Power position and Taiwan policy: how Beijing responds to Taipei’s stimuli during the Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao periods

Kuan Wu Chen, Yu Shan Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Cross-Strait relations between China and Taiwan have experienced wild fluctuations in the past decades. Although the existing literature has investigated the link between domestic politics and Taiwan’s mainland policy, our understanding of how politics in China impacts Beijing’s policy toward Taiwan is woefully insufficient. This article fills the gap by exploring the relation between the power position of the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and Beijing’s response to Taiwan’s Cross-Strait initiatives under Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao (1989–2012). We identify 19 significant events during the period of observation that prompted official interactions, brought about changes in policy statements, and received widespread attention. The nature and intensity of China’s reaction to Taiwan’s stimuli is measured against Cross-Strait Interaction Index. We then look into power position of the general secretary by identifying whether he is in a period of power transition or power consolidation. The former (transition) entails a vulnerable power position, hence the reluctance by the general secretary to respond actively to Taiwan’s positive proposal, and the need to show aggressiveness in responding to Taiwan’s negative stimulus. The latter (consolidation) brings about a strengthened power position for the general secretary and leads to an opposite pattern of response: active engagement with Taiwan when positive messages are received, and limited retaliation when Taiwan acts provocatively. Hence the strength of the top leader in China is inversely related to the toughness of Beijing’s Taiwan policy. This finding has great theoretical and policy implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-152
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Contemporary East Asia Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2017


  • China and Taiwan
  • Cross-Strait relations
  • Hu Jintao
  • Jiang Zemin
  • political succession


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