October 4, 2023

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China unveils ‘blueprint’ for Taiwan integration while sending warships around the self-ruled island

China unveils ‘blueprint’ for Taiwan integration while sending warships around the self-ruled island

Hong Kong

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

the GuidanceThe decision, issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council, pledges to make Fujian a “model area” for integrated development with Taiwan, and the “first homeland” for Taiwanese residents and Taiwanese companies to settle in China.

The document has been hailed as a “blueprint” for Taiwan’s future development by Chinese experts Quoted from government mediaThis comes at a sensitive moment in cross-Strait relations as Taiwan prepares for its agreement Presidential election In January.

It also comes as China continues to ramp up military pressure on Taiwan, a vibrant democracy with a population of 24 million that Beijing’s ruling Communist Party claims as its territory – even though it has never controlled it.

Before Beijing released its integration plan, a Chinese aircraft carrier and about two dozen Chinese warships were seen gathering in waters near Taiwan this week, according to Taiwanese authorities.

China has long pursued a carrot-and-stick policy toward Taiwan, threatening it with the possibility of military invasion while offering opportunities for trade and cultural exchange to those it believes are more aligned with Beijing’s view.

Given how far cross-Strait relations have come in recent years, it remains unclear how receptive the people of Taiwan are to China’s comprehensive proposal.

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

“China should think about how to deal with its bad debts, but not how to stage a united front action against Taiwan,” Wang said in a video message, referring to government-linked efforts to advance Beijing’s goals abroad.

Beijing promoted the plan at a dedicated news conference on Thursday, with officials noting that leader Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party leadership “attach great importance to Fujian’s unique role in the overall strategy on Taiwan.”

“We will support the construction of the ‘demonstration zone’ as a major initiative to deepen cross-Strait integrated development and strengthen the foundation for peaceful reunification,” said Pan Xianchang, deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

The concept of turning Fujian into an integrated development region with Taiwan first appeared in China’s official document in 2021, but it 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 “useless,” saying it was not in line with public expectations in Taiwan and “disparaged” Taiwan. .

CNN has reached out to Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council for comment.

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

For the first time, Taiwanese companies will be allowed to invest in and set up radio and television production companies in Fujian in a pilot program.

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The directive also seeks to attract Taiwanese workers and families to settle in Fujian. He pledges to strengthen social welfare programs to make it easier for Taiwanese to live and work in the territory – including buying property, and promises equal treatment for Taiwanese students to enroll in public schools.

State-run Global Times newspaper said Chinese observers noted that “the document is equivalent to outlining the blueprint for the future development of the island of Taiwan, which is expected to gain broader momentum and development prospects through integration with Fujian.”

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

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 traditional culture among Taiwan’s majority Han population.

China’s ruling Communist Party has long tried to use the geographical, historical and cultural proximity between Fujian and Taiwan as an argument for promoting economic and social integration – and eventual unification – with the island.

A particular focus of Beijing’s integration efforts is on Taiwan’s remote islands of Kinmen and Matsu, which lie much closer to Fujian than Taiwan and share historically the strongest ties with the mainland.

In the directive issued on Tuesday, Beijing pledged to further accelerate the integration between Xiamen and Kinmen – which are only a few miles apart.

It pledges to explore cooperation on infrastructure projects between the two cities, which will allow electricity and gas to be transported from Xiamen to Kinmen, and connect the two cities with a bridge. Kinmen residents will also be able to enjoy the same treatment as locals in Xiamen, according to the plan.

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Similar integration measures have also been put in place for Fuzhou and Matsuo.

For some Kinmen residents, plans to promote greater connectivity may be attractive. This year, a multi-party coalition of eight local councilors was formed in Kinmen Proposal To build a bridge to Xiamen to boost economic ties, as part of a broader proposal to turn Kinmen into a demilitarized zone, or so-called “Island of Peace.”

Kinmen, located on the front line between Taiwan and China, faced numerous amphibious attacks and bombings by the Chinese military in the years following the Chinese Civil War.

The council members’ proposal envisages removing all Taiwanese troops and military facilities from the islands and turning Kinmen into an arena for Beijing-Taipei talks aimed at “calming tensions.”