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Wasn’t CJK unification something that the PRC demanded?

The opposite. China, Korea, and Japan, each have different styles for common characters, and as a result wanted to have different codepoints for each character. The opposite of unification.

Unification was driven by a desire to keep Unicode a 16-bit codespace for as long as possible. Undoing unification meant adding more pressure on an already crowded codespace, which meant abandoning UCS-2, and creating UTF-16 (horror of horrors), and ultimately switching to UTF-8.

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