After pineapples, wax apples and custard apples, China turned to Taiwanese grouper, imposing an import ban on the fish without warning. Some Chinese analysts believe Beijing is using the embargo to drive a wedge between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and fishing communities in southern Taiwan to split the pan-Green camp.

Domestic collaborators have worked hand in hand with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime to aid its cognitive warfare tactics. Talking heads have suggested aquatic and agricultural products from Taiwan would not have faced a ban unless there were quality issues, conveniently ignoring that Beijing has provided no evidence to justify its latest embargo.

The ban on grouper imports appears to be part of a broader strategy by Beijing to influence local elections in November. Taiwanese should expect further intervention from Beijing as the election approaches.

The grouper embargo is unique in that it is the first time Beijing has banned an item from the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) “early harvest” list of agricultural products. . With Taiwanese grouper exports heavily dependent on the Chinese market, grouper farmers have become trapped in a trap set by the CCP and are being used as pawns by Beijing to influence Taiwanese policy. Government officials believe the grouper ban is just the start and is being presented to the electorate as an implicit threat ahead of local elections to weaken DPP electoral strongholds.

The ECFA was signed by then-President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration in 2010. At the time, Ma brushed aside concerns, saying, “Cross-Strait trade is a huge market, why [the other side] do you want to damage it?

However, it soon became clear that the ECFA was a political device designed to lock Taiwan into the “one China” trap.

The Economist dubbed the former president “Ma the blunderer” in a 2012 article for naïvely believing that bringing Taiwan closer to China economically would reduce political tensions between the two sides. In doing so, Ma showed that he totally ignored the basic tenets of Marxist theory.

The ECFA contained no protections for Taiwanese fishermen and farmers, and the so-called “early harvest” list was intended to provide the CCP with a shortlist of markets that would be ripe for coercion.

Additionally, Beijing has used the trade as a front to steal Taiwanese agricultural technology.

Any concessions or benefits given to Taiwan under the deal were CCP “united front” tactics: all Beijing had to do was wait and see which producers took the bait.

The logic of the CCP’s “united front” tactics is to attract Taiwanese producers with economic benefits and make the targeted industries increasingly dependent on the Chinese market. The more dependent they become, the harder it is for producers and industries to get out of the trap.

The year after the signing of the ECFA, Beijing began to enthusiastically promote a cross-strait trade in services agreement. Normally, bilateral economic agreements prioritize trade in commodities over services.

However, Beijing bucked conventional wisdom for good reason: its plan was to increase the flow of human capital through a dedicated services business deal to quickly infiltrate every corner of Taiwanese society. The Ma administration was a voluntary participant in the scheme.

After the agreement was signed by the Ma administration in 2013 – although it was not ratified by the Legislative Yuan – economists warned that it incorporated virtually all of Taiwan’s service industries, including the food and beverage, hospitality, clothing and travel, encompassing almost every aspect of Taiwanese life from cradle to grave. While the deal would allow Taiwanese companies to access the Chinese market, the scope of their activities would be restricted by Beijing.

If the Ma administration’s attempt to force the deal through the legislature had not been thwarted by the Sunflower movement, besides agricultural products such as groupers, pineapples and custard apples, many service industries would also have been put on the chopping block and manipulated by Beijing for political ends.

At the time, the CCP and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) were talking about “seizing a historic opportunity.”

However, their excessive haste and opaque negotiations aroused suspicion and put the electorate on their guard. Fortunately, the Sunflower Movement exposed the CCP’s evil intentions and terminated the deal. Had it been ratified by the Legislative Yuan, it would have allowed Beijing to manipulate Taiwan’s service industry, and an influx of Chinese nationals working in Taiwan would have made it harder for the nation to stand firm in the face of authoritarianism. Chinese.

The spread of COVID-19 from Wuhan in China in early 2020 coincided with the Lunar New Year holiday period. At the time, many foreign organizations predicted that Taiwan would bear the brunt of the outbreak given its proximity to China. If the agreement had been ratified, the increased flow of people across the Taiwan Strait would have prevented the government from taking preventive measures and would have made Taiwan a disaster area, just like Wuhan was.

Taiwan, like other democratic nations, abides by international rules, while the CCP regime always seeks to exploit and even destroy the rules-based order. Beijing uses a number of methods to attack Taiwan’s rules-based democracy. The grouper ban is an illustration of this.

Beijing banned Taiwanese grouper out of the blue, then claimed customs officials detected traces of COVID-19 on the packaging materials. Not only have Chinese authorities provided no evidence to support this claim, but no international organization has reported a single case of anyone becoming infected with COVID-19 after coming into contact with “contaminated packaging”. . Based on this spurious claim, China issued its temporary ban.

China has used similar arbitrary import bans against other countries as a form of punishment. Perhaps the most glaring example is Australia, whose government the CCP sought to punish for calling for an international investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beijing used a combination of import bans and tariffs to get revenge.

China has also tried to punish Lithuania for seeking closer ties with Taiwan by introducing arbitrary customs restrictions on its goods and pressuring multinationals to withdraw from the Lithuanian market.

However, the Lithuanian government refused to give in to Chinese coercion.

Taipei has responded to the economic threat posed by China by reducing the country’s economic dependence on the Chinese market, accelerating the internationalization of its economy and restructuring its supply chains. Many other countries around the world are following suit.

Taiwanese should be in no doubt: the price of integrating Taiwan’s economy with that of China is nothing less than eventual political capitulation. Faced with the endless threat of haphazard trade retaliation and economic coercion from China, Taiwan has no choice but to pursue the internationalization of its economy.

While some Taiwanese companies made short-term profits under the ECFA, they recklessly tied themselves to the market of an authoritarian aggressor. After drinking poison to quench their thirst, these companies are now jumping on the last train leaving China. For many companies, a withdrawal from China will be an arduous journey fraught with pitfalls.

The draft agreement on trade in services across the strait provided the wake-up call Taiwan needed. The vast majority of Taiwanese cherish their democracy and are determined to protect it.

The CCP is known for its use of economic coercion around the world; Taiwan is by no means its only victim. Taiwanese companies must rally behind the government. The nation can leverage its industrial advantage to build a strong economic base and seek trade deals with major democracies. This is the path to long-term sustainable economic development that will protect Taiwan’s democracy and guarantee national security.

Translated by Edward Jones

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