Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) on Wednesday gave the people of his city false hope by saying that he would seek non-political economic cooperation with China. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on the same day, in a message to Taiwanese, dispelled the possibility of non-political cross-strait exchanges, saying that unification is an inevitability.
Xi said that unification would either come peacefully in the form of a mutually agreed upon “one country, two systems” formula, or through the use of force by China’s People’s Liberation Army.
From a Chinese perspective, it is irrelevant what Han tells the people of Kaohsiung, because all interactions with Taiwan are part of “united front” efforts.
At one point, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) could deceive Taiwanese by arguing that the so-called “one China” principle was open to different interpretations by both sides of the Taiwan Strait, but it no longer has that luxury. Xi has made it clear that Beijing plans for Taiwan to be administered as a semi-autonomous region within the People’s Republic of China. Therefore, it is irresponsible for Han or any other municipal leader to tell the public they would keep China at bay politically, which is not possible.
Even if President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) proposal to scrutinize exchanges with China through a three-tier security mechanism were to come to fruition, there remain risks in allowing Chinese investment in real estate and infrastructure, something that Han proposed on Dec. 25.
Housing Movement spokesman Peng Yang-kai (彭揚凱) said at the time that rising real-estate costs brought on by Chinese investment were unlikely to improve people’s lives, citing Chinese real-estate investment in Hong Kong, Australia and Canada as examples. Taiwan would be even worse off than those places due to an inherent national security risk, Peng said.
An article published on Oct. 25 on the Web site of the Guardian put the spotlight on Beijing’s involvement in Chinese investments in Australia, warning Canberra to be wary of “a government whose aim may not only be commercial profit.”
An article published by the South China Morning Post on Sept. 13 said there had been an “unprecedented backlash” against Chinese investment in the several months prior by the governments of Germany, France, Britain, the EU, Australia, Japan and Canada, which all cited national security concerns.
The blacklash resulted in a massive drop in outbound Chinese investment, and was spurred on by the US-China trade dispute, the article said.
China is already feeling the effects of slowed trade.
On Wednesday, Robin Li (李彥宏), founder of search engine Baidu, wrote in a letter to investors that “winter is coming” for the Chinese economy. Li wrote about the need for economic restructuring at the company, the assets of which topped 100 billion yuan (US$14.6 billion) last year.
Given the economic downturn in China and the security concerns raised worldwide over Chinese investment, it would seem counterintuitive for Taiwanese politicians to seek closer economic exchanges with China, especially given that those security concerns are higher in Taiwan than they are elsewhere.
Taiwanese must be made aware that not only would economic benefits reaped from trade with China come with strings attached, but those benefits would be limited. Those in real estate could sell to Chinese buyers and those in tourism could cater to Chinese visitors, but how long would such investments last and how much of that money would reach the hands of ordinary people?
While Han and other KMT members won in the November elections by making grandiose economic promises, they have a responsibility to be honest with the public about what trade with China entails.
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