Sun, Feb 11, 2018 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Taiwanese find opportunity, risk in China

Reuters, Taipei and Shanghai

A start-up incubator on the outskirts of Shanghai is laying out sweeteners for budding entrepreneurs: free office space, subsidized housing, tax breaks and in some cases cash of up to 200,000 yuan (US$31,800).

The main condition? Be from Taiwan.

The center, formally called the Jinshan Cross Strait Youth Entrepreneurship Base, is part of the new face of China’s approach toward Taiwan.

More than 50 such bases have sprung up over the past three years across the country, attracting scores of Taiwanese start-ups and their young founders.

For China, young Taiwanese are seen as a key demographic to win over, but Taiwan’s government is viewing the success of the incubators and other programs with concern.

For years, Beijing’s policies toward Taiwan have focused on improving ties with traditional businesses, which still continue.

However, analysts and the Taiwanese government say that the Sunflower movement protests in 2014 over a trade pact with China caught Beijing’s attention.

“Before 2015, the Chinese mainland government targeted mainly commercial or business interests in Taiwan, but after the Sunflower movement, they shifted their focus to winning the hearts of the younger people, because they see them as the future and they see them as the biggest destructive force,” said Zhang Zhexin (張哲馨), a research fellow on Taiwan issues at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

There are at least 53 incubators across China, including in cities such as Deyang in Sichuan Province and Shenyang in the nation’s northeastern rust belt, according to a list on China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Web site.

The Jinshan Cross-Strait Youth Entrepreneurship Base is in an office block in the heart of a sprawling industrial zone. It is styled like a Silicon Valley start-up, with brightly colored walls, rows of vacant computer desks and posters describing companies working there.

“We want to be a window to young Taiwanese to help them understand the mainland,” said Dong Ji, deputy Chinese Communist Party committee secretary of the industrial zone, which spent about 5 million yuan to set up the center in 2015.

Although the centers are open to Chinese and foreign companies, they offer the most financial incentives to those from Taiwan, he said.

The facility outside Shanghai is host to 165 projects, 40 of which are Taiwanese. It aims to increase this number to 100 by next year.

The Jinshan government — which also sees the incubator as an opportunity to bring young talent into the industrial zone — finances the start-ups itself and has given companies 30,000 yuan to 200,000 yuan in cash support, he said, adding that some have also received other support worth 500,000 yuan, such as subsidies and tax breaks.

No conditions are placed on companies interested in registering at the incubator, he added.

“We are working hard for the cross-strait relationship and Taiwanese youth who come here to start businesses to create a better environment for them to live and be entrepreneurs,” he said.

Such efforts in China come as Taiwan is seeing talented workers leave the country amid stagnant wages and economic growth that has lagged behind that of its neighbors. Workers in the tech industry — its strongest sector — are also being lured to China by higher pay.

Taiwanese Andy Yang, 27, was one of those who went abroad. He in 2015 moved to Shanghai to set up an education technology company, Bridge+, with four partners.

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