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China unveils ‘plan’ for Taiwan integration while sending warships around self-governing island

Nature


Hong Kong
CNN

China on Tuesday unveiled a plan to deepen integration between coastal Fujian province and self-ruled Taiwan, touting the benefits of closer cross-strait cooperation while sending warships around the island in a demonstration of military power.

The directive, jointly issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council, promises to make Fujian a “demonstration zone” for integrated development with Taiwan, and the “first home” for residents and businesses Taiwanese to settle in China.

The document, hailed as a “blueprint” for Taiwan’s future development by Chinese experts cited in state media, comes at a delicate time in cross-Strait relations as Taiwan prepares for its presidential election in January.

It also comes as China continues to step up its military pressure on Taiwan, a vibrant democracy of 24 million that Beijing’s ruling Communist Party claims as its territory — although it has never controlled it.

Ahead of Beijing’s release of its integration plan, a Chinese aircraft carrier and around 20 Chinese warships were seen gathering in waters near Taiwan this week, according to Taiwanese authorities.

China has long adopted a carrot-and-stick approach to Taiwan, threatening it with the prospect of military invasion while offering trade and cultural opportunities to those it values ​​more. receptive to Beijing’s point of view.

Given the extent to which cross-strait ties have frayed in recent years, it remains unclear how receptive the Taiwanese will be to China’s radical proposal.

On Wednesday, Wang Ting-yu, a Taiwanese lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said the integration plan was “ridiculous.”

“China should think about how it can settle its bad debts, but not how it can work as a united front against Taiwan,” Wang said in a video message, referring to government-affiliated efforts to advance Beijing’s objectives abroad.

The idea of ​​making Fujian an integrated development zone with Taiwan first appeared in China’s official document in 2021, but did not provide any details at the time.

In June, when a senior Chinese leader raised the integration plan at a forum, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council called the proposal “meaningless” and “futile,” saying it was not in line with the expectations of the Taiwanese public and that it “belittled” Taiwan.

CNN has contacted the Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council for comment.

In the directive, Beijing pledges to improve the environment for Taiwanese companies to do business in Fujian, deepen industrial and financial cooperation, and encourage Taiwanese companies to list on Chinese stock exchanges.

Initially, Taiwanese companies will be allowed to invest and establish radio and television production companies in Fujian under a pilot program.

The directive also aims to encourage Taiwanese workers and families to settle in Fujian. He pledges to improve social welfare programs to make it easier for Taiwanese people to live and work in the province, including purchasing property, and promises equal treatment for Taiwanese students seeking to enroll in public schools.

Chinese observers noted that “the document is tantamount to outlining the future development plan of Taiwan Island, which is expected to gain driving force and broader development prospects by integrating with Fujian,” the Global Times said. , managed by the state.

Fujian, a province of 40 million people located on the western side of the Taiwan Strait, is closest to Taiwan, both geographically and culturally.

Many Taiwanese are descendants of immigrants from Fujian who arrived in waves over the centuries, bringing with them the dialect, customs and religion that formed the backbone of the traditional culture of Taiwan’s majority Han population.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has long attempted to use the geographic, historical and cultural proximity between Fujian and Taiwan as an argument for closer economic and social integration – and, ultimately, unification – with the ‘island.

Beijing’s integration efforts are particularly focused on Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu, which are located much closer to Fujian than Taiwan and have historically shared the strongest ties with the mainland.

In Tuesday’s directive, Beijing pledges to further accelerate integration between the cities of Xiamen and Kinmen – which are only a few kilometers apart.

He pledged to explore cooperation on infrastructure projects between the two cities, which will transport electricity and gas from Xiamen to Kinmen, and connect the two cities by a bridge. Kinmen residents will also be able to enjoy the same treatment as local Xiamen residents, according to the plan.

Similar integration measures are also planned for the cities of Fuzhou and Matsu.

For some Kinmen residents, projects to promote greater connectivity may be attractive. This year, a cross-party alliance of eight local Kinmen councilors proposed building a bridge to Xiamen to strengthen economic ties, as part of a broader proposal to turn Kinmen into a demilitarized zone, or so-called an “island of peace”.

Located on the frontline between Taiwan and China, Kinmen faced numerous amphibious assaults and bombings from the Chinese military in the years following the Chinese Civil War.

The advisers’ proposal envisions withdrawing all Taiwanese troops and military installations from the islands and making Kinmen a venue for Beijing-Taipei talks aimed at “defusing tensions.”

Nature
cnn

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