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Talk of the Day -- Can China's 'silver bullet' change voting behavior in Taiwan?

Talk of the Day -- Can China's 'silver bullet' change voting behavior in Taiwan?

The China-based Shanghai Fisheries Group struck a deal with a company in Tainan City's Syuejia district last year for the purchase of 1.8 million kilograms of milk fish from the southern Taiwan district starting in August 2011, the United Evening News (UEN) reported Wednesday. The deal attracted the attention of the Taipei-based Business Weekly because it marked the first time that a Chinese company had committed to buying a specified amount of milk fish in a specified period of time at a preset price from southern Taiwan aqua farmers, the UEN report said. The fish will be purchased through a Taiwan company from 100 contract aquaculture farmers in Syuejia, a rural stronghold of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), through a Taiwan firm, the paper said. Citing a report in the Oct. 24-30 issue of Business Weekly, the evening paper said the deal was initiated by Zheng Lichong, vice president of the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), during a visit to Syuejia in August 2010 in an apparent effort to sway voters there. The following is an excerpt of the UEN report on Business Weekly's analysis of the deal: Business Weekly assigned a team of reporters to track the progress of the unprecedented Syuejia milk fish deal and unveiled the findings of its 429-day study at a news conference Wednesday. Kuo Yi-ling, Business Weekly editor-in-chief, said at the press conference that the milk fish deal could be an effective indicator of the effects of the cross-Taiwan Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). ARATS Vice President Zheng Lichong proposed the deal shortly after Taiwan and China signed the ECFA, which was largely patterned after free trade agreements between many other countries, Kuo noted. Business Weekly reporters interviewed three aquaculture farmers who joined the contract supply arrangement between Shanghai Fisheries Group and Tainan-based Shinejia Foods Co. A 50-year-old woman identified as Nichiu said she was taking part in the program because the terms were not bad. Under the pact, the fish price is set a NT$75 per kilogram, which is NT$5 to NT$10 higher than the general market price, she said. "I hope the pact would help me repay the NT$8 million debt I incurred due to the flooding caused by Typhoon Morakot in 2009," the woman said. Shuejia has a population of less than 20,000 and up to 70 percent support the DPP. How would the relatively lucrative milk fish deal affect Shuejia residents' voting behavior? Business Weekly commissioned Shih Hsin University to conduct an opinion poll of adult residents in Shuejia earlier this year. The poll showed that 44 percent of the respondents were aware of the milk fish deal between the Shanghai company and Shinejia Foods Co., while 55 percent said they had heard of the ECFA. Among those aware of the milk fish deal, 60 percent gave it a thumbs-up, while only 8 percent opposed it. The support rate was especially high among fish farmers and college graduates. Asked who should be credited for the deal, most of President Ma Ying-jeou's supporters said the current Kuomintang government, while a majority of DPP supporters said it was the fruit of businessmen's efforts. In the 2008 presidential election, 65 percent of Shuejia residents voted for the DPP candidate and 35 percent for the KMT's. The Business Weekly survey found that only 48 percent of the respondents were willing to answer the question about their voting preferences in the upcoming presidential poll. Among them, 57 percent said they would vote for DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen; 31 percent said they would vote for President Ma, and 12 percent said they would back People First Party Chairman James Soong. The survey also showed that 93 percent of Shuejia residents would not change their choice simply because of the milk fish deal. This indicates that China's "silver bullet" offensive would not change the residents' voting behavior, the weekly concluded. (Oct. 26, 2011) (By Sofia Wu)