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China’s Taiwan Experiment

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By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security

China’s patient buddy-buddy approach to Taiwanese leadership and integration of industry there is a sharp contrast with its policies of other neighbors in disputed territorial waters and islands.

A major breakthrough was the visit of Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhiju to meet with Taipei leadership. This was the first high-ranking visit of this kind since the Chinese Civil War.

“We know that Taiwan people cherish very much the social system and the life style they have chosen,” said Vice Minister Zhang. “We in mainland China respect what Taiwanese people have chosen.”

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou opens up Taiwan even more through closer trade and investment with China. The new deal allows purchase of more industries.

Taiwan’s GDP is currently around $474 billion with a population of only 23 million. The GDP of mainland China is over $8 trillion with a population of over one billion. The per capita economic differences favor Taiwan by a factor of five. So whatever Taiwan has done, if China could replicate it exactly, they would theoretically be five times wealthier as a ratio of per capita growth.

Taiwan’s prideful democracy and growing economy receives 3 million mainland Chinese tourists. What is often called a “charm offensive” by Beijing towards Taipei is a little more complicated than that. It is really economic enticement, but certainly there are elements of “charm” observed in positive spinning public diplomacy and overall programs utilizing greater attractive power. Moreover there is also a concern at this point that China plays a large stake in Taiwan’s dependent gross domestic product; wheras China is not threatened with the loss of such trade relationship.

Nevertheless, PRC political policy with Japan, on the other hand, is about a negative spin that includes present actions and flashbacks and associations from Imperial Japanese abuses and atrocities. Economic ties have suffered and future economic relations and joint regional enterprises are now at stake. They continue to “delink,” having the opposite outcome as China-Taiwan relations.

With Vietnam, China surged a “defensive” image as Vietnamese officials effectively delayed and therefore tolerated riots in the recent persecution of Chinese residents and the destruction of their factories; a violent reaction to China’s new oil rig in disputed waters between the two states.

Taiwan is no longer seen by Beijing as a viable threat; although they have not ruled out the use of force to bring it back into their fold. Taiwan is seen as a territory no longer in rebellion with military parades and therefore does not receive open threats of force or hostility. It is considered a part of China and the Taiwanese inhabitants have largely considered Chinese subjects under special circumstances of self-rule.

Taiwan is therefore planned on subtle integration peacefully into the primary defensive zone of China as all security zones expand outward. The protests during Vice Minister Zhang’s visit were seen as a part of the de facto Taiwan democracy and the island’s “self-rule.”

Zhang said he respected their “choices” by which he means that the majority elected leaders have chosen the right path to engage China non-provocatively. But while Beijing drifts into an admitted stubbornness for liberal political reform, Taiwan remains tied to liberalism. China could politically just be testing the waters of Taiwan through a neo-liberal pressure point or China may be experimenting with a more peaceful power projection using proven soft-power liberal means. In either case, Taiwan has strategically shielded itself from the wider inflated conflicts of regional territorial disputes.

Zhang called the trip a “success.”

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