Tue, Nov 07, 2017 - Page 8 News List

China’s pull on young people is a real threat

By Hsu Yu-fang 許又方

After Wang Yu-ching (王裕慶), a Taiwanese student at Peking University in Beijing, pledged to join the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to become “a participant in the motherland’s great rejuvenation,” Chang Li-chi (張立齊), another Taiwanese student studying at the school, said that he had attempted to apply for CCP membership for years.

Chang accused Taiwan of a lack of freedom of speech and monopoly of thought, saying the government is intolerant politically and “excludes” those who hold different views, as democracy has descended into a tool manipulated by the few.

The successive reports about Taiwanese students pledging loyalty to the CCP are intriguing.

Most Taiwanese saw Chang’s accusations as little more than a joke. If Taiwan were an undemocratic country without freedom of speech, he would have faced more serious consequences than being “excluded” for reading publications about communism.

Also, the pro-communist Taiwanese student’s attack on Taiwan’s democracy was directly reported in the local media, in articles that are accessible to all. Is that not precisely a demonstration of this country’s high degree of freedom of speech? Which authoritarian political regime would ever tolerate such public displays of dissidence?

However, I am more curious as to why, after stories about Taiwanese native Lu Li-an (盧麗安) serving as a delegate to the CCP’s 19th National Congress, media have started to publish this succession of stories about Taiwanese students in China pledging loyalty to Beijing by praising the “motherland” and the CCP leadership, while mocking the country in which they grew up.

It is interesting to note that they are both gifted and talented students at the prestigious Peking University, and that both stories initially broke in specific media outlets in Taiwan. Is it a coincidence, or is it all orchestrated?

In the latter case, the CCP’s underhand United Front approach could be evolving to target Taiwanese young people. The reason for the change in approach is quite obvious: Beijing is trying to influence the “natural independence” (天然獨) generation in Taiwan: people born after the lifting of martial law in 1987 that identify predominantly with Taiwan, not China.

In recent years, the job environment in Taiwan has been challenging, to say the least. Many young people, even those with excellent academic degrees, find it difficult to get a decent job, and low pay is another source of frustration. This happens to be a breakthrough point for the CCP’s United Front work, as Beijing is trying to lure the elite of Taiwan’s young generation over to China with the promise of jobs.

While delivering a report at the opening session of the congress on Oct. 18, Chinese President Xi jinping (習近平) said “Taiwanese compatriots” would enjoy “the same treatment as local people when they pursue their studies, start businesses, seek jobs or live on the mainland,” in an attempt to attract Taiwan’s “natural independence” generation.

We should never think that this is not attractive to young people, as ever more high-school graduates choose to enroll at Chinese universities, instead of taking the college entrance exams in Taiwan. They generally believe that the sooner they start to make contact with China, the better their chances of staying there for their own development.

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