China-Taiwan Weekly Update, February 2, 2023

China-Taiwan Weekly Update, February 2, 2023

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

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

Information Cutoff: February 1 at 9am ET

The China–Taiwan Weekly Update focuses on the Chinese Communist Party’s paths to controlling Taiwan and relevant cross–Taiwan Strait developments.

Key Takeaways

  • Kuomintang legislator Han Kuo-yu was elected speaker of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan on February 1.
  • PRC Ministry of Defense and state media criticized comments from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg about the threat that China poses to Europe and the prospects for a PRC invasion of Taiwan.
  • The PRC Ministry of Defense confirmed ongoing coordination with the US military about the next meeting under the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement.
  • The PRC and Russia held several high-level minister exchanges to enhance “strategic coordination,” which support the PRC’s effort to challenge the US alliance system in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The PRC Coast Guard claimed it had “allowed” the Philippines to airdrop supplies to Philippine troops on Second Thomas Shoal on January 21.
  • A loss of Compacts of Free Association (COFA) funding for Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands would enable the CCP to expand its leverage points over these countries.
  • The PRC is engaging diplomatically with North Korea to undermine United States-South Korea security ties for the PRC’s benefit.
  • The PRC contacted Iran to restrain the Houthi’s attacks on maritime shipping in the Red Sea. The outreach did not slow or stop the Houthi attack campaign.
  • CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping accepted credentials from Taliban Ambassador to China Bilal Karimi on January 30.



The Legislative Yuan (LY) elected Kuomintang (KMT) legislature Han Kuo-yu speaker of the legislature on February 1. Han received all 52 KMT votes and 2 others from independent legislators in the second round of voting. No candidate secured a majority during the first round.[1] The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) nominated incumbent Legislative Yuan Speaker You Si-kun, who received 51 votes from DPP legislators. You had been the speaker of the Legislative Yuan since 2020. The Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) nominated one of its eight legislators, Vivian Huang, and voted unanimously for her.[2] The TPP abstained in the second round of voting. Huang was an unexpected addition to the race, as the TPP had indicated that it would support the DPP or KMT in exchange for political concessions. The potential to secure the TPP’s backing fueled competition between the two parties to appease the TPP until the party announced Huang’s candidacy on January 31.[3] The TPP’s last-minute participation in the LY speaker race caused controversy within the DPP, which viewed the move as an ultimatum to tear DPP support away from its candidate by those who advocated preventing Han’s victory at any cost.

Han is a divisive figure in Taiwanese politics, notorious for his Beijing-friendly platform that contributed to popular dissatisfaction with his incumbency and subsequent removal from office as mayor of Kaohsiung in 2020.[4] Han held closed-door meetings with CCP officials during an unannounced trip to Shenzhen, PRC, and Hong Kong during his mayorship in 2019. Han met with then director of the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Liu Jieyi and CCP Chief for Shenzhen Wang Weizhong. Han also met the director of the PRC’s liaison office, which manages relations with Hong Kong.[5] Han’s meeting with CCP officials drew public criticism for endangering national security and breaking with official protocol for engaging with PRC officials.[6] Han’s meeting preceded a turbulent period in Hong Kong society that resulted in the PRC’s erosion of Hong Kong’s political autonomy and civil liberties by the PRC. Hong Kong’s plight earned widespread sympathy in Taiwan, intensifying criticism of Han.[7]

The KMT’s victory will strengthen its influence over policymaking during Lai Ching-te’s incoming administration. The speaker is responsible for guiding legislative processes, such as setting the agenda, voting on laws, and presiding over sessions. Control over legislative proceedings enables the speaker to prioritize or delay legislation based on political alignment and adjudicate debates on policies proposed by the executive branch. The DPP led a minority government under President Chen Shui-bian from 2000 to 2008, during which the KMT-led opposition persistently blocked DPP policies, including arms procurement from the United States.[8] KMT Vice Chairman Sean Lien promised strong LY oversight of the DPP government under Han’s leadership.[9] KMT Caucus Whip Fu Kun-chi also warned that the KMT would strive to expose DPP corruption from the past eight years, portending an acrimonious relationship between the KMT and DPP during Lai’s presidency.[10]

The TPP’s eight seats in the LY position the party to be the crucial swing vote and could further complicate the passage of DPP policies. The KMT’s 52 seats plus two KMT-aligned independents and DPP’s 51 seats do not grant either a majority in the 113-member body. The TPP’s 8 seats will make its votes the deciding factor for some legislation.

Han’s position as the LY speaker also has ramifications for Taiwan’s international representation as the speaker represents Taiwan in a diplomatic capacity. Outgoing Speaker You Si-kun frequently met with foreign representatives during his tenure to advocate for Taiwan’s integration with the international community, deterrence of PRC aggression, and strengthening of democratic values. You’s diplomacy featured meetings with officials from key partners, including the United States, European Union, and Japan.[11] Han’s preference for warmer relations with Beijing and support for the 1992 Consensus suggests he will take a different diplomatic approach from You, who called attention to the PRC’s threat to cross-strait peace and highlighted Taiwan’s status as a sovereign polity. Han’s emphasis on the economy during his mayoral and presidential campaigns indicates he will use his platform to promote trade and investment opportunities, including with the PRC.[12] The Speaker of the LY also holds the chairmanship of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), a government-funded non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote democracy in Taiwan and abroad. DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming expressed his fear that PRC pressure on Han would constrain the LY’s diplomatic efforts, which he called the LY’s biggest responsibility.[13] Former Taiwanese diplomat Dale Jieh wen-chieh predicted that the DPP government would intentionally refrain from arranging for foreign guests to visit TFD under Han’s leadership to deprive him of a diplomatic platform.[14]

The PRC demonstrated its preference for Han as the LY speaker in a puff piece featured in the state media outlet CCTV on January 24. The program covered Han’s candidacy for speaker, emphasizing his support for the 1992 Consensus and his stance against being “pro-US and anti-China”.[15] The 1992 Consensus refers to a mutual understanding between the CCP and KMT of “One China”, though interpretations differ between them. CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping explicitly stipulated acceptance of the 1992 Consensus as a precondition for cross-strait dialogue in 2017.[16]

The CCP may seek to leverage its rapport with Han to shape legislative outcomes in the LY, such as curbing DPP national defense-related proposals in the LY. The KMT’s historic inclination to reject DPP proposals in the LY aligns with the CCP’s desire to stymie the efficiency of Lai’s presidency and foment political disarray. Han’s conflicting policy agenda with the DPP indicates that he will wield his authority as speaker to this end, potentially causing problems for Lai’s administration.

The PRC unilaterally changed a domestic commercial flight path closer to the median line in the Taiwan Strait. The new route came into effect on February 1 and comes within 7.8 kilometers of the median line at its closest point.[17] The Taiwan Strait median line has acted as the unofficial border between the PRC and Taiwan since a “tacit agreement” between the two sides in 1958 to observe the line, although the PRC publicly denies its existence.[18] PRC aircraft began crossing the median line with increasing frequency in 1999, under Taiwan’s first democratically elected leader Lee Teng-hui.[19] Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) accused the PRC of using civil aviation to “package” political and military issues to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.[20] The PRC Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) reiterated its claim that the purpose of shifting the route is to alleviate airspace congestion.[21] Chieh Chung, an analyst at the Taiwanese think tank National Policy Foundation, stated the move would significantly curtail Taiwan’s air defense early warning and reaction time.[22]

Taiwan’s Premier Chen Chien-jen labeled the PRC’s actions a ploy to undermine cross-strait stability and likened it to the PRC’s increasingly frequent flights of high-altitude balloons.[23] Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) recorded 9 PRC balloons flying near Taiwan since January 25.[24] The PRC also flew a combined 55 military aircraft through Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) from January 30 and February 1, 25 of which crossed the median line.[25] The ADIZ incursions over these two days represent a sharp increase from earlier that week and coincide with the election of the LY speaker.

Tuvalu is considering switching its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the PRC. Tuvalu Ambassador to the Republic of China Bikenibeu Paeniu stated in a January 19 interview with The Australian that there were rumors Tuvalu would go down the same path as Nauru and switch recognition at some point after Tuvalu’s January 26 election.[26] Tuvalu’s Finance Minister Seve Paeniu also stated that Tuvalu expects to review diplomatic ties with Taiwan after the election as his country seeks additional financial support for development.[27] The Tuvalu government said Bikenibeu Paeniu’s comments did not represent its official stance and reaffirmed its ties to Taiwan.[28] Seve Paeniu is now one of the candidates in the race to become Tuvalu’s next Prime Minister as the newly elected lawmakers aim to form a cabinet in the coming week.[29] He is open to recognizing the PRC based on support for Tuvalu’s development priorities and aspirations.[30]

The CCP reportedly offered Tuvalu unspecified financial benefits in the period 2020 to 2023 in exchange for switching diplomatic recognition from the ROC to the PRC. Then Tuvalu Minister for Justice, Communication & Foreign Affairs Simon Kofe refused the offer.[31] Tuvalu is the only country in the Asia-Pacific region that maintains relations with the ROC and does not have a Compact of Free Association (COFA) agreement with the United States.


PRC Ministry of Defense and state media criticized comments from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg about the threat that the PRC poses to Europe and the prospects for a PRC invasion of Taiwan. Stoltenberg said at the World Economic Forum summit on January 16 in Davos, Switzerland, that “China is coming close to us” through its activities in Africa and the Arctic and in trying to control critical infrastructure. He stressed that NATO is a transatlantic regional alliance and does not regard the PRC as an adversary, however.[32] Stoltenberg also commented during a visit to the United States that Western support for Ukraine is “closely watched in Beijing” and that a Russian victory in Ukraine could embolden the PRC to seize Taiwan.[33] The CCP-owned China Daily claimed on January 19 that NATO, not the CCP, was responsible for global instability. It said NATO had become expansionist and that its recent shift of focus to the Asia-Pacific posed a threat to the PRC and jeopardized regional peace and stability.[34] A January 23 China Daily article also described Stoltenberg as “the hawkish head of [an] aggressively expansionist transatlantic alliance” and accused him of “scaremongering” about PRC activities in Africa and the Arctic.[35] The state-owned Global Times wrote on January 30 that Stoltenberg’s “hyping” of the China and Russia threats will not alleviate Western “fatigue” over support for Ukraine.[36]

The CCP expressed concern about the NATO Steadfast Defender military exercises and inaccurately claimed that NATO is driving instability in Europe and the Asia-Pacific. NATO began its Steadfast Defender 2024 exercises on January 24, its largest military exercise since 1988. The drills will feature around 90,000 troops from all 31 NATO member states and Sweden and will last until May 31.[37] PRC MoD spokesperson Wu Qian said at a January 25 press conference that the PRC was “highly concerned” about the exercise, as well as Stoltenberg’s comments about China, and accused NATO of approaching the Asia-Pacific and taking advantage of a “non-existent ‘China threat’” to threaten regional security. He called NATO a “walking ‘war machine’ that brings chaos wherever it goes.”[38] The state news agency Xinhua featured a news article on January 25 that argued that NATO’s Steadfast Defender exercises will only deepen hostilities between European countries and Russia.[39]

The PRC’s rhetoric about NATO aligns with Russian messaging about NATO since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. PRC government bodies and state media have portrayed NATO as an expansionist and aggressive military bloc controlled by the United States that threatens Russian security and regional stability. The CCP has also portrayed the war in Ukraine as a proxy conflict between the United States and Russia, in which Ukraine is a “pawn” of the United States.[40] PRC messaging also aligned with Russia in portraying the Steadfast Defender 2024 exercises as “provocative.”[41]

The PRC Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed ongoing coordination with the US military about the next meeting under the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA). MoD spokesperson Wu Qian did not announce the date of the meeting but said it was part of an ongoing effort to resume military dialogues with the United States.[42] US President Joe Biden and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping agreed during their November 15 summit in San Francisco to resume high-level military talks, including the MMCA talks, US-China Defense Police Coordination (CDPC) talks, and telephone conversations between theater commanders.[43] The first CDPC consultation since the summit occurred on January 8-9.[44] The theater command-level talks have yet to be scheduled.

The United States views military-to-military talks as a means of escalation management to prevent and control crises. The CCP views these talks, at least in part, as a bargaining chip that it can use to influence US behavior to the party’s benefit, however. A US action that the CCP deems unfavorable would be grounds to cut off military-to-military dialogue, in the party’s view. The party previously did this by cutting off high-level military dialogue in the aftermath of then-Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022.[45] This precedent indicates the possibility that the CCP will continue to use military-to-military dialogue opportunities to shape United States behavior in the lead-up to at least the May 20 ROC presidential inauguration.

The PRC and Russia held several high-level minister exchanges to enhance “strategic coordination,” which support the CCP’s effort to challenge the US alliance system in the Indo-Pacific. The talks took place from January 29-31 and included meetings between the two countries’ defense ministers and vice foreign ministers. The exchanges addressed a range of issues, such as BRICS cooperation, expanding military cooperation, the war in Ukraine, and developments in the Asia-Pacific, Korean peninsula, and Middle East.[46] The PRC’s defense minister readout on January 31 noted that “Russia will play a greater role in comprehensive strategic coordination and maintaining global security and stability.”[47] The meetings signify the continued growth of military and diplomatic ties between Russia and the PRC, including increased cooperation on shared strategic goals.

The Russian Pacific Fleet also conducted an anti-submarine exercise in the South China Sea on January 29.[48] PRC state media did not publicize the event. The Russian frigate Marshall Saposhnikov of the Pacific Fleet previously conducted anti-submarine warfare drills in the South China Sea on January 29.[49] The Pacific Fleet exercise is likely aimed at demonstrating that Russia is a strong Pacific power that supports China against the US alliance system in the Indo-Pacific, as the Kremlin has routinely stressed in the past.[50] The dearth of CCP media coverage on the event reflects the party’s attempt to avoid drawing international attention to the South China Sea while the party is also engaging in military aggression toward the Philippine-controlled Second Thomas Shoal.

Second Thomas Shoal

The PRC Coast Guard claimed that it “allowed” the Philippines to airdrop supplies to Philippine troops on Second Thomas Shoal on January 21. PRC Coast Guard Spokesperson Gan Yu said on the Chinese social media app WeChat that the Coast Guard had made “temporary special arrangements” to allow a small Philippine aircraft to airdrop supplies to troops stationed at the grounded warship that serves as the Philippine base on Second Thomas Shoal. Philippine National Security Council spokesperson Jonathan Malaya denied the PRC allegation that it had allowed the airdrop and said the Philippines did not need anyone’s permission to deliver supplies. He neither confirmed nor denied that the airdrop had occurred.[51]

The PRC inaccurately framed the airdrop as “provocative” amid the easing of tensions in the region. The Second Thomas Shoal is a disputed reef feature in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea, which the Philippines controls but which the PRC and Taiwan claim. It was the site of confrontations between the Philippines and PRC in recent months. The Philippines and PRC held bilateral maritime consultations on January 17 to de-escalate tensions and the Philippines had not sent vessels to Second Thomas Shoal for over a month before the resupply mission.[52] PRC state-owned media outlet Global Times framed the airdrop as “provocative”, however. PRC Coast Guard Spokesperson Gan Yu reiterated the point in calling on the Philippines to stop its alleged “provocations” and “hyping” the dispute to mislead the international community.[53] He added that the Coast Guard will continue to defend the PRC’s sovereignty, rights, and interests on the Second Thomas Shoal and step up “law enforcement” activities around the shoal.

Compacts of Free Association

A loss of Compacts of Free Association (COFA) funding for Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands would enable the CCP to expand its leverage points over these countries. These COFAs govern the United States’ relationship with Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands while also granting the United States extensive military access throughout their territories. The United States renewed COFAs with Palau and Micronesia in May.[54] It then did so with the Marshall Islands in October.[55] The signed agreements are now before Congress for funding consideration. Congress previously funded the COFAs for a twenty-year period in 2003.[56] The total cost for all three of the twenty-year agreements would be roughly $7 billion spread over the period 2024 to 2043, according to the Congressional Research Service.[57] Deputy Secretary of State nominee Kurt Campbell stated during his Senate confirmation hearing on December 7 that “if we don’t get it [COFA funding] you can expect that literally the next day Chinese diplomats — military and other folks — will be on the plane…trying to secure a better deal for China.”[58] The US House of Representatives Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party also called for renewing the COFAs in a mid-December report.[59] President Biden signed the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act into law on December 22, but it did not include COFA funding.[60] Funding the COFAs is a key part of the US Pacific Partnership Strategy to “fulfill our [United States] historical commitments and strengthen our enduring relationships with the full Pacific Islands region, including our special relationship with the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia.”[61] Palau’s President Surangel Whipps Jr expressed concern in a December 27 interview with ABC Australia over the lack of Congressional-approved funding for the COFA agreement, in part because the 2010 Palau Compact Review Agreement was not funded by the US Congress until 2018.[62]


These three island countries control key sea lanes that provide a secure route connecting American allies and partners, such as the Philippines and Taiwan, to the US territory of Guam and Hawaii. Palau and the Marshall Islands are 2 of the 12 countries that maintain official diplomatic relations with Taiwan.[63]

The loss of COFA funding would present an opportunity for the CCP to expand its economic influence with these vital Pacific Island countries. For example, this funding loss would cause severe financial pressure in Palau because COFA funding accounts for $36.9 million of the national government’s annual $124.2 million revenue as of fiscal year 2023.[64] This is an economic vulnerability that the CCP could partially fill by encouraging PRC nationals to vacation in Palau. The CCP cut tourism to Palau over the last decade to nearly zero as punishment for maintaining full diplomatic relations with Taiwan.[65] The reversal of this CCP policy would provide the party with economic leverage to wield over Palau in the event of future policy disagreements. The expansion of the CCP’s economic influence in Palau would also provide the party a leverage point to coerce the countries into switching diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People's Republic of China (PRC). The PRC aims to coerce countries into switching diplomatic recognition to falsely argue that Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China rather than a legitimate country named the Republic of China. Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. stated that the CCP is intensely pressuring his country, including personally harassing him with angry phone calls to the point he changed his phone number, ahead of its November election to achieve this goal.[66]

The loss of COFA funding would also exacerbate the CCP narrative put forth by the propaganda outlet Global Times that the United States only cares about Palau for security reasons rather than mutually beneficial cooperation. [67] The Palau Senate passed a resolution in November rejecting the permanent deployment of a US Patriot missile defense battery.[68] This was the first instance of lawmakers challenging President Surangel Whipps Jr’s request for the United States to construct an over-the-horizon radar system in Palau.[69] In a December 27 interview with ABC Australia, Whipps tied this Palau Senate resolution to a narrative among unspecified portions of Palau that the United States actions were not in the best interests of Palau, as seen by the repeated delay in COFA funding.[70] The associated fiscal challenges that Palau faces without COFA funding buttresses the CCP’s narrative, which in turn creates hurdles for deploying mutually beneficial United States defense resources to the country.

The loss of COFA funding would also provide the CCP an opportunity to expand influence efforts targeting Micronesian political elites. The CCP has completed infrastructure projects throughout the country, such as houses for the country’s president, vice president, speakers of congress, and chief justice.[71] Axios reported that former Micronesian officials confirmed receiving gifts from the PRC, such as money, while on official state visits to the country.[72] The lack of COFA funding would exacerbate the appeal of CCP monetary gifts or infrastructure projects that target the Micronesian political elite. Micronesian President Wesley Simina also stated in late November that his country would be at a “fiscal cliff” without US Congressional approval of COFA funding. This would mean that “we [Micronesia] will have to find different sources of funding… and that’s not out there available immediately.”[73] The loss of COFA funding would also provide opportunities for external powers such as the CCP to enhance their economic influence in the country by filling these funding gaps. The loss of COFA funding would also undermine the intent of annual humanitarian missions to Micronesia, such as that by the USNS Mercy in January 2024, to bolster US-Micronesia relations.[74]

The COFA funding also makes up $35.2 million of the Marshall Islands national government's annual $173.9 million revenue as of fiscal year 2023.[75] The loss of COFA funding would expose the country to similar severe fiscal challenges as Palau and Micronesia. The powerful waves that flooded portions of US Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll in late January 2024 highlight the Marshall Islands’ geographic vulnerabilities that the COFA funding would provide resources to address.[76]

COFA Funding as Share of Government Revenue in Freely Associated States[77]

Percentage of total government revenue, FY2023*


*This graphic does not include Micronesia as fiscal year 2023 data for the country was not found.

The CCP may use these revenue shortfalls to incentivize Palau and the Marshall Islands to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the PRC. Australia evacuating refugees it paid Nauru to host led to a budget shortfall.[78] The CCP then reportedly offered Nauru USD 100 million per year in 2024 to successfully switch recognition from the PRC to the ROC, according to a Reuters report that cited an unspecified senior Taiwanese official.[79] This follows a regional trend of the PRC offering incentives such as a commercial aircraft to Kiribati or USD 8.5 million to the Solomon Islands, both in 2019, to successfully incentivize them to switch diplomatic recognition from the ROC to the PRC.[80]

North Korea

PRC Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong met with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Pak Myong-ho on January 26 to discuss bilateral relations and the “international and regional situation.”[81] The PRC did not comment on North Korea’s aggressive behavior in the region, which is consistent with PRC actions since mid-December. The CCP has not publicly criticized North Korea for launching ballistic missiles, testing alleged underwater nuclear drones, or labeling South Korea as its “primary foe.” The CCP has instead called for dialogue to portray the party as a responsible regional stakeholder while avoiding steps to stop North Korea's provocations. The PRC MFA has messaged since mid-December that “trying to solve the problem [on the Korean Peninsula] through military deterrence and pressure will not work…[and] dialogue and consultation” are how to resolve the issue.[82] The CCP has also emphasized the PRC’s close relations with North Korea and plans to deepen “mutually beneficial cooperation” this year, which will be the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.[83]

The PRC is engaging diplomatically with North Korea to undermine United States-South Korea security ties for the PRC’s benefit. The PRC's strategy toward the Korean Peninsula is to push South Korea into a foreign policy that balances the interests of the United States and the PRC.[84] This is based on the view that a regional balance of power shift is underway that is unfavorable to the United States as the PRC engages in a military buildup and South Korea increases its military ability to independently defend against North Korea.[85] Implicit in this view is that the PRC military buildup will force South Korea to account for PRC strategic interests in the peninsula at the expense of the United States-South Korea security relationship.

Israel-Hamas War

The PRC contacted Iran to restrain the Houthi’s attacks on maritime shipping in the Red Sea. The outreach did not slow or stop the Houthi attack campaign. The Financial Times reported on January 24 that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked the PRC to pressure Iran to stop Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. The report also stated that unspecified US officials had seen little evidence of China acting upon these requests.[86] PRC officials asked Iran to have the Houthis show restraint regarding attacks in the Red Sea, according to a Reuters report citing unspecified Iranian officials. The unspecified Iranian officials stated that the PRC did not make specific threats toward Iran if Houthi attacks threatened PRC shipping interests.[87]

The PRC has not condemned Houthi aggression and has instead called for regional calm rather than take steps or support international efforts to stop the Houthi attacks on maritime shipping. PRC foreign affairs officials called on all parties to “play a constructive and responsible role” in keeping the Red Sea safe on January 4 and expressed concern on January 12 about the alleged ”escalation of tensions in the Red Sea” after United States-led strikes on Houthi positions.”[88],[89] A joint PRC MFA and Arab League statement on January 16 reiterated these points in calling on “all parties to cool down the situation…and effectively maintain regional peace and stability.”[90] PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Wang Wenbin implied that US-led strikes on Houthi positions in Yemen are illegitimate because “the [United Nations] Security Council has never authorized the use of force by any country on Yemen.”[91] The only exception to in the PRC’s rhetoric about the Houthi attacks on maritime shipping occurred on January 10, when Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Zhang Jun “call[ed] on the Houthi armed forces to immediately stop harassing civilian ships and respect the freedom of navigation of all countries.”[92],[93]

The CCP continues to stress that US-led counter strikes on the Houthis and not the Houthi’s attacks on maritime shipping risk a wider regional escalation. PRC Ambassador to the European Union Fu Cong stated in a late January interview with Bloomberg that the US-led strikes against the Houthis “can only escalate tension and it’ll not guarantee or maintain the safe passage of the commercial vessels.”[94] A regional escalation would further threaten PRC economic interests by increasing shipping costs and disrupting oil supplies from the region.


CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping accepted credentials from Taliban Ambassador to China Bilal Karimi on January 30.[95] PRC MFA Spokesperson Wang Wenbin did not confirm nor deny whether the PRC recognizes the Taliban government in Afghanistan during a press conference on January 31.[96] The PRC appointed the new ambassador Zhao Sheng to the country in September 2023.[97] The PRC did not explicitly recognize the Taliban. No country officially recognizes the Taliban regime. The event demonstrates growing PRC-Taliban ties, however, as Xi accepted Karimi’s credentials at a ceremony in which he accepted credentials from diplomats from 38 other countries.

This is the latest indication of growing ties between the CCP and the Taliban regime and builds on agricultural and economic deals that the two signed last year. The PRC signed a 6.5 billion USD mining deal and oil deals worth hundreds of millions of US dollars in 2023.[98]


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