How China and Taiwan plan to boost trade amid tensions
Bamboo house, ranch house, and Nestle toll-house, all in Taiwan, are among several new projects under construction in the former British colony that could open up new economic opportunities.
But they are a rare instance of a Chinese investment in Taiwan that has been largely symbolic, in part because of the longstanding diplomatic tensions between Beijing and Taipei over territorial disputes.
But the new construction comes as the two sides are seeking to boost their trade and investment ties in the wake of the June 3-6 protests that sparked a major diplomatic crisis between Beijing, which claims the island, and Taiwan, which argues that Beijing has been unfairly exploiting its economic clout.
“It’s really important that we are promoting Taiwan’s development in a constructive way,” said Zhu Yi-hsien, president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a state-run think tank, in an interview last month.
“We are looking for projects that have economic potential for both sides.”
The stakes in the current crisis are high: The United States has repeatedly accused Beijing of using its economic influence to undermine the island’s democracy.
Chinese officials have also said that they plan to deploy military force to rein in the Taiwanese islanders who have protested against the islanders taking over the island in the aftermath of a 1979 military coup.
Zhu also said China was exploring other opportunities for economic ties with Taiwan, such as the sale of land that could be used to develop a large natural gas field.
Taiwan is one of the world’s poorest nations and has one of Asia’s most complex political systems.
The Communist Party controls the island and some parts of the island are officially run by the Nationalist Party.
Zhu said China hoped to work with Taiwan on projects such as infrastructure and education.
China is also looking at ways to diversify its energy mix, including the construction of hydroelectric power plants and the construction and sale of natural gas to other countries, Zhu said.
Zhu’s comments were echoed by Tsai Ing-wen, the incoming president of Taiwan, who has pledged to help China achieve a “healthy and prosperous relationship with Taiwan.”
But the Taiwanese leader has not been shy about her differences with Beijing.
In an interview with Reuters in June, she said that China’s claims to Taiwan are “baseless.”
She said the islands should be “reserved for Taiwan’s own citizens” and called for the release of political prisoners.
“What happened in 1979 is completely different from what’s happening now,” she said.
She said that if Taiwan does not accept Chinese control over the islands, it could “expose Taiwan to more risk.”
She has also questioned the need for a united China, saying that Taiwan is “not the Chinese mainland, nor is it the Taiwan Strait.”
“There is a need for Taiwan to be able to have its own independent foreign policy and economic policies,” Tsai said.
“If we can’t have those policies and economic plans, then we can no longer be a sovereign state.”
Some in China have accused Tsai of using Taiwan as a bargaining chip for a broader Taiwan-US trade deal.
Tsai has dismissed that as nonsense, saying she wants to “defeat” China.
But her comments come at a time when the two countries are at odds over how to resolve the dispute.
Last month, President Trump signed into law legislation that would give Beijing a veto over any trade deals with the United States.
Beijing has said that the new law is aimed at curbing trade tensions between the two nations, which it views as undermining the Chinese Communist Party.
China has said it is working to create a new China-US economic partnership, which would allow Beijing to boost its market access to the U.S. market and increase its economic ties to Washington.
China also wants to increase its market share in the global economy.
“There are many ways of resolving the Taiwan issue,” Zhu said, “but we are doing this through our strategic partnership.”
Tsai is currently preparing to take office on a platform that calls for Taiwan being recognized as an independent state.
She is expected to use the platform to push for more bilateral trade and economic ties between the United Kingdom and Taiwan.
“The fact that the two leaders are talking about China’s interests is really important, because it is a sign that the United Nations is finally starting to look seriously at the Taiwan-China relationship,” said Mark Hwang, director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“This is a good signal that the world is finally getting serious about Taiwan.”
In the coming months, Taiwan is expected get a major boost from its newly established economic relations with Beijing, as well as from a more formal relationship with Washington.
In the past, Beijing has made a number of efforts to build up its influence in Taiwan by buying up stakes in a number private companies and building political influence.
Those efforts have included the construction or buying of stakes in two Taiwanese banks and the purchase of the Taipei 101 light-rail