Saturday, March 5, 2011

Christmas comes early?

l  President of China's "Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait" (ARATS), Chen Yunlin, recently led a delegation of over 50 top business executives from more than 30 Chinese state-run enterprises to Taiwan for a six-day visit.

l  The primary purpose of Chen’s visit this time was to examine and explore investment opportunities in Taiwan, particularly those in southern cities and counties governed by the opposition DPP.

l  Besides identifying opportunities for cooperation in agricultural and emerging industries in southern Taiwan, the delegation also established channels for exports of agricultural, livestock and fishery products from southern Taiwan to China. This was a significant breakthrough for Beijing since it has long sought closer ties—economic or otherwise—with southern Taiwan, which has traditionally been the DPP's stronghold.

l  Since Chinese capital was allowed to invest in Taiwan in June 2009, the aggregate investments on the island have amounted to roughly US$153 million across 73 cases, far lower than the original expectations and the corresponding figures recorded by Taiwanese investors in China since 1990s.

l  Since most of the participating enterprises on Chen’s delegation were large state-run businesses, their investment decisions can, therefore, be more easily influenced by non-economic considerations. In other words, these prospective investments can, in turn, be dictated by changing political circumstances if cross-Strait relations move in a different direction in the future.

l Although Chen repeatedly stated that purpose of his delegation's visit to Taiwan was to “develop business opportunities for both Chinese and Taiwanese businesses,” the deliberate outreach to the DPP by visiting opposition-controlled cities and counties like Chiayi, Yunlin, and Kaohsiung made Chen’s trip nevertheless political in nature, at least partially.

l  Despite the mixed reactions that greeted Chen in southern Taiwan, it will, however, not be the last time that leading Chinese officials visit this area generally considered the hotbed of pro-Taiwan independence forces on the island.

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