China's pro-unification 31 measures for Taiwan have failed: Academia Sinica scholar

While Ma Xiaoguang applauds the incentives, Taiwan's scholars say the data shows a different story

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(By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Nearly a year after Beijing announced the 31 measures to lure Taiwanese talent and investment as part of its pro-unification campaign, a China study scholar said on Saturday that the initiatives have not made much impact.

A year ago, China's 31 measures were a source of concern for the government of Taiwan, as the incentives were intended to attract talent and business away from the country.

The sugarcoated measures included relaxed regulations on cross-strait cooperation in a wide array of industries, including media. Other measures gave a green light to Taiwanese companies in China to invest in sensitive government projects, while others aimed to provide special tax exemptions or tax refunds to Taiwanese businesses in China.

As the first anniversary of the "31 measures" is drawing near, China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said at a regular press conference recently that over 9.05 million passengers traveled between Taiwan and China in 2018 alone. He added that the number of total Taiwanese and first-time Taiwanese visitors to China both set new record highs at over 6 million, and 400,000, respectively, during that period of time.

However, the latest data from Taiwan's Tourism Bureau and scholars paints a different picture.

According to Taiwan's official data, the number of Chinese tourists to Taiwan remained flat in 2018, and the number of Taiwanese tourists to China increased by 4.5 percent to approximately 6.14 million; however, the growth actually slowed down compared to data from 2014.

An Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology research fellow, Lin Thung-hong (林宗弘), said on Saturday, that the incentives, in fact, attracted smaller investments from Taiwan. Lin said the investment in China reached a peak in 2010, when Taiwanese capital outflow to China accounted for 83 percent of the country's total outflow. In 2017, the percentage lowered to 44 percent, showing Taiwanese businessmen are investing more in countries outside China.

As for the number of Taiwanese working in China, the Ministry of Labor's data shows that it reached a peak in 2013 and 2014 with 440,000 people, but last year it dropped to 400,000.

National Dong Hwa University Professor Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒) noted that as Taiwan's 2020 presidential election is only a year away, Beijing will continue to roll out favorable measures for Taiwanese as part of its pro-unification campaign to win voters' approval of China.

"Although the result didn't turn out well, the Communist regime will definitely give the campaign a boost and, embellish it," said Professor Shih.