China promotes economic “integration” with Taiwan while threatening the island militarily

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China is promoting new economic opportunities for Taiwanese while intensifying…

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China is promoting new economic opportunities for the Taiwanese people while ramping up military activity around the island it claims as its own.

Experts say the “carrot and stick” approach, used by Beijing for years, points to a choice between peaceful “reunification” and military aggression ahead of Taiwan’s presidential election next year.

This week, China unveiled a plan for an “integrated development demonstration zone” in its southeastern Fujian province, closest to democratic, self-governing Taiwan. Taipei strongly rejects China’s sovereignty claims.

Under the plan, Beijing encourages Taiwanese companies to list on Chinese stock exchanges and promises better conditions for Taiwanese investors and a more “relaxed” travel environment, according to a statement released Tuesday by the Communist Party Central Committee and the Council of State. , Chinese Cabinet.

“The aim is to build an integrated development demonstration zone in the entire region of Fujian province to fully show the effect of Fujian as a first-choice destination for Taiwanese citizens and businesses to pursue their development on the mainland,” Pan Xianzhang, deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said at a press conference on Thursday.

This economic opening comes at a time when Chinese military activity is intensifying around Taiwan. On Thursday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it had spotted 68 Chinese warplanes and 10 warships near the island in the previous 24 hours. It said 40 planes entered Taiwan’s air defense zone, in the latest of near-daily incursions intended to threaten the Taiwanese government, which Beijing considers “separatist.”

Earlier this week, China sailed an aircraft carrier 110 kilometers southeast of Taiwan.

Combining economic incentives with military coercion on Taiwan “is a very old strategy on China’s part,” said Drew Thompson, a researcher at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

Many policies outlined in the Fujian plan, such as easy access for Taiwanese to the mainland, were already in place, making the initiative more performative than substantive, he added.

“At the end of the day, this is not a real economic plan to integrate China into Taiwan,” Thompson said. “It’s a political tool that seeks to drive a wedge between the party in power and the part of the electorate that probably doesn’t support the party in power anyway.”

Taiwan is expected to hold presidential elections in January. The favorite, current vice-president William Lai, is considered by Beijing to be a separatist. China has refused to engage with Lai’s party, the Democratic Progressive Party, in power since 2016.

The Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council said the document was a compilation of existing policies and measures.

“It is completely one-sided wishful thinking to try to seduce our members of the public and our businesses to the mainland and integrate them into their system, laws and norms and accept the leadership of the Communist Party,” a- he declared.

The council also urged Beijing to respect Taiwan’s “insistence” on freedom and democracy.

Some of the measures focus on Taiwan’s outlying islands, closer to Fujian province than the main island of Taiwan, such as Matsu and Kinmen, which Chinese state media say are expected to play “an even greater role important” in strengthening relationships.

But the news of this announcement seems to have gone unnoticed in Matsu. A cafe owner, reached by phone, said he was unaware of the measures and had not read the information.

Carlk Tsao, who runs a bed and breakfast on the islands, said he was unaware of Fujian’s new economic integration plan. “Usually in Matsu we don’t see this kind of thing,” he said. “For me personally, I think they’re just making empty promises.”

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