The central leading small group for Taiwan affairs is an administrative agency of the People’s Republic of China. This small leading group looks out to the day-to-day affairs of Taiwan, as China considers Taiwan a part of Chinese territory. It is also responsible for cross-strait relationships, policy guidelines, and policy-making processes regarding Taiwan. Historically, the first decision-making body related to Taiwan was established by the Chinese Communist Party in the 1950s on Mao Zedong’s proposal named Central Taiwan Affairs Guidance Group, and Premier Zhou Enali was charged as the head of the group.
However, during the cultural revolution, the body was suspended, but at the end of the revolution, the body re-emerged and was named Taiwan Affairs Leading small group. Before establishing the small leading group, military officials, secret services, and intelligence persons were looking out for Taiwan affairs. Although the membership of this body changed during the various administrations, there seems to be a slow but steady institutionalization of the group that Jiang Zemin founded. Since 1989, the CCP general secretary has presided over the leading small group.
The State Councilor, who is also in charge of foreign affairs, serves as the secretary-general of the small group, while the deputy director is the Chairman of the CPPCC.
Group members are representatives of the administrative agencies that work on developing and implementing Taiwan policies. The number of organizational participants in the Taiwan policy process has significantly increased since Jiang Zemin’s administration. However, this trend may have been impacted by the fallout from the 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis and the outcome of Taiwan’s 2000 presidential election.
Moreover, according to the study, Chinese policy work related to Taiwan affairs can be divided into four categories: policy formulation and oversight, policy implementation and administration, policy coordination and supervision, and research and analysis. However, the leading small group plays a significant role in policy coordination and supervision. Under Jiang Zemin’s direction, choosing TALSG employees became rote in the 1990s. The CCP General Secretary has been the TALSG’s leader since the Jiang Zemin era.
As members of the TALSG, appointments have been made repeatedly for the deputy chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the deputy chief of staff of the PLA, the head of the United Front Work Department (UFWD), the head of the National Security Department (NSD), and the head of the TAO. Subsequently, the TALSG established the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCCPC) TAO (Taiwan Affairs Office) to administrate and implement the policy related to Taiwan affairs. Taiwan affairs departments were established in various central and local organizations.
At the highest level, for instance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs established the Taiwan Affairs Office, and the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade established the Taiwan Affairs and Trade Office. At the local level, party and government offices were reconstructed or opened as Taiwan Affairs Offices, mostly in the southeast coastal regions geographically adjacent to Taiwan. Moreover, Members of the TALSG can affect how the CCP administration views the Taiwan Strait from a strategic standpoint. For example, it was known that General Xiong Guangkai, the former secretary-general of the TALSG and chief of PLA intelligence, successfully advocated for a larger role in the military.
However, when Xi Jinping took charge of the office and became the general security of the party, the personnel in charge of Taiwan operations underwent substantial changes. The TALSG members were largely appointed during Hu Jintao’s first term of office in 2013, following the precedents set by the second Hu Jintao administration. However, since 2013, there has been a further decrease in the ARATS (association for relation Across Taiwan strait) chairman and TAO chief’s participation in the TALSG.
It’s even thought that the head of ARATS was expelled from the TALSG. A person with a different background was appointed to the ARATS chairmanship and TAO chief by Xi Jinping. He appointed Zhang Zhijun, who had worked for the CCP Foreign Liaison Office his entire career but was not well-known in Taiwan, to take Wang Yi’s place as Chief of the TAO. He appointed Chen Deming, a former director of the Ministry of Commerce who had never been involved in operations toward Taiwan, as chairman of the ARATS.
During the previous five years, under Hu Jintao and Ma Ying-jeou, there has been a notable improvement in cross-strait relations. Nevertheless, it is still unclear if the cross-strait environment has significantly impacted China’s Taiwan policy. China’s military buildup across the Taiwan Strait has continued unabated despite the potential significant personnel change in the TALSG. This could signal a more substantial shift in the administration’s policy toward Taiwan.
Despite the political unrest abating, the military’s long-standing strong influence over Taiwan policy continues. This relationship highlights the military’s significant operational and coercive power role.
Recently, a meeting was held by Beijing regarding Taiwan affairs. It was headed by Xi Jinping and attended by top leaders of the China Communist Party, including the deputy head of the TALSG. According to the Taiwan intelligence report, Beijing is trying to interfere in the upcoming Taiwan election. The meeting’s conclusion stated that various agencies should “consolidate” their work in Taiwan, with the Publicity Department and the People’s Liberation Army’s “Base 311” psychological warfare unit conducting influence campaigns to manipulate public opinion through news outlets and social media.
It further stated that the United Front Work Department and China’s Taiwan Affairs Office were entrusted with outreach programs, including discounted air tickets for Taiwanese citizens living in China to travel home to vote and exchange activities with Taiwanese politicians. China would continue to “play up the narrative of a ‘choice between peace and war,'” according to an internal Taiwanese memo. This narrative suggests that a war with China is likely if the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holds onto power.
Therefore, from the above discussion, we analyze the importance of Taiwan’s leading small group, which plays an important role in policy-making and decisions regarding Taiwan. All the policies, processes, implementation, and supervision are the responsibility of the TALSG. Currently, XI is the head of the TALSG, and he is more attached to his ideology regarding Taiwan, so his decision can play an important role in overall policymaking.
The author holds a Bachelor’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from Numl University Islamabad and is currently, pursuing an MPhil in International Relations at NDU.