Tue, Nov 27, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Beijing likely to target KMT-held areas: academics

EFFECT ON TAIWAN:National Policy Research member Kuo Yu-jen said that the 15 cities and counties would be the best way for China to rapidly infiltrate the nation

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Beijing would likely target the 15 cities and counties where the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) won mayoral and commissioner elections to promote cross-strait exchanges or use them to infiltrate the nation, academics said at a conference in Taipei yesterday.

Following the KMT’s gains in Saturday’s nine-in-one elections, Beijing is expected to begin promoting exchanges with those areas, Cross-Strait Policy Association secretary-general Wang Zhin-sheng (王智盛) told the conference, which was on the implications of the elections for cross-strait relations.

While the move would not be new, the elections have significantly expanded areas controlled by the KMT, Wang said.

When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tried to manipulate public opinion on cross-strait issues by promoting economic collaboration with eight cities and counties run by the KMT in 2016, its efforts were shown to be ineffective due to their low population and scattered locations, but the 15 cities and counties the KMT won on Saturday cover 80 percent of the population, he said.

“We are likely to see collaboration between KMT-run local governments and the CCP against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) central government. Beijing would definitely spend next year promoting exchanges with those cities and counties,” he said.

The 15 cities and counties are Taichung, Kaohsiung, New Taipei City, Chiayi City, and the counties of Miaoli, Hsinchu, Yunlin, Changhua, Nantou, Hualien, Taitung, Yilan, Lianchiang, Penghu and Kinmen. New mayors and commissioners are to take office on Dec. 25.

Although Beijing is expected to offer more economic benefits as the KMT gains power, it would not be the end of its attempts to undermine national sovereignty, Wang said, adding that the CCP is expected to continue pressing Taiwan’s allies and restricting its international space.

“The 15 cities and counties would become the best means for China to rapidly infiltrate Taiwan and this could have great effect on Taiwan’s role in the Indo-Pacific strategy,” National Policy Research executive director Kuo Yu-jen (郭育仁) said.

Concerned about Chinese infiltration, the US, Japan, Australia and other countries have all tightened rules on Chinese capital, academic exchanges or certain technologies, Kuo said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan NextGen Foundation executive officer Anson Hung (洪耀南) said that Beijing might have attempted to intervene in the elections by manipulating public opinion online.

“Unlike its practice in past years, China was generally quiet throughout this year’s nine-in-one elections, but that does not mean it did not intervene,” Hung said.

“It could just be that it has found a different way to do so,” he said, adding that the period leading up to the elections saw an unusually large amount of online traffic on Web sites related to the elections.

For example, an interview with the KMT’s Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), who won the Kaohsiung mayoral race, reportedly had 7 million people watching live online, Hung said.

Chinese netizens would repeatedly click on specific news stories to drive their ranking on Google, he said.

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