TAIPEI (CNA) — City-to-city exchanges are expected to become the Communist Party of China’s (CPC’s) key strategy toward Taiwan amid the absence of mutual trust and interrupted negotiations between Taiwan and China, Taiwanese scholar Andy Chang (張五岳) said on March 17.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will continue to hold power for the foreseeable future and his advocacies will be China’s core strategy toward Taiwan, Chang said in a forum titled “China under Xi Jinping, Changes and Challenges,” which took place in Taipei.
Xi said at an annual legislative session in Fujian Province March 10 that China should promote “integrated development” across the Taiwan Strait and push for the so-called “Four New Links.”
Chang, a professor of China Studies at Tamkang University and a consultant for Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), said the CPC will try to realize Xi’s goal of promoting integration and unification through city-to-city exchanges at a time when cross-strait negotiations are at a stalemate and there is a lack of mutual trust between the two sides.
Currently, city-to-city exchanges are focused on trade in agriculture and fishery products from Taiwan to China, tourism promotion and attracting investment, Chang said.
However, he added that China cannot bypass Taiwan’s central government when trying to push these exchanges.
He cited examples such as that investment from China must go through Taiwan’s Overseas Chinese and Foreign Investment Commission, while visits by local government chiefs to China must be approved by a joint examination committee.
Because of this, exchanges between cities must rely on coordination between the two sides, with politics kept at a low key.
It should be a window to showcase peace and stability rather than a sacrificial lamb of the sour relations between the two sides of the strait, Chang suggested.
Other issues raised during the forum were China’s envelopment strategy against Taiwan, Taiwan’s 2018 local elections and the shifts of public opinion in Taiwan regarding independence vs. unification.
Kuo Jui-hua (郭瑞華), a research fellow at Prospect and Exploration magazine, said China’s carrot-and-stick strategy against Taiwan may raise hostile feelings among Taiwan’s people, China’s preferential treatment to some Taiwan cities may also give rise to dissension from cities which feel they are overlooked.
Liu Wen-pin (劉文斌), another research fellow from the same magazine, said the results of the 2018 local elections demonstrated that voters now give more importance to the economy than ideology, thus economic issues might be the focus for rebuilding cross-strait relations.
As to the issue of independence vs. unification, Chen Lu-hui (陳陸輝), a research fellow of the Election Study Center of National Chengchi University, said that although pro-unification voices were at a peak since 2000, those who support unification are mostly middle-aged, while the younger generation is pro-independence.
The political landscape for the unification vs. independence issue could change with the shifting generations, Chen said.
By Miao Zhong-han and Emerson Lim