ABSTRACT

Cross-Strait relations have seen remarkable change over the last 20 years.1 With the intensification of economic interaction between China and Taiwan and an increasing number of Taiwanese entrepreneurs (Taishang) investing in labourintensive and, subsequently, high-tech industries, cross-Strait migration in both directions has risen steadily as well. Since the late 1980s, a growing number of Taiwanese citizens, among whom entrepreneurs and factory managers with their families are the most visible ‘Taiwanese compatriots’, have taken up permanent residence on the Chinese mainland. In the more recent past, many Taiwanese students and young professionals went to China in pursuit of careers that were no longer believed to be available in Taiwan. China’s dynamic economy, with its lower production costs and a plethora of well-paid jobs situated in what is perceived to be an attractive business environment, will certainly attract the Taiwanese work force for years to come, irrespective of noticeable structural changes in the Chinese economy, which may eventually cancel out China’s current comparative advantages.2 This sub-official dynamic obviously spurs economic and social integration across the Taiwan Strait. At the same time, the political climate across the Taiwan Strait has remained tense during most of the past two decades. Only since the return to power of the well-entrenched Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) in mid-2008, after eight years of rule by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) under the former political activist Chen Shui-Bian, have cross-Strait relations witnessed a turn towards a more constructive dialogue that has substantially deflated tensions across the Taiwan Strait. A number of new bilateral agreements led to, among other issues, the reinstallation of the ‘three links’ of direct trade, transport and communication, and culminated in the signing of an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a quasi-FTA, in late June 2010.3 However, competing sovereignty claims and a still vital independence movement in Taiwan, as partly highlighted by the Sunflower student movement in early 2014,4 combined with the uncompromising demands issued by the Chinese government for eventual ‘unification’, still impede ‘full-scale’ cross-Strait rapprochement. Taiwan and China thus maintain a paradoxical relationship of accelerating economic and social integration set against ongoing political separation.