China’s Taiwan Affairs Office and National Development and Reform Commission on Monday last week announced 26 measures, with 13 directed at Taiwanese businesses and the other half at the Taiwanese public, which are arguably the weakest of the group.
The government must carefully consider the potential influence of these measures on the nation’s business sector, and outline pragmatic and thorough countermeasures.
Beijing’s Jan. 2 version of the “one country, two systems” formula for Taiwan and its 26 measures are systemic actions, as can be seen in the latter’s drafting process. It involved as many as 22 ministries and commissions.
This is a large-scale project aimed at negotiation and integration, and China clearly devoted considerable effort to completing it before the election. Effective or not, China is serious.
The 13 proposals targeting Taiwanese businesses share a common characteristic. They not only point to China’s goals during its next development phase, such as targeting artificial intelligence technologies. They also show that Beijing is paying close attention to Taiwan’s key sectors, including 5G, a strong circular economy achieved through resource recycling and a more advanced financial system.
The measures intended for civil aviation and transportation of passengers and goods, as well as participation in airport construction, appear directed at EVA Airways and China Airlines.
Beijing obviously conducted surveys and research before mapping out these measures, and the possibility that they have talked to “proxy agents” and major Taiwanese enterprises in the process cannot be ruled out.
Given the timing of the announcement, the 26 measures seem to be an attempt at intervening in next year’s presidential and legislative elections, and more importantly, they show that the US-China dispute over supply chains is in full swing.
The Financial Times on Monday last week reported on US discontent over Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co exporting chips to Huawei. The question is what measures Taipei could take to protect its leading semiconductor company, which plays a crucial role in the nation’s economic status.
Failure is not an option. The public wants concrete results and assurances.
The other 13 measures claim to give Taiwanese equal treatment to Chinese, but the real intention is to soften the idea of incorporating Taiwan into China.
Compared with the business-oriented incentives, the measures directed at Taiwanese — such as providing Chinese travel documents and protection from its embassies and consulates in other countries — are focused on the individual and not as urgent.
While Taiwan’s diplomacy suffers from China’s suppression, Beijing can only block official visits by Taiwan’s president and high-level government officials. It can do little to hinder the free movement of Taiwanese abroad.
Taiwan also enjoys visa-exempt entry to more countries than China does, so the offer of a “travel document” is not enticing. Taiwanese have learned the lessons of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, and China will have to put in considerable effort to sell them something this weak.
While political campaigns ready themselves for the elections, the government must establish a national security team that is trusted by all.
Taipei should talk less and do more by monitoring and responding to Beijing’s moves 24-7, as China may play tricks or take actions beyond these measures.
Taiwan cannot afford even the smallest mistake.
Tzou Jiing-wen is the editor-in-chief of the Liberty Times (the sister newspaper of the Taipei Times).
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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