As China makes economic overture, Taiwanese push for independence referendum


China’s Taiwan Affairs Office announced on February 28 a package of economic policies directed at the self-governed island which the People’s Republic of China hopes to one day absorb.

Bloomberg reports that “a total of 29 government agencies unveiled a plan outlining 31 measures to welcome Taiwanese investment in some of the nation’s most restricted industries, including energy, infrastructure, finance and entertainment,” and that the Taiwan Affairs Office claimed the policies would “enable Taiwan’s companies to enjoy the same investment policies and tax benefits as counterparts on the mainland.”

  • Taiwan’s government wasn’t impressed. The measures were “aimed at upgrading [Beijing’s] own economic development by absorbing Taiwan’s resources and obtaining political loyalty from Taiwan’s people,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council argued in a statement, according to the Central News Agency.
  • Meanwhile, two ex-presidents of Taiwan called for a referendum on Taiwanese independence in April 2019, the Central News Agency reported.
  • Lee Teng-hui 李登輝, now 91 years old, told a crowd of hundreds in Taipei that a referendum — even a non-binding one, which this would be — is the “most powerful weapon” for establishing Taiwan as a “normal country,” with “Taiwan” rather than “China” in its name. The government’s official name is currently Republic of China, and Beijing has never renounced using force to take over Taiwan if it moved decisively toward independence.
  • Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁, 67, added in a pre-recorded video that “Taiwan is our country, not China’s.” Chen is “on medical parole from a 20-year jail term for corruption,” the Central News Agency notes.
  • Young Taiwanese also protested at the mausoleum of Chiang Kai-shek, the military leader who ruled Taiwan from the end of the Chinese Civil War to his death, in 1975. The protesters hurled red paint at Chiang’s tomb, marking the day in 1947 when his government began a crackdown that killed thousands of civilians, and unfurled a banner that read “Abolish China authoritarian rule, establish the Republic of Taiwan,” the New York Times reports (paywall).