Wednesday, August 7, 2013

China Proposes Cross-Strait Highways to link China and Taiwan...Doesn't Ask for Taiwan's Approval

While Taiwan remains engulfed in its own domestic problems regarding the musical chairs being played over finding a new Defense Minister, the powers that be in Beijing continue to draw up lofty projects that are intended to draw Taiwan further into the PRC orbit.

On Monday,  the South China Morning Post reported that the Chinese government approved a national road project that includes the construction of two cross-Strait highways that would link the Chinese cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen with the Taiwanese cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung respectively. While members of the Chinese political elite have long been known to clamor over grand infrastructure projects, there was a small problem with this one in particular in that Beijing didn't ask Taiwan about its interest in such a project. A member of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council stated that "Based on national security concerns and cross-Strait interactions, we have not planned anything with such high political sensitivity and complexity,".

Looking at the official Chinese State media illustrations regarding such a project, it is not difficult to see why there would be a high level of opposition from those in Taiwan who are leery of the island being drawn uncomfortably closer under such a plan.

Looking to place  the shackles on Taiwan via tunnels and highways? 

While such a project remains merely a dream for China for the foreseeable future, it is not without supporters on at least a smaller scale from some within Taiwan.  The SCMP also stated in its report that The government of Quemoy "first proposed building the bridge in 2006, in a bid to increase tourism and economic exchanges with the mainland", and also stated that President Ma "voiced support for the bridge three months after becoming President in 2008..." but he later backtracked from supporting the project due to criticism from the "pro-independence camp".

China has also looked to increase joint development projects with Taiwan in other areas within the Taiwan Strait in recent years. In 2012, the PRC proposed a joint development project  with Taiwan on the Chinese-controlled island of Pingtan, in which Taiwanese citizens would essentially share posts with Chinese on the management committee in the management of the island.  (President Ma, however, was not receptive of the idea).  

While only a little over  five years have passed since Ma Ying-jeou began his term as President of Taiwan, which resulted in the warming of ties between Taiwan and China, it appears that the PRC will look to continue in its attempt to reach for higher hanging fruit in the relationship, even if some gestures, such as a massive highway link are currently out of the realms of possibility.

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