Beijing presents ‘interconnected living’ plan for Taiwan, but in the meantime deploys military ships

The Chinese government has introduced a "fresh approach towards comprehensive development" with Taiwan, which includes initiatives aimed at simplifying the process for Taiwanese citizens to reside, study, and work in China.

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Concurrently, it has deployed the largest number of warships in years to the waters off Taiwan’s eastern coast. Analysts believe this signifies a choice between peaceful “reunification” and military confrontation, coming just months ahead of Taiwan’s presidential election.

The newly proposed measures, disclosed by the ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee and the State Council, specify that the coastal province of Fujian will serve as a “demonstration zone” for integrated development. These 21 measures include facilitating the settlement of Taiwanese people in Fujian and granting them access to social services, increasing the enrolment of Taiwanese students in Fujian schools, and deepening industrial cooperation.

According to China Daily, these actions are intended to promote cross-strait integrated development in all aspects and advance the peaceful reunification of China. The Global Times, a state-backed news outlet known for its nationalistic stance, characterized the document as equivalent to outlining Taiwan’s future development plan.

China Daily further reported that “pair cities” such as Xiamen and Kinmen, as well as Fuzhou and Matsu, would play a more prominent role in this integration effort. Kinmen and Matsu are islands situated just a few kilometres from the Chinese mainland and share some cultural and economic connections but are governed by Taiwan.

The announcement garnered extensive coverage in Taiwan’s media, with a particular emphasis on measures encouraging Taiwanese citizens to invest in homes and businesses in Fujian. The responses from the public were mixed, with many expressing scepticism. Some Taiwanese citizens voiced on social media their reluctance to embrace the proposal, citing concerns about investing in a communist nation and working in an autocratic country where human rights and labour rights are tightly controlled by the government.

However, not everyone was opposed to the idea. Some individuals, particularly in fields like television and radio production, expressed interest in expanding exchanges with China.

This move towards integration coincides with China’s significant military buildup near Taiwan. While President Xi Jinping seeks reunification with Taiwan without resorting to war, the deployment of warships and military exercises raise concerns about the potential for military action.

In the lead-up to Taiwan’s presidential election in January, it is expected that Beijing will attempt to influence voters. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which advocates Taiwan’s sovereignty, faces opposition from Beijing. Nonetheless, opposition parties and a growing majority of Taiwan’s population reject the idea of Chinese rule.

What is interesting is that Beijing is playing the “good cop, bad cop” game at the same time. The conflicting messages of peaceful integration and military exercises are leaving the Taiwanese people confused about China’s intentions.

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