Beijing's generosity puts Taipei on
edge By Jens Kastner
TAIPEI - It might be customary elsewhere
that when Country A showers Country B with
billions of dollars, both sides' leaders present
the good deed concertedly so that either has a
chance capitalizing on it in political terms. But
this does not apply in the case of mainland China
and Taiwan, because both sides claim they belong
to one country.
In this case, the
government of Taiwan is increasingly being left
out of the show. Taking one big chunk out of
Taipei's governing authority after another,
Beijing directly presents the island's people with
strikingly mouthwatering goodies. And, adding
insult to injury, it doesn't shy away from
encouraging breaches of local law.
recent cross-strait exchange forum held in Xiamen,
a city in
the mainland's Fujian
province, Wang Yi, director of the Taiwan Affairs
Office (TAO) under China's State Council, did what
he usually does at such events: herald economic
sweeteners for the "compatriots" on the other side
of the Taiwan Strait.
Wang said that
Taiwanese enterprises wishing to operate from the
mainland would be offered a staggering 600 billion
yuan (US$95.5 billion) in bank loans; that Beijing
would lift an import ban on rice from the island;
that the list of Chinese provinces where local
businesses can directly employ Taiwanese would get
longer; that residential permits for Taiwanese
would be extended from one to two years; and that
the islanders were welcome to work in selected
provinces' and municipalities' public sector,
spanning colleges and universities as well as
cultural and medical institutions.
while Taiwan's business and farmers associations,
mainland-based expats, would-be migrants and many
others have been popping the corks in jubilation,
the Taiwanese government is being thrust into a
very awkward position. Its response to Wang's
overtures has been lukewarm at best, not only
because Beijing apparently does not bother talking
to Taipei beforehand about such headline-grabbing
measures involving astronomical sums of money, but
also due to the matter that although Taiwanese law
has allowed citizens to work on the mainland since
2003, it explicitly prohibits employment by the
government of the People's Republic of China
Covered by this ban are jobs in
political committees, as government consultants
and also at the very colleges, universities, and
cultural and medical institutions the TAO's Wang
has now opened the doors wide for Taiwanese. PRC
disregard of the Taiwanese law in question had
already become a prominent matter earlier this
year when a recruitment drive aimed at
local-government officials, farmers and academics
was launched to develop the "Pingtan Comprehensive
Experimental Zone" in Fujian province.
That Beijing has no qualms about all this
despite the spectacularly improving cross-strait
ties of late is hardly surprising.
Beijing's perspective, Taiwan is part of the PRC,
and it needs no permission to make funding support
to Taiwanese businesses in the rest of the PRC,"
said Steve Tsang, director of the University of
Nottingham's China Policy Institute, in an
interview with Asia Times Online.
the same line of thinking, allowing Taiwanese to
work for government agencies in China should
require no permission from Taipei."
attitude is of course highly objectionable from
the Taiwanese government's perspective, Tsang
It is one thing that Beijing shows
the Taiwanese population that they can easily and
safely vote with their feet should economic or
political developments on the island ever run
counter to their wishes. But with Beijing ignoring
the Taiwanese government and obviously failing to
consider Taiwan's laws, its supposed ally in
Taipei, President Ma Ying-jeou of the
Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT), is being pushed
In the run-up to the election to his
first presidential term in 2008, Ma unilaterally
came up with the "mutual non-denial" slogan to
facilitate smooth working relations with Beijing.
Back then, he explained that while Beijing's PRC
and Taipei's Republic of China (ROC) could not
possibly recognize each other as the legitimate
ruler over China because of their respective
constitutions, for the sake of good relations, the
two sides should at least not put in question each
Yet while Ma shortly
after the inauguration to his second and final
term in late May this year again declared that
"mutual non-denial of authority to govern is the
most pragmatic approach to ties between Taipei and
Beijing", the recent TAO drive serves as a vivid
reminder that mainland officials have never given
the nod to the tactic agreement between Beijing
and Taipei that Ma's formula suggests to exist.
According to Jean-Pierre Cabestan, head of
Hong Kong Baptist University's department of
government and international studies, the measures
the TAO's Wang announced are perfectly in line
with Beijing's "united front" strategy. The term
stands for a tactic carrot-and-stick approach of
amassing military equipment opposite Taiwan while
at the same time offering ample opportunities for
business and cultural exchanges.
Cabestan expressed doubts on whether the TAO's
conspicuous neglect of diplomatic politeness was
part of the story.
"Beijing is investing
in the future; deepening Taiwan's dependence will
allow China to narrow the DPP's [anti-unification
Democratic Progressive Party] options if it wins
the next presidential election in 2016," he said.
"But the reason Beijing did not consult
with Taipei is probably because this policy is
carried out on the mainland and does not need
Taipei's green light."
Cabestan added that
the PRC might also make a distinction between
government agencies and shiye danwei, which
is a legal category that includes universities and
"Like this, the double line is
not really crossed, at least from Beijing's point
of view," he said.
Kastner is a Taipei-based journalist.
(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online
(Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please
contact us about sales, syndication and