China’s Xi must play it safe with Taiwanese
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times  2017.3.16

China has continued to provoke Taiwan. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun’s (張志軍) statement at the joint meeting of the Chinese National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Consultative Political Conference in Beijing that “the road toward Taiwanese independence will end in unification” has stirred a backlash in Taiwan.

Beijing has done nothing to correct policy mistakes by the office’s misjudgement of Taiwan and the result will be that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will part ways.

China’s tough policies are pushing Taiwan further away.

On Feb. 14, the Chinese-language Commercial Times published a report on how the Ministry of Education was closing its Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) office, saying that “according to informed sources, it is widely understood that President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) position that the cross-strait ‘status quo’ will be maintained, but that the government would not discuss the [so-called] ‘1992 consensus’ means that there will be no more trade talks based on the ECFA, and that the Cabinet used this as an opportunity to close down the ECFA task force.”

On Friday last week, the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) published a report saying that the nation’s eight biggest banks showed no interest in Beijing’s plans to allow Taiwanese investors to set up banks across the Strait.

Huge amounts of capital have been flowing out of China, but Beijing is still trying to undermine Taiwan — although the time when former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would sell out the nation to assist China is long past.

The 521st issue of the bimonthly Chinese-language Wealth Magazine in late January reported that there is another surge in Taiwanese businesspeople leaving China and that this time they are bringing their money with them and closing factories with no regrets.

Regardless of how confused some of these businesspeople were in the past, they are Taiwanese, and it is the responsibility of the government to do all it can to protect them and prevent China from acting as it sees fit.

The government is taking a low profile on this issue; perhaps this is because it is trying to “coordinate” with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

Xi’s main task this year is to organize the 19th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) congress and he does not want anything to come in the way of his attempts to remove the restrictions on his term in office. If either side makes a big issue out of Taiwanese businesspeople leaving China, it would set off a reaction that demands a response from the Chinese president.

Xi’s political enemies are trying to destroy his plans and how he is dealing with Hong Kong, Zhang’s provocations of Taiwan and Chinese generals who are upsetting Beijing’s relations with the US and Japan by talking a lot of nonsense.

This is why Xi should steer clear of provoking or intervening in reforms in Taiwan and the development of the nation’s ties with the US and others, as well as US-Japan relations.

If he issues threats or support actions by the fifth column to stir up unrest, Taiwan might adjust its approach and how it responds to such actions. Examples of such reactions include top Taiwanese officials and the Mainland Affairs Council’s condemnation of Zhang’s statements.

Taiwan might be a small nation, but it still has bargaining chips that it can use to deal with Chinese threats and subversive activities. If Beijing goes too far, it would be surprising if Taiwan does not stir things up on the eve of the CCP congress, and if the US and Japan do not play along.

By Paul Lin 林保華

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Perry Svensson


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