China on Thursday last week announced its intention to suspend preferential tariffs on Taiwanese imports after it unilaterally concluded Taiwan’s restrictions on products from China constituted a “trade barrier.”
China’s trade tariff coercion is clearly part of its strategy to interfere in next month’s presidential and legislative elections, but the move is more likely to highlight Taipei’s confrontation with Beijing in the international community.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce in April launched a unilateral probe into Taiwan’s restrictions on Chinese imports, this month saying that the investigation had concluded that the restrictions were “trade barriers.”
China on Thursday last week then announced that it would end preferential tariffs introduced for selected goods covered by the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed with Taiwan in 2010, starting with 12 items in ECFA Early-Harvest list from Monday next week.
Taiwanese officials have said that China’s unilateral trade investigation and abrupt suspension of tariff reductions on Taiwanese products is “more blatant economic coercion,” adding to its escalating military and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan that aims to interfere in next month’s elections, especially as the pro-China opposition parties’ presidential candidates are trailing the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in opinion polls.
Although China and Taiwan are both WTO members, China has never held trade talks with Taiwan in accordance with WTO rules. Despite Taipei’s repeated calls for bilateral dialogue, Beijing has severed official communications since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016.
Moreover, China has frequently implemented discriminatory bans on imports of Taiwanese goods, forcing Taipei to take measures to protect the rights and interests of local operators and farmers.
The damage from China’s suspension of preferential tariffs is controllable, as the export value of the 12 items affected accounts for only 1.3 percent of total exports, while the overall value of ECFA-Early-Harvest listed exports accounts for less than 4 percent.
Beijing’s repeated imposition of economic restrictions on Taiwanese products for political purposes has driven Taiwanese firms from China to other nations to “de-risk ” their reliance on China.
Official data show that from January to last month, the proportion of exports to China dropped to 35 percent — the lowest in 21 years, while overseas investment in China fell from 44 percent in 2016 to 17 percent in the first half of this year.
Reviewing the trade dispute from a diplomatic perspective, China’s trade pressure should be resisted with resilience and solved within the WTO, not through under-the-table measures.
Lithuania’s dispute with China over its economic coercion could be a good lesson. Vilnius has faced trade bans after allowing Taipei in 2021 to establish a representative office under the name Taiwan. It has filed complaints to the WTO and, with the support of EU member states, requested an investigation to examine China’s non-rules-based trade restrictions.
Some China’s trade measures targeting Lithuania have since been lifted and the Lithuanian government has given its assurance that there would be no change to the name of Taiwan’s representative office in Vilnius.
Taipei has raised trade concerns at the WTO over Beijing’s moves to block imports of Taiwanese fruit without warning. China should be cautious, as further economic coercion could force Taiwan to take cross-strait issues up on the international stage, as a dispute between “two independent states” to gain more international support, which could backfire on the authoritarian nation’s political scheme to “unify” with Taiwan.
When I was in Ukraine filming for an upcoming documentary, I was surprised at how frequently my mind naturally tended to map Ukraine’s war experience onto Taiwan, where I have lived for the past 10 years. There are obvious parallels of an imperial nuclear superpower asserting itself over a smaller non-nuclear state, but there are also small mundane things that would impact everyday life. When I saw Ukrainian elderly people filling jugs of water at a church in sub-zero temperatures and hauling it back to their homes which might not have electricity, I imagined the difficulty of a Taiwanese senior
This is the Year of the Dragon. At the beginning of the year, the Chinese government announced that “dragon” is to be translated as long (龍), in a move meant to erase the supposed negative connotations of dragons. In many Western cultures, dragons are often seen as wicked or demonic. This is not just a mere linguistic adjustment. It is symbolic, representing a change in China’s current political culture. Under the overbearing leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), the Chinese government has been undergoing a cultural policy of “de-Westernization.” Although this change in semantics is just one of many
An online petition started by a doctor in Taichung called on lawmakers to halt an amendment that would shorten the time needed for Chinese spouses of Taiwanese to gain citizenship in Taiwan. The amendment could put a strain on Taiwan’s already burdened National Health Insurance (NHI) system, Cheng Ching Hospital thoracic surgery division doctor Tu Cheng-che (杜承哲) said. Doctors have seen many Chinese spouses bring their relatives to hospital emergency rooms, asking for full checkups, he added. “They [Chinese spouses] even tell their relatives that healthcare in Taiwan is free and is easily accessible, and that healthcare providers in Taiwan
On Feb. 15, the UK’s Economist Intelligence Unit released its latest report on the state of democracy around the world. Out of the 167 countries and territories covered by the report, titled Democracy Index 2023: Age of conflict, Taiwan is considered a full democracy, ranking first in Asia and 10th around the world. The index showed that global democracy regressed last year, yet Taiwan countered this trend, a fact that all Taiwanese should take pride in. The report sheds light on the rising tide of authoritarianism, with groups consolidating power within and forming alliances with authoritarian powers without. The international order