China sends sharp warnings to Taiwan’s new president as she preps for office

When the Chinese government persuaded Kenya to deport 45 Taiwanese citizens to Beijing recently as part of a fraud investigation, outraged officials in Taipei accused China of kidnapping.

But the controversial expulsions are a veiled warning as to how the mainland is ready to treat Taiwan under its next president, Tsai Ing-wen, say analysts here, if she abandons the current government’s Beijing-friendly policies and insists on maintaining a cautious distance from China, as she has pledged to do.

Political experts see the deportations as another signal of Beijing’s intentions, following cuts in the number of permits issued to Taiwan-bound tourists from the mainland and a suspension of fish imports. Some expect more forceful actions if President-elect Tsai snubs China after taking office May 20.

“These are subtle messages without an official overt condemnation or a harshly-worded warning toward the administration to be inaugurated,” says Lin Chong-pin, a retired strategic studies professor in Taiwan. “These are like a velvet glove with an iron fist in it.”

Taiwan’s half-trillion-dollar economy depends heavily on trade, investment and tourism ties with mainland China, its giant neighbor. A breakdown in trust could, in the worst case, revive fears of military conflict. Beijing claims the right to use force to make Taiwan, which it regards as a renegade province, a fully fledged part of the People’s Republic.

“People’s attitude is nervousness, but not too severe yet,” says Ku Chung-hua, a leader of the Taipei-based political action group Citizens’ Congress Watch. “Taiwanese will make some psychological preparations.”

Messages from the mainland

On the commercial front, two Chinese buyers this month suspended a five-year deal to import milkfish, a signature Taiwanese agricultural product. Also in April, China said Taiwan’s government could apply for membership in the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank only through China’s finance ministry, rather than via the bank’s board of governors as other members do – a step that Taiwanese leaders said strips Taiwan of dignity and equality.

Membership in that multinational lending institution would give Taiwanese firms access to construction contracts around Asia.

Subtle shifts

For now, China has taken actions that it can explain without acknowledging their political import. The milkfish importers said cold weather in Taiwan had driven up prices, for example. And Beijing said it had the right to take the 45 deportees from Kenya because they had flown to Africa from mainland China and are suspected of phone fraud, though Taiwan says the deportations violated a 2011 deal to work together on crime issues.

Full article: China sends sharp warnings to Taiwan’s new president as she preps for office (Christian Science Monitor)

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