Beijing moots joint government plan on island
Fiona Tam and Lawrence Chung in Taipei
Beijing hopes to explore the possibility of peaceful cross-strait unification by founding a joint government with Taiwan on southeastern Fujian's underdeveloped Pingtan Island, but the Mainland Affairs Office in Taipei and experts from the island doubt the feasibility of such a move.
Gong Qinggai, director of the administration overseeing the Pingtan experimental zone for comprehensive development, told the South China Morning Post this week that there was a clear political aim behind turning Pingtan into a 'Little Taiwan', which would include appointing Taiwanese to high-ranking positions in the joint government, while also allowing the New Taiwan dollar to circulate.
But Gong conceded that the ambitious plan, which includes investment of about 100 billion yuan (HK$122.5 billion) in Pingtan's infrastructure between 2010 and this year, got a lukewarm response from Taipei. 'Of course we hope to co-operate with Taiwan, and [I] believe one day we'll eventually collaborate with each other,' he said.
Gong said he had asked that Beijing grant special legislative powers to Pingtan, citing a big difference in the laws and regulations between the mainland and Taiwan. 'We hope to make a breakthrough in cross-strait legal co-operation, too,' he said
Chang Jung-Feng, a research director at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research in Taipei, criticised the experimental zone for being a weak economic investment.
'Taiwan has its independent development strategy, and our on-the-spot investigation in Pingtan suggested that the crude infrastructure there can't meet the needs of Taiwanese investors,' he said. 'It falls greatly short of what modern industries demand, and the island doesn't have the necessary industrial chains to provide components and logistics.'
Further, Jonathan Liu, vice-chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei, told the Post that it would be a serious violation of Taiwanese laws if the Pingtan government appointed a Taiwanese as an official.
'Holding government positions for mainland China is against the law,' and violators can be fined between NT$100,000 [HK$26,300] and NT$500,000,' he said.
According to the Act Governing Relations between Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, Taiwanese people may be subjected to revocation of their household registration and lose all social welfare benefits if they work for the mainland government.
But Gong criticised such restrictions. 'My view on cross-strait issues is there's no obstacle [to co-operation], and man-made obstacles are unnecessary,' he said, adding that prohibiting Taiwanese from working for the mainland government 'is a kind of man-made obstacle'.
'As long as Taiwanese talents are given better career opportunities, [I] believe these kinds of problems will be gradually solved,' he said.
Gong said the potential Taiwanese deputy director would be included in the mainland's civil service system, and that Beijing wasn't worried about issues such as dual citizenship between the mainland and Taiwan.
'The situation will improve as long as what we have done can benefit people from both sides,' he said. 'We should be bold enough to do whatever can boost the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.'
The mainland's Taiwan Affairs bureau spokeswoman, Fan Liqing , said on Thursday that Beijing supported the concept of the zone, but it would also solicit opinions from Taiwan. The island is considering at least one of the many co-operation ideas promoted by Beijing.
Pingtan is the closest mainland territory to Taiwan - 126 kilometres away - and since November has been endorsed by the State Council to attract Taiwanese investments.
The Hsinchu city government, located in northern Taiwan and only 2 1/2 hours by boat from the experimental island zone, said it was eyeing direct shipping to Pingtan, where Beijing is spending 2.4 billion yuan to build five large-scale berths that will be capable of handling one million passengers and holidaymakers, 250,000 cars and 2.6 million tonnes of supplies for ferries, cruise ships and cargo vessels.
A Hsinchu government spokesman said Mayor Hsu Ming-tsai 'greatly supports a plan for such an exchange'. 'The city government already approved a memorandum of understanding on friendly exchanges and co-operation between Hsinchu and Pingtan, and has submitted it to the city council for final review,' he said.
Fujian Governor Su Shulin earlier said that his province was considering providing land on the 372-square-kilometre island to Taiwanese authorities or institutions to develop, and that Taiwanese would be given the right to manage such land and enjoy the revenue.