News Lens on the news of eight city/county government heads heading off to China to offer their heads:
Besides belonging to the same camp — six of the eight city and county government heads belong to the Kuomintang (KMT) and two others are blue-leaning independents — all eight representatives have stated they recognize the “1992 consensus,” which an inflexible Beijing has set as a precondition for cross-Strait exchanges.As Cole points out in the article, this is not the first time that China has attempted to form patron-client relationships with local trade associations, aboriginal leaders, and local politicians. These attempts have uniformly failed, because the support for China is based on patronage, and such loyalty as is generated will last as long as the money flows do. Few of these localities have any great political clout. Most Taiwanese don't benefit from the money flows, which will simply travel further down the patronage networks of those same politicians -- which are already KMT. Beijing does not build any new connections here (fortunately). UPDATE: Solidarity has the list of what China has offered.
Having frozen most (albeit not all) the official communication mechanisms between the central governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Beijing is now accelerating its efforts to bypass the central government in Taipei and rewarding local governments that agree to say what it wants. In return, the heads of those eight municipalities hope to reap the benefits of Chinese tourism and better market access for their produce. In other words, they are agreeing to form a clientelistic relationship with China.
What can Beijing do? Hualien, Nantou, and Taitung are strong destinations for Chinese group tourists, and I pray they don't add Miaoli to that list -- a few group tours are already going there. But the other places are less attractive. Beijing has already tried preferential purchasing, for fruit, which failed to -- wait for it -- bear fruit. This policy has been tried before, and is another example of how Beijing does not know what it is doing. It has no brilliant plan for Taiwan, because there isn't one. It is simply revisiting old ideas, the way a squirrel checks old hiding places to see if there are any nuts there.
A couple of interesting wrinkles -- this may look like, as Cole notes, Beijing is bypassing the central government. But it is also bypassing the KMT center and dealing directly with politicians representing local Taiwan interests. Perhaps Beijing means to bind them more directly to the KMT, or to itself, setting up independent patronage networks in the event the KMT continues to fade. I doubt they plan so presciently, though.
No tourism numbers out yet. Very interested to see what they are....
REFS: KMT rebuts accusations, tries to handle negative publicity from the Beijing Kowtow. What did the 1992 8 say in Beijing? This site in simplified has it. h/t to @aaronwytze
- DON'T MISS: Francis-Xiavier Bonnet's excellent piece describing the interrelationships between secret research, sea lane discovery, and island occupation in the Spratlys. Much becomes clear.
- Sept: number of furloughed workers increases
- US F-15s face Chinese jets near Taiwan
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