Beijing’s employment deception

By Kimyung Keng 何景榮  / 

Tue, May 15, 2018 - Page 8

Frequent visitors to Indonesia might have found that the nation’s customs controls have become stricter for tourists holding Chinese passports, and by association, for people holding Taiwanese passports.

The main reason is that China has failed to create local job opportunities after winning the bid to build a semi-high-speed railway in Java as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. Instead, Beijing is sending Chinese construction workers to Indonesia to take the jobs that belong to local workers and arousing complaints among Indonesians.

To make the situation worse, many of the Chinese “low-end population” — those from inland provinces who earn a low income and have low levels of education — entered Indonesia as tourists, then took illegal jobs at construction sites along the railway and eventually opened Chinese restaurants, barber shops or retail stores that pose a direct threat to local small businesses.

China has used the same predatory “take-it-all” strategy in Laos, where it has created huge social and economic problems.

This implies that there are not enough jobs in China, and that the government must therefore take every opportunity to send its surplus population to Southeast Asia to compete for jobs with local people.

How, then, would China provide stable and long-term employment to young Taiwanese as claims it will do in its “31 incentives”?

This is not the first time China had used this kind of short-term policy, deceiving a few talented workers to use as models.

During the 1960s, the Chinese Communist Party called on overseas Chinese to “come home and build up the motherland.” Large groups of innocent and naive overseas Chinese returned to contribute their labor, only to end up in prison or labor camps, or even die when they were accused of having “foreign relations,” “coming from a capitalist country” or other reasons.

Some young Taiwanese believe that the victims in these instances are people Beijing regards as part of the “low-end population,” which has nothing to do with Taiwanese “high-end talent,” such as business managers and highly educated people.

The question is how professionals in the creative and cultural industries will be able to give free rein to their creativity in a nation where the government has total control through the omnipresent Internet.

Even the Taiwanese editor-in-chief of GQ Taiwan, a men’s fashion magazine, who was originally promoted to the managing editor position at GQ China, was replaced at the last minute after facing unsubstantiated allegations.

How could academics gather materials and reveal facts when even Google search results are blocked?

When I was studying for my doctorate in the US, several Taiwanese students in my class chose to go to China as “returning overseas Chinese academics,” only to find that there were all kinds of political controls, even on college campuses.

In addition to the monitoring of their mobile phones, computers and online activities, these “returning academics” are required to join a committee to learn from party members, many of whom barely have an education, but are always considered to be capable and influential on account of their “good relations.”

Despite being unhappy, these returnees have already signed contracts and moved their entire families to China, and they are afraid that one mistake could land them in prison like Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲), forced to “confess” their crimes or be disappeared.

Unfortunately, some Taiwanese pro-unification media outlets keep encouraging young Taiwanese to enter a Chinese labor market that is already saturated.

Media outlets keep publishing reports about young people who have found high-paying jobs in China or have successfully launched businesses there, but they never mention the privileges enjoyed by the children of high-ranking Chinese officials or the benefits they receive from party-government relations.

In the past, talented young Southeast Asians went to China only to end up in labor camps; nowadays, China’s “low-end population” and “high-end talent” fall over each other trying to find fortune in Southeast Asia.

Young Taiwanese should consider whether they really want to go to China and compete to become slaves in a saturated labor market.

Kimyung Keng, an Indonesian Taiwanese, is an assistant professor and the recipient of the Outstanding Young Taiwanese of 2016 award.

Translated by Chang Ho-ming