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China focused on economy, not Taiwan: academics
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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang yesterday made scant mention of Taiwan in an important annual speech, reflecting China’s focus on its economy as it juggles a trade war with the US and the COVID-19 pandemic, academics specializing in cross-strait relations said.

Li delivered the Chinese government’s work report — a speech often compared to the US’ state of the union address — at the opening of the Chinese National People’s Congress.

The 14,000-word speech was shorter than in previous years, when they averaged about 20,000 words, and its references to Taiwan were limited to about 100 words.

Taiwan Thinktank advisory board member Tung Li-wen said that the relatively minor references to Taiwan show that China has its hands full managing the economic effects of its trade war with the US and the pandemic.

Tung noted that Beijing last week unveiled 11 measures targeting Taiwanese businesses operating in China, saying they show that China needs to retain Taiwanese talent and technology amid the tough economic climate.

Cross-Strait Policy Association deputy secretary Chang Yu-shao characterized the language on Taiwan in the speech as “soft in tone, but not without its jagged edges.”

Li did not invoke political concepts such as “one country, two systems” or the so-called “1992 consensus” in reference to Taiwan, and instead relied on broader appeals to Chinese nationhood, Chang said.

At the same time, the speech omitted the word “peaceful” in its reference to “national reunification,” he said.

The so-called “1992 consensus,” which former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi in 2006 admitted making up in 2000, refers to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge that there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.

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