Wed, Mar 14, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Countering Beijing will require care and tactics

By Tzou Jiing-wen 鄒景雯

When the Sunflower movement erupted in 2014, halting the passage of the cross-strait service trade agreement in its tracks, a number of major Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) figures with ties to China, seeing the deregulation they prized so much had been thwarted, offered a suggestion to Chinese agencies responsible for ties with Taiwan.

They recommended finding a way to take advantage of the very democratic processes that were placing obstacles in Beijing’s path and the their own, such as China taking the items from service trade agreement that it had control over and unilaterally implementing them, bypassing the need to secure Taipei’s approval.

These KMT figures knew all too well that with Taiwan being a democracy, the governing party was obliged to win the hearts and minds of the voters and, by the same token, if China desired peaceful unification with Taiwan, Beijing would have to vie with that party for those same hearts and minds.

After the service trade agreement fell through, Beijing’s attempts to win Taiwanese hearts and minds were met with some derision, considering the reports of how Beijing was treating its own citizens.

Now that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has further consolidated his power, and given that the recent 31 incentives announced by China are the official face of Beijing’s new approach, people in Taiwan might want to start taking such unilateral moves more seriously, until they are more certain about what is actually happening.

The Democratic Progressive Party government has begun a preliminary study into the matter. Several government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, believe that the deregulation of certain items on Beijing’s list of 31 steps violate Taiwan’s laws.

For example, the government bars Taiwanese companies from investing in certain public infrastructure projects in China, such as irrigation projects, railways, airports or other mass rapid transport systems, and has stipulated that Taiwanese cannot serve in Chinese Communist Party or Chinese military posts, and that these matters are not for Beijing to decide.

If this is just government propaganda, then so be it. If, on the other hand, the government deludes itself into believing it can actually control such investments and keep the situation under control by citing the law, then it is in trouble.

All changes to policy and laws governing interaction between the citizens of China and Taiwan, ever since the time of former presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), have been driven from the bottom up. It was the Taiwanese who have pushed and necessitated political and legal reform.

This is how cross-strait marriages came to be, it is how changes in recognizing academic qualifications from Chinese universities came about. This is one of the “special characteristics” of government for the people, by the people.

The 31 incentives, collated by 29 institutions in China, constitute little more than an opening sally to attract Taiwanese, a gauntlet thrown to the floor in front of the government in Taipei.

More to the point: Beijing is using these incentives to subvert Taipei’s authority.

The government needs to be very careful about its next move. Before it makes any announcements about a strategy to counter Beijing’s moves, it needs to sound out all involved, and to be absolutely sure that its aim is true.

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