China has been engaging young Taiwanese through a series of travel and work exchange activities as the latest move in its “united front” strategy, political observers said.
Statistics published by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) showed that last month 13 exchange activities were held at the provincial level in China that invited young people from several community organizations throughout Taiwan on instructions from high-level Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials.
Beijing’s “united front” approach is marked by an approach it has dubbed the “three middles and the youth” — residents of central and southern Taiwan, middle and low-income families, small and medium-sized enterprises, and young people — and the “one generation and one stratum” approach — the younger generation and the grassroots stratum — as well as its exclusion of Democratic Progressive Party local government heads.
National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Chairman Yu Zhengsheng (俞正聲) in March described plans for the launch of an “experience-oriented exchange” program designed to lure young Taiwanese through study, internships, entrepreneurship and summer camp activities.
The program would allow China to benefit from embracing Taiwanese talent while also furthering unification, Yu said.
This year there are about 10,800 Taiwanese students studying at Chinese schools, and they have been invited by their host provinces to participate in cultural, sports and other activities, the majority of which have been held in China’s Fujian Province.
Since 2015, the TAO has established 41 “cross-strait youth entrepreneurship bases” in 12 provinces, as well as 12 centers to assist young Taiwanese in finding jobs and starting businesses.
Up to 17,000 Taiwanese have participated in job-seeking and entrepreneurship activities in China, and 6,000 of them have started businesses or found work there, statistics show.
Taiwanese students in China are at risk of being influenced by CCP rhetoric at their schools, where curricula is heavily controlled by the party and critical analysis that contradicts that rhetoric is not allowed, a source familiar with cross-strait affairs said.
Visits by Taiwanese community organizations to China are also becoming more common, they said.
Several community groups from New Taipei City’s Wugu (五股), Wulai (烏來) and Taishan (泰山) districts in June visited Nantong City in China’s Jiangsu Province, they said.
Principals from Taiwanese elementary and junior-high schools have also been receiving invitations to visit China, the source added.
“These are clearly ‘united front’ tactics, but Taiwan is a free, democratic society. We cannot and will not prevent people from going to China. All we can do is remind people to be conscious of the political situation and the differences between the two societies,” said a government official who declined to be named.
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