Publication: China Brief Volume: 1 Issue: 3

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam

Chinese military forces have just finished an elaborate war game off the Fujian coast that involved more than 100,000 crack troops as well as the latest missiles, jetfighters and submarines. High on the agenda of President Jiang Zemin’s recent trip to Moscow was further consolidation of the two country’s quasi-military alliance. The Chinese team reportedly bought US$2 billion worth of SU-30 jet fighters in addition to concluding further agreements on co-production of Russian-made weapons on Chinese soil. While much of these activities have to do with Taiwan, it is most unlikely that Beijing will use the military option in the near term.

A major reason is that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership is reasonably happy with its tongzhan, or united front, tactics toward Taiwan. Beijing is fairly confident that it is winning hearts and minds on the island–and if this momentum were to continue, it could achieve reunification without deploying a single soldier of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).


What is united front? Put simply, it means “co-opting whosoever can be co-opted and isolating your enemy.” Chairman Mao Zedong once said the united front and superior military forces were the two weapons that clinched victory for the Communists in 1949.

In the case of Taiwan, united front tactics mainly target three groups. The first includes opposition parties, principally the Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalists, and the People’s First Party (PFP). The second consists of businessmen, ranging from multinationals to small- and medium-sized enterprises.