Beijing's plan to annex Taiwan politically and technologically
by Alessandra Tamponi

China has drawn up a 21-point strategic blueprint to encourage greater interaction with the rebellious island. The plan includes a "demonstration zone" in Fujian to act as a bridge with Taiwan and attract investments and Taiwanese. The tenth point calls for greater technological integration. Released a few days ago, it is meant to influence Taiwanese elections in January 2024. For Taiwanese leaders, it is bound to fail.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – China has had a long-standing offer for Taiwan, what it calls a choice between two paths, one of peace and prosperity and one of war and decline.

To this end, Beijing has adopted policies that offer Taiwanese firms the opportunity to grow on the mainland, while putting pressure on the island’s political leaders by using military exercises around the island that hint at a possible invasion.

On Tuesday, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council jointly released the 21-point planning document to encourage greater integration between the People's Republic and Taiwan. On Wednesday, 68 Chinese military aircraft and 10 navy vessels carried out exercises in areas around the self-ruled island.

The 21-point plan includes the creation of a Comprehensive Experimental Zone for China-Taiwan integration in Fujian. The southeastern province plays a key role for Taiwanese people and companies who seek opportunities on the mainland.

The plan wants to boost and deepen the Taiwanese presence in the area so as to favour the integration of the cities of Xiamen and Kinmen in Taiwan with Fuzhou and Matsu on the mainland.

Under the plan, people from Taiwan would be treated like residents of mainland China, without the need for “temporary residence registration” usually required from foreigners; instead, they would be granted their own, separate “residence permit”.

Incentives would be offered to buy property and study in mainland China, including social services like medical care.

Special steps are indicated to strengthen Fujian's integration with Taiwan, including lower taxes and the creation of free trade zones.

Many elements in the plan are not new, such as easier access to property. The 14th five-year plan (2021-2025) also highlighted the role of Fujian province.

Despite its emphasis on economics, the 21-point plan is more a political tool directed at the Taiwanese (especially the business community) in order to amplify existing cleavages ahead of next January’s Taiwanese election.

There is also another important aspect: the tenth point on greater technological integration, which reads: “We will encourage enterprises and scientific research institutions from both Fujian and Taiwan to jointly establish platforms for the research and development of common technologies, and promote the digitalisation and application of smart technologies for Taiwan enterprises in Fujian.”

This suggests that Beijing wants to create a grey zone between the mainland and Taiwan to allow the former to use technological cooperation to catch up with Taiwan, thus reducing the latter’s strategic advantage.

The choice of Fujian is more than due to geographical proximity between China and the "rebel" island. The province is already included in several projects funded by the "Made in China 2025" plan.

By 2020, more than US$ 41 billion were poured into Chinese provinces to develop computer chips and semiconductors, with more than six billion in Fujian alone, on par with Shanghai and Chongqing and more than any other province.

Fujian is also home to the Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit, a state-owned enterprise and part of "Made in China 2025" that was hit by US sanctions in 2018 after it was accused, along with the Taiwanese UMC, of stealing a chip design owned by a US company.

Aware of China's attempts to acquire its technologies, Taiwan in 2022 amended the legislation regulating relations between Taiwanese and mainlanders to limit Chinese acquisition of its technologies.

If a Fujian integrated zone did become reality, it would give the mainland legal control to the process of technology transfer, wiping away much of the existing gap, estimated at 10 years.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council rejected the 21-point plan as an attempt to take over the island and subjugate its people and businesses to the Communist Party of China by integrating them into its own systems.

For Taiwanese leaders, such a move will not work.