Beijing officials have been told a key task for the year will be curbing “external interference” in Taiwan amid a more unpredictable situation across the strait. Wang Yang , who is ranked No 4 in the Communist Party hierarchy, said there was growing “uncertainty and instability” in the Taiwan Strait as the world went through changes not seen in a century, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic . Speaking at an annual conference on Taiwan affairs in Beijing on Tuesday, Wang said provocation by Taiwan’s independence-leaning forces and “interference by external forces” should be “resolutely curbed”. It comes amid worsening tensions across the strait, with the self-ruled island reporting new large-scale Chinese air force sorties into its air defence zone this week and as the US and its allies intensify their support for Taiwan, angering Beijing. However, unlike at last year’s meeting Wang did not explicitly refer to the one-China principle and “promoting the process of reunification” – Beijing’s goal of taking back what it considers a wayward province, by force if necessary. While claiming progress was made in Taiwan affairs last year, Wang asked officials to thoroughly implement the “party’s overall strategy for resolving the Taiwan issue in the new era” – a guiding policy included in a historical resolution adopted by the party last year. Wang told attending officials to “see clearly that the time and trend of the complete reunification of the motherland is always on our side”, and urged them to consider how best to prepare for “risks and challenges”. He also called for them to build a strong front against “independence” and promote reunification, and to make continuous efforts to share development opportunities with Taiwanese people and enterprises in the mainland. Fujian, the closest mainland province to Taiwan, would be supported to explore cross-strait integrated development and would be home to a new demonstration zone for such development, he said. As PLA threat grows, Taiwan’s bid to boost defence ‘may lead to conflict’ Wang Jianmin, a Taiwan affairs specialist at Minnan Normal University in Fujian, said Beijing saw curbing external forces as a key task in Taiwan affairs this year because the US, Japan and some European countries had stepped up support for the island. “The risk in the strait is rising, and [Beijing’s] concerns and need to be prepared for the complexities and severity of the Taiwan Strait situation are unprecedented,” he said. He noted that the US had increased its military interactions with Taiwan and Japan, an American ally that had supported the island in a “low key” way in the past and was now openly cooperating with the US to back Taiwan against the mainland. Some European nations, such as Lithuania, had also moved to strengthen ties with Taiwan, causing Beijing more unease. Xi says peaceful Taiwan reunification is in country’s best interests Yang Lixian, a research fellow at the Beijing-based Research Centre for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, said Wang Yang’s mention of “uncertainty” indicated Beijing was preparing for the worst in the strait and that it “must be vigilant and prepare for more complex and unpredictable situations”. Yang expected a new policy on Taiwan covering at least the next five years to be introduced at the party congress to be held in autumn, and that one focus this year would be an effort to boost transport, economic and other links between Fujian and Taiwan.