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China has published a White Paper on the situation with Taiwan. Here is the translation:

The spokesperson of the Taiwan Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China was authorized to deliver a speech on the publication of the white paper "The Taiwan Issue and the Cause of Chinese Reunification in the New Era"

Xinhua News Agency, Beijing, August 10th, on August 10th, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China was authorized to deliver a speech on the publication of the white paper "The Taiwan Issue and the Cause of China's Reunification in the New Era". The full text is as follows:

The Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and the Information Office of the State Council today issued a white paper on "The Taiwan Issue and the Cause of China's Reunification in the New Era".

In August 1993 and February 2000, the Chinese government published white papers on "The Taiwan Issue and the Reunification of China" and "The One-China Principle and the Taiwan Issue", respectively, comprehensively and systematically expounding the basic principles and related policies for solving the Taiwan issue. For more than 20 years, especially since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the theory of national unification and the policy towards Taiwan have continued to develop abundantly. General Secretary Xi Jinping put forward a series of important concepts and major policy propositions on the work of Taiwan, forming the overall strategy of the Communist Party of China to solve the Taiwan issue in the new era, and providing a fundamental framework and action plan for the work of Taiwan. However, for a period of time, the authorities of the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan have stepped up their “Taiwan independence” separatist activities, and some external forces have tried their best to engage in “Taiwan-based China” in an attempt to prevent China from achieving complete reunification and the Chinese nation from moving towards a great rejuvenation.

The Communist Party of China unites and leads the people of all ethnic groups throughout the country in their long-term struggle to build a well-off society in an all-round way as scheduled, achieve the first hundred years of struggle goal, and start a new journey to build a modern socialist country in an all-round way and march towards the second hundred years of struggle goal. Realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has entered an irreversible historical process, and we are more qualified, confident, and capable of completing the great cause of the reunification of the motherland. The majority of cadres and the masses eagerly look forward to the early completion of the great cause of reunification. The Chinese people at home and abroad and the international community pay great attention to the issue of China's reunification. Embarking on a new journey and facing the new situation, it is necessary to issue a new white paper on national reunification to further reiterate the fact and status quo that Taiwan is a part of China, demonstrate the firm will and strong determination of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people to pursue the reunification of the motherland, and explain the positions and policies of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese Government to promote the reunification of the motherland in the new era.

The white paper “The Taiwan Issue and the Cause of Chinese Reunification in the New Era” insists on taking Xi Jinping's socialist thought with Chinese characteristics in the new era as the guide, based on the overall situation of the great rejuvenation strategy of the Chinese nation and the unprecedented changes in the world in a hundred years, and deeply implements the overall strategy of the Communist Party of China to solve the Taiwan issue in the new era, and demonstrates with a large number of historical and legal facts that Taiwan is a part of China. It is unquestionable and cannot be changed, comprehensively summarizes the Communist Party of China's unwavering efforts to promote the complete reunification of the motherland. History, major achievements and valuable experience, deeply criticized the actions and fallacies of the Democratic Progressive Party authorities stepping up their “independence” provocations and the United States stepping up its efforts to play the “Taiwan card”, and systematically expounded the actions and fallacies of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government in the new era The major political policies and policy propositions for promoting the reunification of the motherland on the new journey clearly clarify the bright prospects for achieving peaceful reunification in accordance with the “one country, two systems”, and fully demonstrate our confidence in achieving the complete reunification of the motherland, our firm determination to oppose the division of "Taiwan independence" and foreign interference, and our unchanging original intention to seek the well-being of compatriots on both sides of the Strait.

In the current complicated international situation and the Taiwan Strait situation, the publication of this white paper is conducive to exposing and criticizing the “Taiwan independence” separatist forces and external forces for colluding and provoking, attempting to harm China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, obstructing and sabotaging the process of Chinese reunification, and exposing their political nature and sinister intentions. The determination of the Chinese people to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity is unshakable, and the will is as solid as a rock; it is conducive to demonstrating that the Communist Party of China and the Chinese Government are willing to continue to strive for peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and do their best. The position and attitude, to maximize the efforts of compatriots on both sides of the Strait, especially Taiwan compatriots and the international community. Understanding and support; it is conducive to boosting the spirit of the whole party and the people of all ethnic groups determined to pursue national unity, enhancing the confidence and courage of the anti-“independence” forces on the island and overseas to promote unity, and condensing the majestic power to support and promote the reunification of the motherland.

Achieving the peaceful reunification of the two sides of the Strait is not only a blessing for the Chinese nation and the Chinese people, but also for the international community and the people of the world. I hope that the majority of Taiwanese compatriots will firmly stand on the right side of history, be dignified Chinese, seriously think about Taiwan's status and role in national rejuvenation, understand justice and act in accordance with righteousness, resolutely oppose the division of “Taiwan independence” and interference from external forces, and actively participate in the just cause of promoting the peaceful reunification of the motherland. I hope that Hong Kong compatriots, Macao compatriots and overseas Chinese will, as always, make new contributions to promoting the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and achieving the peaceful reunification of the motherland. It is hoped that the international community and all countries that have established diplomatic relations with China will abide by the one-China principle, properly handle Taiwan-related issues, understand and support the Chinese people's opposition to the division of “Taiwan independence” and strive to complete the just cause of national reunification.

Is there any benefit to doing this? I am wondering, because everyone knows that China considers Taiwan to be part of China. So what's the point of publishing a white paper and reiterating something most diplomats and senior officials already know? Is there any advantage that China can get out of this, or is this just some protocols people are being told to follow that led to this?

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    What you've quoted doesn't seem to be the whitepaper, but a press release about the whitepaper, summarizing it. Oh, and authoritarians (communists included) like long speeches and similar lengthy exposes even if they are repetitive.
    – Fizz
    Aug 10 at 15:57
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    The citation is overly long. Can the important parts be summarized? The definition of white paper should be clear already without giving an example.
    – Trilarion
    Aug 10 at 21:35
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    @Trilarion I think that the full block quote is actually necessary in this case. This is a model of flabby and indirect writing and trying to summarize it would overlook its essential message and features. This is, after all, actually only an introductions and summary, albeit from an official source, anyway.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 11 at 2:56
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    Is this question about white papers in general, or this particular white paper about China's position on Taiwan? The title sounds general (and some of the answers seem to be taking it as a general question); if that's how you intend it the massive quote is inappropriate. If you intended the question to be about this particular white paper, the title needs to reflect that.
    – Ben
    Aug 12 at 2:07

3 Answers 3

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Short Answer

While it is subtle, this Chinese "white paper" is a bigger deal than it seems from a casual reading out of context and without much further analysis.

This Chinese "white paper" is basically an order from the very top in the person of China's supreme leaders Xi Jinping through his chief subordinate in charge of Taiwan policy, directed at powerful militant factions in the Chinese government, and all of Xi Jinping's other myriad subordinates in China's sprawling government, telling them to stand down in an escalating crisis.

This is intended to end the crisis, and restore normal relations with the rest of the world, without causing China or the hawks in his government to lose face unnecessarily. But it is probably also a mild admonishment to his chief subordinate in charge of Taiwan policy for letting the situation get out of hand without Xi Jinping's pro-active involvement.

Long Answer

What Does The Term "White Paper" Traditionally Mean?

In the traditional sense a "white paper" is a concrete proposal or statement of position that has not yet been reduced to a formal final form together with justifications for the proposed policy, that has been considered at some depth. In this original sense:

White papers are a "tool of participatory democracy ... not [an] unalterable policy commitment. White papers have tried to perform the dual role of presenting firm government policies while at the same time inviting opinions upon them.

The term appears to originate with the Churchill White Paper of 1922 in the U.K. where the practice of issuing white papers originated.

A traditional white paper is circulated for purposes of discussion and comment before it is finally adopted so that policy makers may benefit from the input provided in hammering out a final version of a new policy or even, in rare cases, for abandoning a proposal if the white paper leads to great outcry in opposition or a fatal flaw in the proposal is discovered in the course of public comment upon it.

It is a practice that reflects, in part, the concern that, in a Westminster style parliamentary system policy makers can be particularly prone to being isolated from input from the general public if this input is not actively solicited, because little decision making actually takes place on the floor of parliament or among rank and file members of the governing political coalition.

A white paper is a bit like a proposed regulation, but with more analysis and justification, and with a less formal and exacting form of the proposal which is typically written in more approached and less legalistic terminology than the final policy.

What Is This Chinese Document?

The Chinese document entitled a "white paper" has some of these characteristics, but not all of them.

Like a traditional white paper, it contains justifications and explanations for the policy decisions made from the perspective of the ruling group in the government expressing its attitude towards the issue, rather than merely announcing a new policy without context. Also, like a traditional white paper it is not in formal statutory or legalistic language and is instead meant to be read like a report or an essay.

But, unlike a traditional white paper, the Chinese document is not intended as a proposal that is open for discussion and comment. Instead, it is an articulation of general policy principles that are authoritative and fixed, from which a specific future legalistically worded laws, and formal diplomatically worded policy decisions will be crafted to apply these general principles more specifically to specific means of implementing these general principles.

Given the pervasive role of the Chinese Communist Party on all issues of political policy in China, effectively then, this white paper serves more as a broad general authorizing statute at the political party level, from which other actions will operate more like regulations carrying out this top down command.

Another way of thinking about it, which is perhaps more familiar, is as a plank of the Communist Party of China Platform on this issue to guide its members in setting future policy on this issue.

So, despite its formal appellation as a "white paper" that isn't really precise what it is in this context.

Still, what true "white papers", authorizing statutes, and political party planks, have in common is that they don't directly make any decisions when they are issued. Instead, they reveal where the current regime is heading in its policy making, which even without notice and comment, can reduce surprise, uncertainty, and miscommunication.

What Is The Purpose Of Documents Like This Chinese White Paper?

The purpose of this Chinese White Paper is to both coordinate the actions of policy-makers and other people who have to make decisions that could bear on Taiwan policy within China, and to reduce uncertainty about what China's position is vis-a-vis outsiders, in the hope that they will act in a manner sensitive to powerful China's views.

What Change In Policy Is Being Articulated?

Is there any benefit to doing this? I am wondering, because everyone knows that China considers Taiwan to be part of China. So what's the point of publishing a white paper and reiterating something most diplomats and senior officials already know? Is there any advantage that China can get out of this, or is this just some protocols people are being told to follow that led to this?

What Does It Say?

On one hand, the white paper reiterates the basically counterfactual position that Taiwan is part of China's territory, that this position is non-negotiable, and that Taiwan's independence efforts and foreign support for them as unacceptable.

On the other hand, it balances this position with repeated statements about the Party's hopes for a peaceful unification (i.e. please just surrender and acknowledge mainland China as supreme and we might even let you have a somewhat different system for a while as we did in Hong Kong and Macao). There is a complete absence of threats to use military action in an effort by mainland China to subject Taiwan to its rule, even though it states that counter-threats from Taiwan to go its own way with international support make it really mad and is unacceptable with unarticulated consequences. Any "or else" component of the one China policy has apparently been temporarily been taken off the table for consideration.

What Does This Mean?

As I see it, this white paper is basically an attempt to defuse the current military brinksmanship in the Taiwan straight, with Xi Jinping basically directing all of his myriad powerful subordinates in the Chinese government and non-governmental political organs like the media to stand down for the time being.

He is doing so while standing fast to China's long standing one China policy which he does not purport to make available for negotiations about consenting to Taiwanese independence even if China isn't going to do anything about it just at this moment.

In other words, he is basically encouraging a return to the status quo before a recent spat of escalations culminating in military warning shots from China, an increased U.S. military presence in and around Taiwan, trade sanctions, and in culmination of the latest near crisis, a rare brief visit by the Speaker of the U.S. House, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan itself.

He is trying to do so without causing China, or the people backing efforts to take control of Taiwan within the Chinese power structure, to lose face.

In part, he helps China and the hawks in the government save face by not actually directly mentioning a lack of specific threats, including a lack of specific threats to use of military force, and instead merely omitting these options.

On the other hand, this source, comparing the current white paper to two previous ones, interprets the omission differently, noting that previous white papers expressly took certain kinds of military action off the table, while this paper omits that express limitation on what China will consider doing. In this reading, I have it backwards, and the new white paper is actually slightly escalating the situation by making an implied threat, even though it doesn't actually follow through by making that threat. I don't claim be an eminent expert in interpreting Chinese official statements, so I may have misread the subtle and implied message that are being made by omissions here due to a lack of sufficient context regarding the fine details of previous statements.

One can see the policy being articulated by the white paper only by reading between the lines, in the classic, profoundly indirect style of Chinese political statements in the Communist era.

This classic indirect and jargon filled style also allows the white paper to be widely disseminated and made known to the world (since no government the size of China can keep a tight hold on its secrets anyway with a message that needs to reach thousand or millions of people), in a manner that operates as a dog whistle. It is clear to the intended primary internal audience of senior and mid-level Chinese officials in the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government. But it remains fairly obscure to ordinary Chinese people and foreigners who are less skilled at parsing the mushy, jargon filled, indirect, and vacuous official Communist party statement writing style.

Because Xi Jinping has so much actual power, to the point of basically being able to order the deaths of billionaires and top government officials who get out of line, something approaching the power of Chinese Emperor's of old, and because everybody knows it, he can afford to be subtle.

Everyone in China's power structure pays close attention to the slightest nuances of his every statement in an attempt to "read the room" of a metaphorical career making or breaking, life or death social gathering.

Context Supporting This Reading Of The Chinese White Paper

This approach is of a piece with China's lukewarm reaction to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In that case, China did not affirmatively condemn Russia's actions in public, and did not vote against Russia in the U.N., but China also did not affirmatively take action supporting Russia's military action.

China hasn't stopped all trade with Russia, but it has definitely backed away from providing a strong back door path for Russian exports out of fear of consequences for its trade relations with its other, more important international partners, including the United States with whom China has a love hate relationship.

In both case, Xi Jinping has forged what he is trying to portray as a steady and seasoned path of caution, avoiding conflict to the greatest extent possible, in order to avoid the risk that China could provoke a more serious conflict, diplomatic, economic, or military, with its larger Western oriented trade partners. This is desirable for China because these Western oriented trade partners (including Taiwan itself) are essential to China's ongoing prosperity.

A Plausible Additional Conjecture

It may also be the case that the person delivering the white paper was the very person who had been seeking to aggrandize himself and gain power by escalating the situation.

Forcing him to draft and deliver this white paper, presumably after having it reviewed by Xi Jinping in advance first, may be a form of admonishment to the regimes top Taiwan policy official, and a show of submission to Xi Jinping's authority. Effectively this may be a mild punishment for this senior official for allowing the situation to get out of hand, without a clear path forward and backing from the very top.

This observation is purely speculation on my part, but would make sense in the overall context of the situation.

Surely, this subordinate in charge of China's Taiwan policy must have been playing a central role in the crisis level escalation of tensions in the region in recent weeks.

This conjecture is further suggested by the language early on in the paper stating that "General Secretary Xi Jinping put forward a series of important concepts and major policy propositions on the work of Taiwan" and by the title of the person delivering the paper.

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A white paper is an official position statement issued as a guide to others to help them understand a situation and/or make decisions about it. It's meant to be an authoritative statement from the person or group issuing it, and is often used to counteract speculation or opinion about the person's or group's intentions. While it's true that most everyone has an idea about what China's motivations and intentions are, this document allows China to declare what it is doing openly, in its own terms.

White papers aren't necessarily 'true' in the analytic sense, but they are definitive statements of how the person or group wants the issue to be perceived. They don't generally rise to the level of propaganda — white papers try to make an earnest and believable argument — but they are written from the perspective of the issuer, and with the issuer's interests in mind.

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  • Just about semantics, there seem to be little differences between: white paper, position paper, stand point, analysis, opinion piece, leaflet, essay, article, view, text, couple of written words. Or at least there is lots of overlap between all these. Or is there a specific formal structure that a white paper must follow?
    – Trilarion
    Aug 10 at 21:42
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    @Trilarion: As the term is used, a white paper is meant to be an academic version of an opinion piece: something that might appear in a professional journal, but doesn't rise to the level of a research article. That makes it somewhat stronger than (say) a typical newspaper or broadcast op/ed. I haven't read the WP in question, so I don't know if it rises to that standard, but... at any rate, I don't think there needs to be a formal structure so much as an engagement with formal reasoning. WPs are meant to convince thinking people, not create emotional identification or reactivity. Aug 10 at 22:19
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    @Trilarion The author is also a good way to distinguish the various concepts you wrote. A white paper is only written by governments and possibly corporations, no newspaper will publish their own white paper. If something is written by a government they will also usually say which of these concepts it belongs to and they imply different levels of seriousness and formality. An essay is intended to be more vague and less binding than a white paper.
    – quarague
    Aug 11 at 7:32
  • @quarague Just to completely understand: I couldn't write a white paper on Taiwan then? Whatever I would write would be some kind of commentary or analysis but a white paper would need to come from an organization at the very least and would have a kind of official binding character.
    – Trilarion
    Aug 11 at 13:06
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    @Trilarion There are no official rules that anybody could enforce so you can call your writing whatever you want. But if you write something about Taiwan in a journalistic or academic setting nobody would call that a 'white paper'.
    – quarague
    Aug 11 at 13:17
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Public diplomacy and communications

A white paper is somewhat authoritative, but less rigid than putting policy into law, and possibly more verbose than a diplomatic note (which tends to be government-to-government). Reiterating previous positions can serve to remind the public and the international community of those positions, and confirm that they have not changed in the meantime.

A white paper may serve frame academic intercourse or track 1.5 or 2 exchanges of views. It may inform the policy circles of the other side(s) where a country views red lines and escalation triggers.

I do not read Chinese, but the question was set more generally. The Chinese paper probably has aspects of all of those.

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