Sat, Sep 09, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwanese youth being lured away by China

By Chen Chia-lin 陳嘉霖

The Oxford Economics Global Talent 2021 report states that Taiwan will have the most acute shortage of skilled workers of any nation by 2021.

The trend of young Taiwanese moving to China in search of work has exacerbated the problem. Moreover, this trend has been accompanied by national identity concerns.

The flow to China is not simply a phenomenon of a free labor market; behind the scenes, Beijing is pursuing a policy of “economic unification.”

After the Sunflower movement in 2014, Chinese officials realized that there was a huge disconnect between past policies — which they had thought were increasing support for unification with China among young Taiwanese — and the reality of popular sentiment “on the ground” in Taiwan.

Beijing started to adjust its policy targeted at Taiwanese young people to respond to the support for independence among those who have only known Taiwan as independent and are firmly opposed to unification.

Beijing conducted a full review of its frankly laughable and superficial youth exchange activities, branded “The motherland is so great” (祖國好偉大) by Chinese officials, and duly changed tack. Beijing is now focused on increasing the younger generation’s identification as “Chinese” and attracting them to China for work.

It has several programs to achieve the strategy of winning “hearts and minds” and promoting a “Chinese” identity, such as encouraging the younger generation to work in China and to start businesses. The plan is to “buy their hearts and minds.”

Since 2015, the Chinese government has established more than 50 “cross-strait youth enterprise stations” and “demonstration points,” which are designed to cultivate a feeling of identification with China — they have resulted in a hemorrhaging of young, homegrown talent.

No less than one-third of the “youth enterprise stations” are well-known Taiwanese companies that also provide a range of subsidies — including accommodation and preferential loans — to attract young Taiwanese.

Other subsidies include integrated service agreements, expanding and relaxing restrictions on the types of industries and commercial sectors in which young Taiwanese can work and start businesses.

Beijing will seek to lock Taiwanese students, as well as second-generation China-based Taiwanese businesspeople, into the Chinese market by providing free office space, apartments and start-up funding.

There have always been those who advocate closer integration of the economy with China, while glossing over Beijing’s evil intentions.

These people only analyze the Chinese economy from the perspective of economic development, which is a wholly ignorant standpoint, yet one that is surprisingly prevalent within the Democratic Progressive Party administration.

China is still an authoritarian dictatorship. Using market economics when assessing its economic policy toward Taiwan, while ignoring its core political motivation, will leave the nation in an extremely precarious position indeed.

According to data released by China, in the past two years, its Fujian Province has attracted more than 1,000 young Taiwanese for work and to start businesses. This brain drain will not only cause significant problems for Taiwan, it also poses a threat to national identity.

China’s “cross-strait youth enterprise” initiatives are designed by Beijing to pull the rug from under the government’s feet, economically and politically, and the policy is already starting to bear fruit.

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