In the run-up to the Jan. 11 elections, China has introduced 26 measures to follow up on last year’s 31 incentives. Although ostensibly introduced to further promote cross-strait exchange, few actually believe this.
Whether the intention was to influence the elections or to cover for the failure of the earlier initiative, this move is just another “united front” tactic that Taiwanese have come to expect from China.
The first half of these 26 measures is directed at firms, while the second targets individuals, promising to ensure “equal treatment” for Chinese and Taiwanese.
These would mostly entail cooperation between big capital and Chinese enterprises.
It is very unlikely that Taiwanese companies would have a leading role under these proposals or control over the distribution of profits.
In addition to corporate gains, there is the serious issue of a provision of guarantees. Past experience of having no such assurances for ensnarement and personal safety strongly suggests that, in the absence of guarantees, Taiwanese businesses would do well to stay away, regardless of how attractive the terms might appear.
More importantly, amid a US-China trade dispute, problems with the Belt and Road Initiative and questions surrounding public finance, Chinese export volume is falling, while the service sector’s purchasing managers’ index and national GDP growth are at new lows, with Taiwanese and overseas companies leaving China in droves.
How, then, does Beijing propose to help Taiwanese businesses thrive in China?
Among the measures aimed at individuals, Beijing is now saying that Taiwanese “compatriots” would receive consular assistance from China’s embassies abroad.
Republic of China passports are already viewed more favorably overseas than Chinese ones and Taiwanese enjoy visa exemptions with more countries. Furthermore, there are at least 67 Taiwanese missing in China and Beijing continues to suppress Taiwan’s international space.
For China to say that it can offer protections to Taiwanese is laughable.
Offers of “equal treatment” lose their appeal in light of Beijing’s treatment of people in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as dissidents and the poor within China proper, in ways that are causing consternation among the international community.
When China cannot even offer the most basic personal safety guarantees to its own citizens, the more promises it makes, the more the fallacies in its claims come out in stark contrast.
If China truly wants to help Taiwanese, it could start by guaranteeing the freedom of expression to which they have become accustomed.
There have been the “Nine Principles” proposed by Chinese People’s Liberation Army marshal Ye Jianying (葉劍英) in 1981, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) “six points” and former Chinese president Jiang Zemin’s (江澤民) eight-point proposal in 1995, all aimed at facilitating the annexation of Taiwan.
Last year’s 31 incentives were cut from the same cloth, and the new 26 measures are an extension of them. Taiwanese are increasingly unimpressed.
This “incentives” strategy is another series of empty promises, all of which come with conditions and none of which have guarantees.
The fallacy of these measures is obvious amid Beijing banning Chinese individual tourists from visiting Taiwan, ending purchases of Taiwanese agricultural products and forcing Taiwanese celebrities and businesspeople to pay lip service to China. Taiwanese credulity is being stretched very thin.
Lau Yi-te is chairman of the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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