China-Taiwan Weekly Update, April 18, 2024

China-Taiwan Weekly Update, April 18, 2024

Authors: Nils Peterson, Matthew Sperzel, Daniel Shats, and Kaylin Nolan of the Institute for the Study of War

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

Data Cutoff: April 16 at 5 pm ET

The China–Taiwan Weekly Update is a joint product from the Institute for the Study of War and the American Enterprise Institute. The update supports the ISW–AEI Coalition Defense of Taiwan project, which assesses Chinese campaigns against Taiwan, examines alternative strategies for the United States and its allies to deter the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) aggression, and—if necessary—defeat the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The update focuses on the Chinese Communist Party’s paths to controlling Taiwan and cross–Taiwan Strait developments.

Key Takeaways

  • ROC opposition parties advanced a bill in the Legislative Yuan (LY) that aims to strengthen the LY’s oversight of the government. Passing the bill could hamper the DPP-led government’s ability to implement its policies. Political feuding that impedes the DPP’s ability to govern is favorable to CCP interests.
  • PRC Minister of National Defense Dong Jun and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held the first US-PRC defense minister’s talk since November 2022. Dong dismissed US concerns about South China Sea tensions and claimed the situation was “generally stable.”
  • CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping promoted economic integration during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Beijing.
  • The PRC claims that the Philippines is not upholding a 2016 “gentleman’s agreement” and driving tensions at Second Thomas Shoal.
  • Unnamed senior US officials said that the PRC is supplying Russia with equipment that Russia is using to rapidly increase military production for use in its war against Ukraine.


Cross-Strait Relations


ROC opposition parties advanced a bill in the Legislative Yuan (LY) that aims to strengthen the LY’s oversight of the government. Passing the bill could hamper the DPP-led government’s ability to implement its policies. Political feuding that impedes the DPP’s ability to govern is favorable to CCP interests. The reforms would grant the LY the ability to conduct inquiries and call on officials to testify before the LY, establish penalties for perceived non-compliance or dishonesty in responses, and confirm political appointments.[1] The bill would also impose penalties on members of the Executive Yuan, including up to a year of imprisonment for concealing information or providing false or misleading information.[2] The maximum sentence is three years for all other individuals. DPP Caucus Whip Ker Chien-ming articulated the threat that the bill poses to the executive branch, calling it a “limitless expansion of powers” and the “constitutional monster” whose purpose was to weaponize the legislature. Ker claimed that if the law is passed, the president will be immediately summoned on May 20 to answer inquiries from the Legislative Yuan and can even be imprisoned if found to be in contempt of the legislature.[3] The Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) were able to advance the proposed bill through the LY Judiciary and Organic Laws Statutes Committee despite objections from the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) because they have a majority on the committee.

The bill entered a month-long “consultation period” after passing the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee. The KMT and TPP plan to bring the reform bill to the LY for a vote as early as May 17, before the change of government on May 20. KMT Caucus Whip stated the KMT’s intent to formally vote on the bill before President-elect Lai Ching-te’s inauguration on May 20.[4] TPP Caucus Whip Huang Kuo-chang declared the opposition’s goal to clear the bill from the committee on the day of the meeting.[5]

Collaboration between the KMT and the TPP on the proposals suggests that the reforms will pass with a majority in the LY, as the two opposition parties outnumber the DPP in the LY. The TPP and KMT have consistently stated that establishing a legislative investigative task force to strengthen oversight of the executive branch is at the top of their agenda.[6] KMT Caucus Deputy Secretary-General Lin Szu-ming, one of the main authors of the reform bills, earlier referred to the proposed reforms as a “great weapon” that the LY must use to supervise the government.[7]

The DPP will continue to oppose the legislative oversight bill. DPP Caucus Secretary-General Rosalia Wu stated on April 1 that the DPP will fight against the law with all its strength, and would request action from the justices of the Constitutional Court if the bill passed the LY.[8] Stopping the bill would require more than a quarter of legislators petitioning the Constitutional Court to issue a judgment declaring the bill unconstitutional.[9] The DPP holds 51 seats in the Legislative Yuan, exceeding the threshold to initiate a lawsuit.

The KMT approved of former President Ma Ying-jeou’s meeting with CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping. The party issued a press release that praised Ma’s articulation of the 1992 Consensus.[10] Ma described the 1992 Consensus as both sides agreeing to a "one China principle," with each side free to determine what "China" means.[11] The 1992 Consensus is an alleged verbal agreement between semi-official representatives of the PRC and the then KMT-ruled ROC following negotiations in 1992. It states that both sides agree there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of China. The CCP interprets this “one China” to be the People’s Republic of China, while the KMT interprets it to be the Republic of China. The PRC has never publicly recognized the part of the “consensus” that acknowledges differing interpretations of “China” and did not include this part of Ma’s comments in its official readout of the meeting. KMT Chairman Eric Chu separately announced after Ma’s return that he had given Ma his “blessing” for his trip to the mainland.[12]

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), chaired by DPP members, issued a press release expressing disappointment that Ma failed to convey to Xi the Taiwanese people’s insistence on safeguarding the sovereignty of the Republic of China (ROC) and its democratic system.[13] The MAC called the 1992 Consensus an attempt to undermine Taiwan’s sovereign status that left no room for the ROC’s survival.


PRC Minister of National Defense Dong Jun and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held the first US-PRC defense minister’s talk since November 2022. Dong dismissed US concerns about South China Sea tensions and claimed the situation was “generally stable.” The US readout of the virtual meeting on April 16 said Austin and Dong discussed US-PRC defense relations as well as regional and global security issues, including the South China Sea, Russia’s war in Ukraine, and North Korea. Austin underscored freedom of navigation, especially in the South China Sea, and re-iterated the US commitment to the One China Policy. He also stressed the importance of maintaining open lines of communication.[14] The PRC readout said Dong emphasized that Taiwan is at the core of the PRC’s core interests and that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will never let “‘Taiwan independence’ separatist activities” and “external connivance and support” go unchecked. Dong also claimed the situation in the South China Sea is “generally stable” and that regional countries have the “willingness, wisdom, and capacity” to resolve issues. He urged the United States to respect the PRC’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the sea.[15]

This call was Austin’s first conversation with Dong since Dong became the PRC defense minister in December 2023. It was the first formal top-level military communication between the United States and PRC since November 2022.[16] The PRC cut off military talks with the United States after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022. It agreed to resume them at the presidential summit between US President Joe Biden and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping in San Francisco in November 2023. The CCP views military exchanges, at least in part, as a bargaining chip that it can use to influence US behavior to the party’s benefit.

Senior US and PRC diplomats met for three days to discuss various bilateral and regional issues. The PRC readout stressed PRC criticism of US-Japan-Philippines collaboration “against China” on South China Sea issues, US interference in PRC “internal affairs,” and US “suppression” of PRC companies. US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink and National Security Council Senior Director Sarah Beran led a delegation to the PRC from April 14-16 to meet PRC officials including Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu. US Ambassador to the PRC Nicholas Burns also joined a meeting on April 15. A US State Department readout said the two sides had “candid” and “constructive” discussions on a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues, including the Middle East, PRC support for Russia’s defense industrial base, cross-Strait issues, the South China Sea, and North Korea.[17] A PRC readout said the PRC expressed its “solemn position” on the US promotion of its Indo-Pacific Strategy “against China” and about the United States trying to “cobble together a small circle” with Japan and the Philippines to “disrupt the situation in the South China Sea.” It urged the United States to not engage in “camp confrontation, “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, stop obstructing China’s development, stop unreasonable sanctions on Chinese companies, and stop suppressing China’s economy, trade, science and technology.”[18] US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit the PRC in the coming weeks.[19]

The PRC imposed sanctions on US defense firms General Atomics and General Dynamics for arms sales to Taiwan. The sanctions froze all assets of the two companies within the PRC and barred senior management employees from obtaining a visa to enter the country.[20] General Dynamics operates half a dozen Gulfstream and jet aviation services in the PRC and manufactures the Abrams tanks that Taiwan agreed to purchase in 2019. General Atomics is a drone manufacturer that signed a contract with Taiwan in 2020 to deliver MQ-9B drones.[21] The PRC previously sanctioned five other US defense companies in January 2024 in response to US arms sales to Taiwan and US sanctions on PRC companies and individuals.[22] A 2023 report by the German think tank Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) found that the PRC has significantly increased its use of unilateral sanctions since 2018 against US individuals, groups, or companies it perceives to be interfering in its internal affairs.[23] The PRC has repeatedly expressed opposition to unilateral sanctions in general, however, including US sanctions against it and other countries such as Russia and Iran.[24]

Southeast Asia


The PRC claims that the Philippines is not upholding a 2016 “gentleman’s agreement” and driving tensions at Second Thomas Shoal. Xi Jinping and then-Phillipines President Rodrigo Duterte met in 2016 to discuss the South China Sea territorial disputes.[25] The PRC alleges that Duterte and Xi made a gentleman’s agreement to not transport construction materials to repair the Sierra Madre, which is a dilapidated World War II-era naval ship on Second Thomas Shoal that the Philippines deliberately ran aground in 1999 to serve as a military detachment.[26] The PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning clarified that if the Philippines needed to replenish the Sierra Madre with necessities for the personnel there, it must notify the PRC in advance, which will approve and supervise the process.[27] Duterte denied ever making a “gentleman’s agreement” with Xi, however, and claimed that the meeting helped keep the status quo of peace in the South China Sea. Duterte also claimed that Xi threatened to go to war if the Philippines exercised its economic rights in the South China Sea.[28] Current Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. views the alleged agreement as illegitimate since it was a “secret agreement” hidden from the public.[29] The spokesperson for the PRC Embassy in the Philippines responded that the agreement was not a secret, and the two sides operated in accordance with the agreement for a short time before the Philippines reneged.[30]

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel tailed two Philippine vessels conducting a hydrographic survey near Scarborough Shoal on April 15. The Philippine National Security Council refuted initial reports that the CCG vessel had blocked the Philippine ships for over eight hours as they crossed the “nine dash line” 35 nautical miles from the Philippine coast.[31] The CCG vessel in question, CCG 5303, was also present in a “swarm” of PRC ships around Scarborough Shoal on April 13, including two preexisting CCG ships and 25 militia vessels.[32] Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tarriela rejected the PRC narrative that the Philippines is deliberately provoking the PRC in the South China Sea.[33]

The PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman Mao Ning portrayed the United States, Japan, and the Philippines as stoking “bloc confrontation” tensions in the region in response to the trilateral meeting on April 11. The United States, Japan, and the Philippines issued a trilateral statement on April 12 that condemned the PRC’s coercive use of their coast guard and maritime militia in the South China Sea.[34] She accused the trilateral meeting of targeting the PRC and introducing “camp confrontation” into the region. Mao inaccurately claimed that PRC coercion in the South China Sea was “lawful [and] justified” while blaming “certain countries [an implicit reference to the United States] outside the region” for “fanning the flames and provoking confrontation.”[35]

Northeast Asia

North Korea

CCP Politburo Standing Committee member Zhao Leji led a delegation to visit North Korea from April 11-13. Zhao emphasized the PRC’s willingness to “intensify high-level exchanges [and] deepen mutually beneficial cooperation” with the DPRK throughout this year, which the CCP calls the “China-DPRK Friendship Year” in celebration of the 75th anniversary of ties between the two countries. [36]


CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping promoted economic integration during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Beijing. Xi said that PRC and German industrial and supply chains are “deeply embedded” in one another and claimed this is not a “risk” but a guarantee of future relations – a possible reference to the European Union’s “de-risking” policies toward the PRC. He stressed that the two countries have “huge potential” for “win-win cooperation,” including in green development, and said both sides should be wary of protectionism. He said that the PRC hopes for a “fair, open, and non-discriminatory German market.”[37] The two countries launched cooperation mechanisms on climate change and green transition, science and technology, and agriculture.[38] The PRC also lifted some restrictions on German agricultural imports after the meeting.[39] The PRC’s positive messaging on PRC-German free trade and economic cooperation comes as the European Union has taken a harsher stance on PRC trade practices, particularly focused on countering their damaging impact on European electric vehicles and green energy technology.[40] The PRC has repeatedly criticized “baseless” investigations into PRC firms and warned against “de-coupling” and “de-risking” policies.[41]

The PRC’s bilateral engagement with Germany is consistent with CCP efforts to undermine moves in the EU toward more hawkish policies against the PRC. The European Commission and its president Ursula von der Leyen have called EU-PRC trade “critically unbalanced,” criticized the PRC’s preferential treatment of its domestic companies and overcapacity in its production, and called for “de-risking” policies to reduce Europe’s economic dependence on the PRC.[42] The European Commission’s Economic Security Strategy released in 2023 said “de-risking” policies are meant to mitigate risks to supply chain resilience, risks to critical infrastructure, risks related to leakage of sensitive technology, and risks of economic coercion by diversifying supply chains and restricting European companies’ ability to produce sensitive technologies overseas.[43]

The PRC has promoted the strength of the PRC-Germany trade relationship to counter the broader European “de-risking” strategy.[44] PRC Ambassador to Germany Wu Ken claimed on March 26 that the resilience of PRC-Germany trade relations shows the “unpopularity” of the EU’s de-risking policy.[45] The overseas edition of the CCP’s official newspaper People’s Daily claimed after Scholz’s visit that Scholz signaled to other countries Germany’s opposition to “decoupling and breaking links” with the PRC despite the pressure of the EU’s de-risking strategy.[46]

CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping presented four “principles” to peacefully end the Russia-Ukraine war during his meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Xi proposed “four dos and four don’ts” to “restore peace” in Ukraine — prioritize peace and stability and not “seek selfish gain,” cool down the situation and not “add fuel to the fire,” create the conditions for restoring peace and not aggravate the situation, and reduce the negative impact on the global economy and not undermine the stability of global industrial supply chains.[47] Xi’s vague and seemingly neutral language is consistent with the PRC’s portrayal of itself as an unbiased and fair “stabilizing force” in the war and its reticence to make the Sino-Russian partnership as deep as Russia desires, partially to maintain access to Western markets.[48] The PRC rhetorically aligns with the Russian framing of the war, however. It is critical of NATO, portrays the Western security order and arms sales to Ukraine as fueling the war, opposes sanctions on Russia, does not call the war a war, and calls for respect for Russia’s “legitimate security concerns. Xi’s four principles may therefore be read in this context as veiled criticisms of US and Western actions.

PRC state media has claimed Western military aid to Ukraine “adds fuel to the fire” in pursuit of profit for defense firms, for instance.[49] NATO and US officials have warned that China is helping to “prop up” the Russian defense industrial base and support Russia via microelectronics, optics, machine tools, and missile propellant deliveries.[50] Xi’s generally vague signaling to Scholz vis-a-vis Ukraine over the backdrop of reportedly intensifying Chinese support for Russia is therefore likely an attempt to secure PRC economic interests in Europe by garnering goodwill with Germany rather than a show of genuine interest in facilitating an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Unnamed senior US officials said that the PRC is supplying Russia with equipment that Russia is using to rapidly increase military production for use in its war against Ukraine. The officials said on April 12 that the PRC is selling Russia large quantities of machine tools, drone and turbojet engines, technology for cruise missiles, microelectronics, and nitrocellulose used in ammunition. They also said that PRC and Russian entities have been jointly developing drones in Russia and that the PRC has provided Russia with satellite imagery that aided its war effort. The officials said the PRC provided Russia with more than 70% of its nearly $900 million in machine tools imports in the last quarter of 2023, which Russia has likely used to build ballistic missiles. In 2023 the PRC also provided 90% of Russia’s microelectronics imports, which are essential for producing missiles, tanks, and aircraft. One official said PRC materials are filling critical gaps in Russia’s defense production cycle and claimed that Russia would “struggle to sustain its war effort without PRC input.” [51] The PRC embassy in the United States denied that the PRC provided weaponry to any party in the Ukraine war.[52] The PRC’s role as a lifeline for the Russian economy and military-industrial complex undermines its repeated claims to be a neutral and impartial promoter of peace between Russia and Ukraine. The PRC has rhetorically aligned with Russia’s narrative about the war, which it does not call a “war,” and refused to pressure Russia to end the war.


The PRC condemned Israel’s April 1 strike on the Iranian embassy complex in Syria but did not condemn Iran’s missile attack on Israel on April 13. Israel killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi on April 1 while he was at the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus.[53] On April 14, Chargé d'Affaires of the PRC Permanent Mission to the UN Dai Bing condemned “Israel’s aggression against its [Iran’s] diplomatic premises” in Syria.[54] The PRC MFA expressed “deep concern” on April 14 but did not condemn the Iranian missile attack on Israel.[55] On April 15, PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi condemned the attack on the Iranian embassy in Syria and stated that “China appreciates Iran’s emphasis on not targeting [other] regional countries.”[56]


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[18] https://www.mfa dot

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[24] https://www.fmprc dot

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