to be overly cozy with Beijing: Even Han Kuo-yu remains guarded, and Ko Wen-je has backed away from his earlier statements that Chinese and Taiwanese are all members of “one family.”  Taiwan’s politics thus will continue to be volatile, moving from one extreme to another, as election day approaches.


This leaves the outcome of the 2020 presidential and legislative elections in considerable doubt.  Cross-Strait relations always play a greater role in presidential contests than in local elections, but it is likely that discussions of the issue will remain within the new context of finding the most effective way of addressing Taiwan’s domestic problems while preserving the autonomy that the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese want.  If it pressures Taiwan too much, Beijing may tilt the balance in favor of those candidates who pledge to stand firm against Chinese intimidation.  Such a development would create even more obstacles to further economic integration with China, let alone unification.


American Policy in Support of Taiwan Under Trump


As Xi has emphasized that Taiwan is a core Chinese interest more than any of his predecessors since Deng Xiaoping, the U.S. has redefined its China policy in ways that put Taiwan at the center of its hegemonic rivalry with China.  After president-elect Trump accepted a phone call from Tsai Ing-wen in December 2016, several American initiatives to upgrade U.S.-Taiwan relations have alarmed Beijing.


In March 2018, Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act, which called for more official exchanges with Taiwan.  Despite Xi’s stern opposition to the legislation, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Alex Wong promptly visited Taipei.[49]  In June 2018, the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei, completed construction of a US$250 million new complex which was formally opened in April 2019 with a visit by former House Speaker Paul Ryan and a host of other officials.[50]  There is strong bi-partisan support for Taiwan in Congress and among defense officials, as demonstrated by passage of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act in August 2018.  The law supports further military ties with Taiwan and requires an annual report on Chinese influence in U.S. media, culture, business, and academia.[51]  In December 2018, the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act was signed with a reaffirmation of the American commitment to Taiwan.[52]  This was reinforced by a concurrent resolution reaffirming the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances.[53]  Congress followed up by passing the Taiwan Assurance Act in May 2019, awaiting Senate and Presidential approval, which contains a section committing the U.S. to advocate for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international bodies, including the UN and the ICAO.[54]


Militarily, a fresh round of arms sales worth US$330 million was approved in October 2018, following the June 2017 US$1.4 billion sale of advanced missiles and torpedoes.[55]  As the U.S. develops its Indo-Pacific strategy, Taiwan might have finally been able to purchase the most advanced weapons since 1992, including F-16 fighter jets and M-1 Abrams tanks.  However, those sales were postponed by the Trump administration immediately thereafter as a conciliatory gesture to Beijing amidst trade war negotiations, suggesting that arms sales to Taiwan may become a bargaining chip in the rising U.S.-China tensions.[56]


At the beginning of 2019, a Defense Intelligence Agency report highlighted Taiwan’s vulnerability to China.[57]  In its Annual Report to Congress on China in May 2019, the Defense Department also emphasized the Chinese build-up across the Strait and the importance of assisting Taiwan.[58]  Increasing U.S. support is demonstrated by American warships passing through the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, followed by similar actions by the other allied navies, despite the opposition expressed by Beijing.[59]  However, even if the U.S. were to approve further arms sales, there is little support among the Taiwanese public to increase spending on defense and there is a renewed pushback from the KMT against appropriating funds for the arms-sales budget as a way of criticizing the DPP for its allegedly provocative policies toward the mainland.[60]


All of these modifications of American Taiwan policy are still presented as remaining within the U.S. “one China” policy.  But forty years after normalization, there is increasing debate over whether that policy is still appropriate or whether it needs reconsideration and revision.  Some argue for an even closer relationship with Taiwan in light of Beijing’s more assertive policy toward the island and Taiwan’s movement toward democratization.  Supporters of this position see Taiwan as an increasingly important part of the “free and open Indo-Pacific region” that Washington is promoting and among the community of democracies in that region.  Others argue that the rise of Chinese military power makes the American commitment to Taiwan’s security increasingly costly and risky, such that some accommodation to the Chinese position, perhaps through endorsement of unification as the eventual outcome of the Taiwan issue or tighter limits on American arms sales to Taiwan.  Still others believe that America’s present policy allows enough room for flexibility and that any change in either direction would introduce an undesirable level of uncertainty. 


At the same time as the Americans are reconsidering their policy toward Taiwan, other aspects of America’s policy toward China, especially the increased tariffs across several industries, have had an impact on the island, making Taiwanese firms and the Taishang unintended victims. For example, the American steel and aluminum tariffs levied on all countries have hurt Taiwanese steel companies that export to the U.S.[61] In addition, many of the Taiwanese firms that account for the cumulative US$182 billion of Taiwanese investment in China sell parts to exporters to the U.S. or directly export to the U.S. market and thus are adversely affected by the tariffs. Finally, those who sell Taiwanese-made parts or machinery to Chinese companies that export to the U.S are also being hurt.[62]


American concern about the theft of intellectual property in sensitive areas, such as semiconductors, has already caught up with Taiwanese companies as well as Taiwanese engineers who have worked for American clients but have illicitly transferred some of the knowledge they acquired on the job to Chinese competitors.  Caught between the two competing superpowers, Taiwan may rely on the U.S. for its security but its economic fate is tied much more closely to China.




Since the DPP took power from the KMT in 2016, Taiwan has faced an increasingly assertive China and growing U.S.-China rivalry.  Xi has repeatedly made unification an important objective, both domestically and internationally.  Washington has upgraded various aspects of U.S.-Taiwan relations which could prove to be a double-edged sword for Taiwan.  Under such pressure from China, some Taiwanese, particularly the older generations, have begun to warm to the idea of unification.  However, young Taiwanese continue to prioritize safeguarding Taiwan’s democracy and way of life, and few Taiwanese of any age show support for unification based on the Hong Kong model. 


Looking forward, while there is no discernable change of attitudes among young people, the combination of Xi’s hardline approach and his economic incentives has created an opening for Beijing if it were to propose a more flexible and credible framework for unification.  But if Beijing insists on its OCTS formula and continues to govern Hong Kong as it has, the gap between Beijing and the Taiwanese will continue to grow.  Moreover, the U.S. and Taiwan may become even closer if China steps up its threats to Taiwan’s security and the two major powers engage in more intense competition over their political values and systems of governance.

About the Contributor

Syaru Shirley Lin is Adjunct Associate Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Lecturer at the University of Virginia.  She has also taught at Tsinghua University (Beijing) and National Chengchi University (Taipei).  Her book, Taiwan’s China Dilemma, on the impact of the evolution of Taiwanese national identity on cross-Strait economic policy was published by Stanford University Press in 2016 and in Chinese in 2019.  Prof. Lin is currently working on the high income trap in East Asia.  Her commentaries frequently appear in both English and Chinese media.  She graduated from Harvard College and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Hong Kong.  Previously, she was a partner at Goldman Sachs, where she led the firm’s private equity and venture capital efforts in Asia.  She spearheaded the firm’s investments in many technology start-ups and was a founding board member of the Alibaba Group and the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation.  She also specialized in the privatization of state-owned enterprises in China and Singapore.  Prof. Lin currently serves on the boards of Goldman Sachs Asia Bank, Langham Hospitality Investments, and Mercuries Life Insurance.  She is also a director of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation and was appointed by the Hong Kong government a member of the Committee for Pacific Economic Cooperation.


[1] “Speech Delivered by Xi Jinping at the First Session of the 13th NPC,” China Daily, March 21, 2018, at https://www.chinadailyhk.com/articles/184/187/127/1521628772832.html

[2] Alan D. Romberg, “Cross-Strait Relations: Skepticism Abounds,” China Leadership Monitor, no. 54 (Fall 2017), at https://www.hoover.org/research/cross-strait-relations-skepticism-abounds

[3] “习近平: 在庆祝改革开放40周年大会上的讲话,” 新华社, December 18, 2018, at http://www.xinhuanet.com/politics/2018-12/18/c_1123872025.htm

[4] “习近平会见连战一行,” July 13, 2018, at http://www.gwytb.gov.cn/wyly/201807/t20180713_12035472.htm

[5] Xi Jinping, “Working Together to Realize Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation and Advance China’s Peaceful Reunification: Speech at the Meeting Marking the 40th Anniversary of the Issuance of the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan,” Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, the People’s Republic of China, January 2, 2019, at http://www.gwytb.gov.cn/wyly/201904/t20190412_12155687.htm and Chris Buckley and Chris Horton, “Xi Jinping warns Taiwan that unification is the goal and force is an option,” New York Times, January 1, 2019, at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/01/world/asia/xi-jinping-taiwan-china.html 

[6] Chris Horton, “El Salvador recognizes China in blow to Taiwan,” New York Times, August 21, 2018, at


[7] Jess Macy Yu, “Taiwan blames China for absence from U.N. health meeting,” Reuters, May 8, 2018, at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-taiwan-china-health/taiwan-blames-china-for-absence-from-u-n-health-meeting-idUSKBN1I90J0; Alan D. Romberg, “Cross-Strait Relations: Marking Time,” China Leadership Monitor, no. 53 (May 25, 2017), at http://www.hoover.org/sites/default/files/research/docs/clm_53ar.pdf, 4-6.

[8] Being left out of the ICAO means Taiwan has no recourse if Beijing’s expanded air routes create problems in the future. To further understand the history and implications of Beijing’s actions, see “A Primer on M503 and Civil Aviation in Asia,” Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), March 14, 2018, at https://amti.csis.org/primer-m503-civil-aviation-asia/

[9] In 2018, 2.69 million Chinese tourists visited Taiwan, compared with 4.18 million in 2015, Tourism Statistics Database of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, at https://stat.taiwan.net.tw/

[10] “Three biggest US airlines bow to China Taiwan demand as deadline passes,” BBC, July 25, 2018, at  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-44948599 and “China fines retailer Muji for listing Taiwan as a country,” BBC, May 24, 2016, at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-44234270

[11] Sonny Shiu-Hing Lo, “Chapter Ten: Co-opting Individuals with External Implications – Business Elites, Democrats, Civil Servants, Educators and Taiwanese,” in Sonny Shiu-Hing Lo, Steven Chung-Fun Hung, and, Jeff Hai-Chi Loo, China’s New United Front Work in Hong Kong: Penetrative Politics and Its Implications (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).

[12] J. Michael Cole, “An Analysis of Possible Chinese Influence Operations Against Taiwan: The Want-Want Case,” The Prospect Foundation, May 6, 2019, at https://www.pf.org.tw/article-pfch-2049-6473

[13] James Reinl, “'Fake news' rattles Taiwan ahead of elections,” Al Jazeera News, November 22, 2018, at  https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/11/news-rattles-taiwan-elections-181123005140173.html

[14] “誰是中共同路媒體?國安局拒點名,” 聯合新聞網, May 2, 2019, at https://udn.com/news/story/11323/3790508; Yimou Lee, “Taiwan says China has stepped up infiltration efforts,” Reuters, May 10, 2019, at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-taiwan/taiwan-says-china-has-stepped-up-infiltration-efforts-idUSKCN1SG08F

[15] “惠台31條 全面落實同等待遇,” 中時電子報, May 2, 2019, at https://www.chinatimes.com/newspapers/20190502000129-260301?chdtv

[16] James A. Lewis, “Learning the Superior Techniques of the Barbarians: China’s Pursuit of Semiconductor Independence,” CSIS, January 2019, at


[17] “The semiconductor industry and the power of globalisation,” The Economist, December 1, 2018, at https://www.economist.com/briefing/2018/12/01/the-semiconductor-industry-and-the-power-of-globalisation

[18] Matthew Fulco, “Semiconductor firms strive to contain trade-secret theft,” Taiwan Business TOPICS, September 19, 2018, at  https://topics.amcham.com.tw/2018/09/semiconductor-firms-strive-to-contain-trade-secret-theft/

[19] Ibid.

[20] “China sends carrier through Taiwan Strait after Xi Jinping warns against separatism,” South China Morning Post (SCMP), March 21, 2019, at https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2138165/china-sends-carrier-through-taiwan-strait-after-xi 

[21] Liu Zhen, “China boosts naval power with Asia’s most advanced warship,” SCMP, June 28, 2017, at https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2100335/china-launches-its-best-and-biggest-warship-push-build

[22] On suspicion surrounding Han’s visit to China, see, Chen Mao-hsiung, “Han Kuo-yu giving the DPP much-needed help,” Taipei Times, April 12, 2019, at


[23] Brian Hioe, “China retaliates against continued advocacy for Lee Ming-che’s release,” New Bloom, February 4, 2019, at https://newbloommag.net/2019/02/04/lee-ming-che-retaliate/

[24] Kristin Huang, “Taiwanese given ‘equal status’ on China’s mainland, but is Beijing just trying to buy their support?” SCMP, March 1, 2018, at  https://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2135291/taiwanese-given-equal-status-chinas-mainland-beijing; for details of the “31 preferential measures at the provincial and central levels, see “31條一周年/《31條惠台措施》「涵蓋22省區」盤點15地實施成果,” ETtoday新聞雲, February 27, 2019,  at https://www.ettoday.net/news/20190227/1320280.htm; for details of the popular app, see “31條一周年/被動接收變主動掌握 「31條」APP提升惠台效率” ETtoday新聞雲, February 28, 2019, at  https://www.ettoday.net/news/20190228/1389163.htm

[25] Simon Denyer, “Taiwan battles a brain drain as China aims to woo young talent,” The Washington Post, April 15, 2018, at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/taiwan-battles-a-brain-drain-as-china-aims-to-woo-young-talent-away/2018/04/13/338d096e-3940-11e8-af3c-2123715f78df_story.html?utm_term=.3974186b86ab and

“心仪大陆名校 纷纷用脚投票 台湾学生“登陆”求学蔚然成风,” 新华网, March 21, 2019, at http://www.xinhuanet.com/tw/2019-03/21/c_1210087933.htm

[26] Jane Zhang and Alvin Lum, “Early bird applications filed for new ID card giving Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan residents in mainland China wide access to public services,” SCMP, September 1, 2019, at https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/2162343/early-bird-applications-come-new-id-card-giving-hong-kong and Zhang Yangfei, “Taiwan applicants rush for mainland resident card,” China Daily, September 13, 2018, at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201809/13/WS5b99a2daa31033b4f4655b7e.html

[27] Syaru Shirley Lin, Taiwan’s China Dilemma: Contested Identities and Multiple Interests in Taiwan’s Cross-Strait Economic Policy (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016).

[28] “Trends of Core Political Attitudes (1992/06~2018/12),” Election Study Center (ESC), National Chengchi University, at https://esc.nccu.edu.tw/course/news.php?Sn=167

[29] Ibid.

[30] “大陆惠台措施赢得多数台湾民众认同,” 新华社, March 10, 2018, at http://www.xinhuanet.com/tw/2018-03/10/c_1122518150.htm

[31] Syaru Shirley Lin, “Analyzing the Relationship between Identity and Democratization in Taiwan and Hong Kong in the Shadow of China,” The ASAN Forum, December 20, 2018, at http://www.theasanforum.org/analyzing-the-relationship-between-identity-and-democratization-in-taiwan-and-hong-kong-in-the-shadow-of-china/

[32] Syaru Shirley Lin, “Bridging the Chinese National Identity Gap: Alternative Identities in Hong Kong and Taiwan,” Joint U.S.-Korea Academic Studies 25 (2014), at http://www.keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/syaru_shirley_lin.pdf

[33] “President Tsai issues statement on China's President Xi's ‘Message to Compatriots in Taiwan’,” Office of the President , Republic of China (Taiwan), January 2, 2019, at https://english.president.gov.tw/News/5621 and Chris Horton, “Faced with tough words from China, Taiwan rallies around its leader,” New York Times, January 19, 2019, at


[34] The latest survey was commissioned by the Mainland Affairs Council and conducted by the ESC: 臺灣民意不接受「一國兩制」, March 21, 2018, at

https://www.mac.gov.tw/News_Content.aspx?n=05B73310C5C3A632&sms=1A40B00E4C745211&s=D0EB21D18CDE079F.  Also see surveys commissioned immediately after the Tsai-Xi exchange by the Cross-Strait Policy Association: Stacy Hsu, “Over 80% reject ‘two systems,’ poll finds,” Taipei Times, January 10, 2019, at http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/01/10/2003707656; and by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation: Scott Morgan, “Taiwan rejects ‘one-China principle' as support for independence rises: poll,” January 21, 2019, at https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3622244

[35] For reactions to the OCTS proposal by Taiwan’s political parties and leaders, see:

“回应「习五条」 国民党声明:「一国两制」现阶段难获台湾多数民意支持,” 中時電子報, January 3, 2019, at https://www.chinatimes.com/cn/realtimenews/20190103002654-260407?chdtv;

“朱立倫:九二共識跟一國兩制完全是兩回事,” 中央通訊社, January 4, 2019, at https://www.cna.com.tw/news/acn/201901040061.aspx;

“習近平重申一國兩制 柯文哲:不被台灣主流民意接受,” 自由時報, January 3, 2019,

at https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/politics/breakingnews/2660400;

“談習近平一國兩制 賴清德:根本心戰喊話,” 自由時報, January 3, 2019, at


“九二共識等於一國兩制?王金平:那個是另外一回事,” ETtoday新聞雲, January 6, 2019, at https://www.ettoday.net/news/20190106/1349385.htm;

and “「手握心臟再說一遍」 韓國瑜:我反對一國兩制,” 聯合晚報, April 1, 2019, at https://udn.com/news/story/11311/3730861

[36] “Taiwan National Security Survey,” Asian Security Studies Program, Duke University, at https://sites.duke.edu/pass/taiwan-national-security-survey/

[37] For an analysis of these trends, see: 陳方隅 (Chen Fang-yu), “既是台灣人也是中國人-「雙重認同」止跌回升:是誰改變了?” 菜市場政治學, January 3, 2018, at http://whogovernstw.org/2018/01/03/fangyuchen23/

[38] For example, 80% of young people support same-sex marriage and were a driving force behind Taiwan’s legalization of same-sex marriage on May 17, 2019, the first in Asia. See Ralph Jennings, “Taiwan set to legalize same-sex marriages, a first in Asia,” Associated Press, https://apnews.com/e9c5b9c82abe4bc987f820aa104f2893, and農夫, “誰支持同性婚姻?從出生世代與教育程度觀察,” April 8, 2018, https://www.thenewslens.com/article/91572.  This had reverberations throughout the LGBTQ community in mainland China; see “For China’s LGBTQ people, Taiwan rainbow victory is a moment of joy and pain,” May 22, 2019, CNN News,


[39] “Taiwan National Security Survey” and “Trends of Core Political Attitudes (1992/06~2018/12)”

[40] “Survey on Taiwanese Young People’s Political Attitudes,” Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, April 19, 2018, t  http://www.tfd.org.tw/opencms/english/events/data/Event0682.html

[41] 西涼寺, “從太陽花到九合一(中): 年輕世代的「雙核心」政治觀,如何造就柯文哲的白色力量,” News Lens 關鍵評論, April 4, 2019, at https://www.thenewslens.com/feature/2018-2020/116436

[42] “2020選總統 韓國瑜贏面大 黑馬柯文哲緊追,” 遠見, May 8, 2019, at  https://www.gvm.com.tw/article.html?id=60830;

 林沄 ,   “「天然獨」世代,如何想像統獨?怎麼看柯文哲的「兩岸一家親」?”  端傳媒,

January 20, 2019, at https://theinitium.com/article/20190121-taiwan-kowenchih-younggeneration/

[43] Zhang Yi, “Mainland notes Taiwan elections reflect public will,” China Daily, November 26, 2018, at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201811/26/WS5bfaff73a310eff30328aeb2.html

[44] Ralph Jennings, “Taiwan is finally luring companies back from China after more than 15 years of trying,” SCMP, March 21, 2019, at https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3002699/taiwan-finally-luring-companies-back-china-after-more-15

[45] 林夏如, "後記 台灣的「高收入陷阱」與新南向政策,"《台灣的中國兩難:台灣認同下的兩岸經貿困境》, 陳方隅, 林添貴 (譯), 商周出版, 2019; see excerpt at https://theinitium.com/article/20190315-book-taiwan-high-income-trap/?fbclid=IwAR0Np6O2CRQ5_rmU577Im8gQGoR2clikoOMtQ1aqrWXo5OCvoryiunM6SWQ

[46] “2020選總統 韓國瑜贏面大 黑馬柯文哲緊追” 

[47] For speculation as to whether Terry Gou is working with Beijing or with Washington, see Tim Culpan, “The Terry Gou I Know Won’t Be China’s Man,” The Washington Post, April 25, 2019,  at https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/the-terry-gou-i-know-wont-be-chinas-man/2019/04/19/7551c108-6308-11e9-bf24-db4b9fb62aa2_story.html?utm_term=.3798b4bb617b;

“The Latest: Wisconsin governor retreats on Foxconn claim,” The Washington Post, May 2, 2019, at


[48] The high level of contestation among pan-green supporters has delayed the DPP presidential primary; see Chang Yi-chen, Yang Hsin-hui, and Jonathan Chin, “Polling may damage DPP unity: Tsai,” Taipei Times, April 20, 2019, at http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2019/04/20/2003713735

[49] Gerrit van der Wees, “The Taiwan Travel Act in Context,” The Diplomat, March 19, 2018, at https://thediplomat.com/2018/03/the-taiwan-travel-act-in-context/;

Chris Horton, “In Taiwan, U.S. official says commitment ‘has never been stronger,’” New York Times, March 21, 2018, at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/world/asia/taiwan-china-alex-wong.html

[50] Colin Dwyer, “De facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan dedicates new complex — Over Chinese Objections,” National Public Radio, June 12, 2018, at

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/12/619197199/de-facto-u-s-embassy-in-taiwan-dedicates-new-complex-over-chinese-objections ;

Huang Tzu-ti, “Former Speaker of US House of Representatives meets Taiwan President,” Taiwan News, April 15, 2019,  at https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3680703

[51] Kate O’Keeffe and Siobhan Hughes, “Congress passes defense bill that’s tough on China,” The Wall Street Journal, August 1, 2018, at  https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-defense-bill-seeks-to-counter-china-1533127150?mod=article_inline

[52] Duncan DeAeth, “Trump signs pro-Taiwan 'Asia Reassurance Initiative Act' into law,” Taiwan News, January 1, 2019, at https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3608137

[53] Sherry Hsiao, “US Senate reaffirms TRA commitment,” Taipei Times, May 2, 2019, at http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/05/02/2003714397

[54] Michael Mazza, “Senators introduce Taiwan Assurance Act in move to review US-Taiwan relations,” Global Taiwan Brief, Vol. 4, No. 6 (March 27, 2019), at http://globaltaiwan.org/2019/03/vol-4-issue-6/#MichaelMazza03272019 and Sherry Hsiao, “US House passes Taiwan Assurance Act,” Taipei Times, May 9, 2019, at http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/05/09/2003714812

[55] Lindsay Maizland, “U.S. military support for Taiwan: What’s changed under Trump?” Council on Foreign Relations, April 3, 2019, at https://www.cfr.org/article/us-military-support-taiwan-whats-changed-under-trump; Edward White and Kathrin Hille, “US agrees $330m arms sale to bolster Taiwan defences,” Financial Times, September 25, 2018, at https://www.ft.com/content/43a80396-c05c-11e8-95b1-d36dfef1b89a; David Reid, “Chinese anger grows as US agrees to fresh arms sale to Taiwan,” CNBC, September 25, 2018, at


[56] John Walcott and Justin Worland, “Taiwan won't get U.S. fighter jets while Trump seeks a China deal,” TIME, April 8, 2019, at http://time.com/5564773/taiwan-fighter-jet-sale-trump-china/; Kenneth Rapoza, “Taiwan just became a huge variable in the China trade war,” Forbes, April 1, 2019, at https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2019/04/01/taiwan-just-became-a-huge-variable-in-china-trade-war/#37ae36775948

[57] “China military power: Modernizing a force to fight and win,” Defense and Intelligence Agency, January 3, 2019, at


[58] “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019,” Department of Defense, May 2, 2019, at


[59] Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart, “Exclusive: In rare move, French warship passes through Taiwan Strait,” Reuters, April 25, 2019, at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-taiwan-france-warship-china-exclusive/exclusive-in-rare-move-french-warship-passes-through-taiwan-strait-idUSKCN1S10Q7 and John Power, “US warships made 92 trips through the Taiwan Strait since 2007,” SCMP, May 3, 2019, at https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/3008621/us-warships-made-92-trips-through-taiwan-strait-2007

[60] For public attitudes on defense spending in 2016 compared to 2006, see “Taiwan Social Change Survey《台灣社會變遷基本調查計》,” Academia Sinica, April 2017, http://www2.ios.sinica.edu.tw/sc/cht/datafile/tscs16.pdf, p. 285.  For further analysis on why Taiwanese do not support increasing defense spending, see 王宏恩, “國防, WHO CARES?-從民調討論台灣國防支出論述應從何著手,” 思想坦克, May 2, 2019, at https://www.voicettank.org/single-post/2019/05/02/050201

[61] Jun Mai, “Taiwan – US security partner but silent victim in Donald Trump’s trade war,” SCMP, November 16, 2018, at https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/2173501/played-us-strategically-important-taiwan-silent-victim-donald

[62] Chris Horton, “Trade war traps Taiwan between two superpowers,” Nikkei Asian Review, December 5, 2018, at https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Cover-Story/Trade-war-traps-Taiwan-between-two-superpowers