China on Wednesday last week announced 31 measures that it said would benefit Taiwanese enterprises, civic groups and individuals interested in studying, working, living or starting a business in China.
Given China’s abiding ambition to bring Taiwan into its fold, there is obviously more behind the benefits and subsidies than meets the eye.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesman An Fengshan (安峰山) gave away Beijing’s hidden agenda when he said that the slew of economic incentives “represent the implementation of the vision of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) regarding Taiwan.”
What is Xi’s vision for Taiwan? One needs to look no further than his speech at the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress in November last year, in which he spoke of “[quashing] pro-independence forces in Taiwan and [realizing] China’s ultimate dream of unification.”
The Mainland Affairs Council said the measures are “just another effort to offer benefits [to Taiwanese] in exchange for political loyalty toward Beijing.”
It comes as no surprise that China is once again using money to lure Taiwanese and undermine Taiwan’s economy.
However, while people might criticize the measures as just another “united front” tactic, such incentives do have their draws.
Given the problems plaguing the nation — such as stagnant wage growth, widening inequality, a lack of research grants, slow industrial transformation and an investment environment characterized by businesspeople as “unfavorable” — the government cannot really blame businesses, civic groups and individuals for seeking more opportunities and a better environment elsewhere.
Instead of calling out China for seducing Taiwanese with benefits and urging people “not to be bought,” the government needs to be more active and approach the matter pragmatically.
One thing the government could do is study the 31 items carefully and analyze how Taiwan fares in comparison to China in those areas.
According to information published on the TAO’s Web site, 12 of the 31 incentives involve allowing Taiwanese companies to take part in the “Made in China 2025” program and infrastructure projects, and to enjoy tax cuts and investment capital. The other 19 incentives involve relaxing restrictions on certification for 134 professional aptitude examinations allowing Taiwanese who study or work in China to become members of local professional associations, and giving Taiwanese films, TV programs and books greater market access in China.
Preferential treatment is to be offered in sectors ranging from high-tech, agricultural and infrastructure to academia, culture and entertainment; and unlike in the past, when China focused on Taiwanese businesspeople, the latest measures target a swath of professions, including teachers, doctors, academic researchers, artists and entertainers.
In areas where China obviously offers more attractions than Taiwan’s, the government needs to engage in introspection and come up with solutions to improve Taiwan’s environment and policies to promote various industries and professions.
In other words, the challenge facing the government is not so much “stopping Taiwan’s brain drain to China,” but rather an urgent need to examine the nation’s own regulation of industries and labor, as well as other domestic policies.
The government needs to think about how it could improve policies to create an environment favorable to sustainable and exciting development that caters to the nation’s industries and highly educated workers.
As long as Taiwan could do that, it would have nothing to fear from China, or any other country, in the ever-intensifying battle for talent.
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