Taipei faces brain drain as Beijing dangles ‘equal status’ offers

The prospect of higher pay and bigger markets lures more Taiwanese workers to the mainland, analysts say

A security guard patrols a residential alley near the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.

Taiwan will face a tough challenge staunching what could be an even bigger brain drain and exodus of investment to the mainland after Beijing’s latest offer of economic sweeteners to lure Taiwanese, analysts warned.

“More young people who have complained about low pay in Taiwan or who want to find a bigger market for development would choose to work on the mainland because of the incentives,” said Chang Wu-ueh, a professor at Tamkang University’s China Study Institute.

In what analysts called an offensive designed to counter Taiwan’s attempts to declare independence, Premier Li Keqiang promised in his government work report delivered at the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress that the mainland would expand economic and cultural exchanges.

The aim would be to gradually allow Taiwanese to receive the same treatment as mainlanders while studying, doing business, working or living on the mainland, Li said in the report.

Stressing the importance of both the “one-China” principle and safeguarding China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Li said Beijing would not tolerate separatist schemes and activity in support of the independence movement on the self-ruled island.

Li’s report followed an announcement by Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office last week of 31 measures that would give Taiwanese companies and individuals freer access to opportunities and benefits across the strait.

The measures would relax access to mainland markets for Taiwanese films, television programmes and books. Under the moves, Taiwanese professionals would also be free to join mainland-based industry associations or study for any of 134 professional qualifications.

Nan Shan Plaza and Taiwan’s landmark building Taipei 101 are seen during sunset in Taipei, Taiwan July 27, 2017.

Beijing, which has long offered sweeteners to the people of Taiwan, has considered the island a wayward province subject to eventual union, if necessary by force.

It has suspended official exchanges and talks with Taipei since Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party became president in 2016 and rejected the one-China principle.

Analysts said that compared with previous incentives, the latest offer would be more comprehensive and systematic in attracting Taiwanese talent, enterprises, associations and artists to develop on the mainland.

However, it might take some time for Taiwanese to become re-established in practice through various levels of mainland government and authority, the analysts said.

Beijing could be expected to continue to offer incentives to Taiwanese to recruit talent and acquire the island’s latest technology and investment, Chang said.

The newcomers “would eventually grow roots on the mainland”, he said.

Su Chi, a former secretary general of the National Security Council, said the sweeteners would “definitely have a great impact on Taiwanese, many of whom would be moved over to the mainland”.

The benefits might lead to Taiwan becoming further divided as more people call for closer links with Beijing, Su said.

In a sign of how the incentives have worried the Tsai government, Premier William Lai on Friday announced the launch of a task force to devise measures to retain local talent and investors.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council has cautioned the public to be wary of incentives from Beijing that it said were politically motivated.


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