Beijing’s annual work report traditionally includes a few paragraphs stating that the government will continue to work for the unification of Taiwan. It is the first year since President Xi Jinping came to power ten years ago that this section of the annual report includes a period – “into the new era” – although it is not clear how long this means.

The stronger wording is in line with Beijing’s signals of impatience with Taiwan in recent years, which have alarmed islanders. Xi said in 2019 that “we should not allow this problem to be passed on from generation to generation.”

Huang Kwei-bo, an associate professor of diplomacy at National Chengchi University in Taiwan, said the term “into the new era” was closely associated with Xi’s rule and appeared more often in various contexts.

Huang said Xi probably wanted to send the message that he “is ready to face old and new issues in the new era.”

Saturday’s report also repeated previous language about promoting “the peaceful growth of relations across the Taiwan Strait” and opposing “separatist activities.”

After being defeated by the Communist forces of Mao Zedong in 1949, Chinese Nationalist troops fled to Taiwan and established power on the island. Beijing has since declared that it would unify Taiwan with the mainland, by force if necessary. Taiwan has become one of the most dynamic democracies and progressive societies in Asia: for example, it is one of the few societies in the world to have elected a single woman as president.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and Western countries’ reluctance to send troops to defend it – has raised fears in Taiwan that Beijing may be encouraged to attempt a similar move. The slogan “Today Ukraine, Tomorrow Taiwan” circulated with concern across the island.

Foreign policy circles have been awash with discussions about whether Xi could follow Putin’s lead and invade Taiwan. Some point to similar ambitions in both leaders to build their empires, unfazed by criticism from the West. But others cite notable differences, including Taiwan’s key role in global supply chains and the island’s location near key US allies such as South Korea and Japan.

China’s annual work report is also watched by the corporate sector for its focus on economic growth. This year it has been pegged at around 5.5%, which would be the second lowest gross domestic product growth rate since the 1990s. (The lowest was GDP growth of 2.3% in 2020 , as China self-quarantined for the coronavirus pandemic). China said its economy rebounded to 8.1% growth in 2021.

Although the report, delivered by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, does not mention the war in Ukraine, it does cite broader economic challenges and says maintaining economic stability is the “top priority” this year. Li said tax cuts for businesses and construction projects were underway.

“In the face of renewed downward pressure, the task of ensuring stable growth must take on even greater prominence,” Li said in the report.

Li also said one of the goals this year would be to control coronavirus infections in a “targeted” way, suggesting an imminent easing of draconian policies that have kept China’s coronavirus infection count close to zero, but weighed on the economy and disrupted daily. the life.

“Local case occurrences should be scientifically and purposefully handled, and the normal order of work and life should be ensured,” Li said in the work report.

This year is politically significant for Xi, who is largely expected to remain in charge of China for a third five-year term, regardless of the established practice of stepping down after two terms.

Christian Shepherd contributed to this report.