Authorities on Monday cautioned China-based Taiwanese artists Ouyang Nana (歐陽娜娜) and Angela Chang (張韶涵) against taking part in China’s National Day celebrations on Wednesday.
The Mainland Affairs Council said it was investigating whether such behavior constitutes a contravention of the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例).
Beijing might have wanted Taiwanese artists to perform at the event to promote its “one country, two systems” formula, which China intends to apply to Taiwan at some point, the council said.
Its intentions when engaging with Taiwanese artists are without a doubt part of its “united front” tactics, clearly being a national security concern. Some younger Taiwanese who are fans of these artists might not fully understand the implications of singing patriotic songs at a Chinese event and wonder whether China’s claims over Taiwan are valid. That is why a strong governmental response is so important — it would show that the artists’ behavior was not acceptable and cannot be a model for other artists to emulate.
However, there is an arguably even greater threat stemming from the large number of Taiwanese who visit, work and live in China, whose behavior while there is out of the public eye and goes unnoticed by Taiwanese authorities.
It should remain in the public consciousness that Taiwan is still technically at civil war with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — hostilities never formally ceased, and although Taiwanese authorities no longer have ambitions in China, the CCP’s ambitions in Taiwan have grown bolder in the past few years.
Beijing’s “united front” efforts include attempts to poach Taiwanese talent, which have become more aggressive since 2018 when China introduced its “31 incentives.” Given Taiwan’s aging population, a brain drain amounts to a national security threat, similar to that posed by China’s attempts to acquire national secrets by bribing current and former Taiwanese officials.
These are all good reasons to restrict the activity of Taiwanese in China.
A common argument by people with dubious interests in China is that Taiwan’s democratic government cannot prevent people engaging in activities across the Taiwan Strait. However, democratic governments often place restrictions on their citizens in the interest of the nation as a whole.
The US government has imposed restrictions on travel to Cuba since 1963. Today, Americans can visit Cuba only under very specific circumstances, such as to engage in humanitarian work, or to visit family — and Americans are not permitted to engage in business with Cuban government-run businesses or to stay at government-run hotels.
Taiwanese authorities recognize China as a threat — or, at least the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) does — but the DPP’s responses are reactive, rather than preventive. Why does it allow Taiwanese to freely engage in work and travel in China and only later raise questions about their activities there?
In China, all activities by foreigners — including Taiwanese — are closely monitored by the government. Foreigners cannot benefit from their activities in China unless the Chinese government also benefits from them. Therefore, how can any exchanges or activities by Taiwanese in China be considered non-political or non-threatening to Taiwan?
Rather than leaving it to artists to decide whether they will engage in pro-unification activities in China, why not remove the choice altogether and restrict travel to China by ordinary citizens?
The best way to protect Taiwanese interests would be to prevent engagements with China, pending either a formal armistice or Chinese recognition of Taiwanese sovereignty.
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