New mea­sures draw Taiwan peo­ple to main­land

A grow­ing num­ber of the is­land’s res­i­dents are re­lo­cat­ing, lured by new poli­cies, fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives and a wider range of op­por­tu­ni­ties, as re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

‘Since I opened my first store in Sichuan prov­ince in De­cem­ber, the main­land’s business po­ten­tial has ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions. I now have four stores,” said Ken Huang, an en­tre­pre­neur from Taiwan.

The 37-year-old owner of a hand­bag brand was among 8,000 peo­ple from the is­land who par­tic­i­pated in a week­long trade ex­hi­bi­tion at the Ninth Straits Fo­rum in Xi­a­men, Fu­jian prov­ince, last month. Most of the at­ten­dees were seek­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­pand their busi­nesses in the main­land and ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of trad­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Last month, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and ex­changes be­tween peo­ple on both sides of the Taiwan Straits con­tin­ued to rise, de­spite re­cent set­backs in po­lit­i­cal ties.

Although tourism and business ac­tiv­ity are de­vel­op­ing rapidly, high-level com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween the main­land and Taiwan have been at a low point for more than a year. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two sides had been de­vel­op­ing con­struc­tively based on the 1992 Con­sen­sus, a for­mula for re­la­tions be­tween Taipei and Bei­jing rooted in the un­der­stand­ing that there is only one China, and op­posed to “Taiwan in­de­pen­dence”.

Things changed in May last year, when the Demo­cratic Progressive Party in Taiwan de­nied the ex­is­tence of the 1992 Con­sen­sus, con­sign­ing di­a­logue to the deep freeze. That means the Straits Fo­rum — com­posed of 21 ma­jor trade fairs, sym­po­siums and ex­hi­bi­tions — is now the big­gest plat­form for peo­ple from both sides of the Straits to seek ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties and bet­ter life­styles.

Dur­ing a speech at the fo­rum, Yu Zheng­sheng, China’s top po­lit­i­cal ad­viser, an­nounced a se­ries of new poli­cies to be rolled out in the com­ing months to ben­e­fit Taiwan res­i­dents in the main­land, and help them en­joy the same sta­tus as main­lan­ders in terms of fi­nan­cial and pub­lic ser­vices.

A grow­ing pres­ence

The new poli­cies have been for­mu­lated as a re­sponse to the grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple from Taiwan set­tling in the main­land. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port con­ducted in April by 1111 Job Bank Co in Taiwan, about 700,000 Taiwan res­i­dents live and work out­side the is­land, with about 350,000 of them work­ing in the Chi­nese main­land. Mean­while, re­search con­ducted in March by the Global Views Sur­vey Re­search Cen­ter in Taiwan sug­gested that nearly 60 per­cent of Taiwan res­i­dents ages 20 to 29 would be will­ing to work, study or in­vest in the main­land.

Last year, the num­ber of new busi­nesses in the main­land owned by Taiwan res­i­dents rose 32 per­cent, and by Fe­bru­ary, nearly 4,000 sole pro­pri­etors from the is­land were op­er­at­ing in the main­land.

More than 20 new poli­cies will be re­leased in the com­ing months to help Taiwan res­i­dents find their feet in main­land cities.

Speak­ing at the fo­rum, Cheng Tien-li, a free­lance writer from Taiwan, ex­plained the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits. “At present, it would take me two weeks to open an ac­count with a State-run bank be­cause my doc­u­ments would need to be re­viewed and the pro­ce­dure is com­pli­cated,” she said.

“How­ever, the staff at the bank said I will soon be able to ap­ply for a credit card, just like a main­land res­i­dent. There will be no ex­tra re­quire­ments or time taken when we (non-main­land res­i­dents) ap­ply.”

Huang, the hand­bag pro­ducer, said pre­vi­ously re­leased poli­cies — de­signed to sup­port star­tups and en­trepreneurs age 45 and younger — prompted him to ex­pand out­side Taiwan: “There was ev­ery rea­son to shift my business to the main­land, mainly the pref­er­en­tial poli­cies for young peo­ple that have been re­leased in re­cent years.”

His work­shop is located in the Taiwan pavil­ion of the Xi­a­men sec­tion of the Fu­jian Free Trade Zone, where the poli­cies al­low qual­i­fied busi­ness­peo­ple from Taiwan to claim a 100 per­cent re­fund of the rent they pay for business premises in the first year of op­er­a­tions, and they also re­ceive a hous­ing sub­sidy of up to 2,000 yuan ($295) per month.

In ad­di­tion, mea­sures re­leased in Jan­uary last year mean high-end pro­fes­sion­als from Taiwan who earn more than 300,000 yuan a year can claim a re­fund of 25 per­cent of the in­come tax they pay to the Xi­a­men govern­ment, while “ex­tra­or­di­nary tal­ents” — highly re­spected in­di­vid­u­als — can re­ceive startup fund­ing of as much as 1.5 mil­lion yuan over sev­eral years.

Business development

“Who wouldn’t be tempted by these in­cen­tives?” said Bill Chow, se­nior man­ager at Day­ongqi Trade Co, which has made seafood-based sauces in Taiwan for sev­eral decades.

“My com­pany be­gan de­vel­op­ing its business in the main­land a year ago. We de­cided to es­tab­lish branches in Xi­a­men and Shan­dong prov­ince be­cause the main­land’s large pop­u­la­tion pro­vides a huge mar­ket — Taiwan can’t com­pete.”

After con­duct­ing mar­ket re­search in Shan­dong, Chow dis­cov­ered that a num­ber of food pro­duc­ers in the prov­ince met the stan­dards of food safety re­quired by his com­pany, which has now sub­con­tracted pro­duc­tion to a lo­cal pro­ducer.

“It’s more ef­fi­cient to pro­duce our sauces in the prov­ince. The fac­tory’s stan­dard of hygiene is very sat­is­fac­tory — the op­po­site of the food safety con­cerns we heard about in re­cent me­dia re­ports.”

One ma­jor at­trac­tion is that in the com­ing years the main­land’s ex­port tax is ex­pected to be lower than its coun­ter­part in Taiwan, ac­cord­ing to Chow.

“With China’s grow­ing na­tional strength and suc­cess in de­vel­op­ing eco­nomic and trade ties with other coun­tries, it’s pre­dicted that ex­porters in the main­land will en­joy low taxes and con­ve­nient cus­toms ser­vices, plus more trade agree­ments with other coun­tries, es­pe­cially those par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive,” he said.

Hsu Jung-hsiao, a 76-year-old re­tiree from Taiwan who at­tended the fo­rum, said: “I’m not sur­prised that a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple are will­ing to live and work in the main­land. For one thing, trans­porta­tion and pub­lic ser­vices in ma­jor cities are much bet­ter than in Taiwan.

“I have lived in Taiwan since my par­ents took me to the is­land in 1949, but I have vis­ited my home­town, Yancheng, Jiangsu prov­ince, ev­ery year for the past decade. The rapid development of air­ports and high­ways mean it’s now con­ve­nient for me to visit my sis­ter in Yancheng ev­ery year,” he said.

Hsu’s sons work in Shang­hai and Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince, be­cause they be­lieve the eco­nomic development of large main­land cities of­fers great po­ten­tial.

Vis­i­tor num­bers rise

Last year, 5.7 mil­lion peo­ple from Taiwan trav­eled to the main­land, un­der­scor­ing the steady growth since the two sides re­sumed com­mu­ni­ca­tions 30 years ago.

In Nov 1987, after long-stand­ing re­stric­tions on trade and di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tions were aban­doned, the Taiwan au­thor­i­ties al­lowed res­i­dents to visit rel­a­tives in the main­land. The move ended 38 years with­out for­mal com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween the two sides, even though trade via third coun­tries thrived in the 1970s.

In 2011, in a bid to boost Taiwan’s tourism sec­tor, res­i­dents of three main­land cities were al­lowed to visit Taiwan as in­di­vid­u­als — be­fore, vis­i­tors were only al­lowed as mem­bers of tour groups. The num­ber of el­i­gi­ble cities has been ex­panded to 47.

Hsu said he has full con­fi­dence in cross-Straits busi­nesses and peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes, de­spite tem­po­rary set­backs, be­cause peo­ple on both sides share the same roots, tra­di­tions, cul­tural val­ues, culi­nary habits and lan­guage. More­over, the main­land of­fers a wider range of em­ploy­ment and business op­por­tu­ni­ties, and the life­style is vir­tu­ally undis­tin­guish­able from that in Taiwan.

That point was echoed by Chow: “I like liv­ing in Xi­a­men. One im­por­tant fac­tor is that there is no dif­fer­ence when I go to restau­rants or su­per­mar­kets in the city. I can get ev­ery­thing I want, just like at home.”

De­spite the po­lit­i­cal set­backs, Yin Cunyi, a pro­fes­sor at Ts­inghua Univer­sity’s In­sti­tute of Taiwan Stud­ies, be­lieves the main­land’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to im­prove the lives of peo­ple on both sides of the Straits re­mains un­changed. “The po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions be­tween the two sides are vir­tu­ally ‘frozen’, but com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween peo­ple on both sides of the Straits are re­ally ‘hot’, be­cause they still need to trade,” he said.

The main­land’s grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity with busi­ness­peo­ple from the is­land is demon­strated by the num­ber of star­tups in the Taiwan pavil­ion in the Xi­a­men sec­tion of the Fu­jian Free Trade Zone. To date, 81 com­pa­nies have cho­sen to base them­selves in the pavil­ion, which opened a year ago.

“It is an ir­re­versible trend; busi­nesses and or­ga­ni­za­tions on both sides will en­gage in a wider range of ex­changes and in­ter­ac­tions in the com­ing years,” Yin said.

Con­tact the writer at zhang_yi@chi­ Ma­jor events in the history of re­la­tions

The Kuom­intang was de­feated by the Com­mu­nist Party of China after a civil war, and re­treated to Taiwan. The CPC estab­lished the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China in Oc­to­ber 1949.

When the United States estab­lished diplo­matic re­la­tions with the PRC, the Kuom­intang au­thor­i­ties in Taiwan adopted the “Three-Nos” pol­icy — no con­tact, no ne­go­ti­a­tions and no com­pro­mise — with the Chi­nese main­land.

Taiwan lifted its ban on in­di­vid­ual res­i­dents trav­el­ing to the main­land. Some peo­ple were per­mit­ted to travel to the main­land to visit rel­a­tives and friends they had not seen for more than 35 years. In 1988, Taiwan res­i­dents paid around 450,000 vis­its to the main­land.

The As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­la­tions Across the Taiwan Straits was founded in the main­land. The as­so­ci­a­tion is a quasi-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion through which the main­land has for­mally en­gaged in crossS­traits con­tact with the Straits Ex­change Foun­da­tion, its coun­ter­part in Taiwan.

Con­sen­sus was reached after meet­ings be­tween two semi-of­fi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tives on both sides of the Straits. Un­der the con­sen­sus, both sides com­mit to the “one China” prin­ci­ple.

Three cross-Straits links — di­rect trade, trans­port and postal ser­vices — were re­sumed after al­most 50 years. Since 2008, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Chi­nese main­land and Taiwan had achieved peace­ful and sound development, based on the 1992 Con­sen­sus. How­ever, the re­la­tion­ship changed in May last year, when the Demo­cratic Progressive Party in Taiwan de­nied the ex­is­tence of the 1992 Con­sen­sus. High-level com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween the two sides have stag­nated since then.

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