For the work, the youth of Taiwan puts its ideals in the pocket
Job offers in Fujian province, southern China at a job fair in Taipei, July 1, 2017
Taiwan has long been accustomed to seeing its international allies change their guns and stand on the side of powerful China. Today, the island fears a leak of its brains while the young people go looking for work with its rival.
Since the arrival in power of Tsai Ing-wen, the president of a party traditionally hostile to Beijing, relations have deteriorated between the two shores of the Straits of Formosa. China has cut off any official communication with Taipei.
Beijing still considers the island which has lived its own destiny since 1949 as an integral part of its territory.
Taiwanese people, especially young people, are proud of their Taiwanese identity. In recent years, youth has been at the forefront of anti-Chinese resentment, as in 2014 during the “Sunflowers Movement” campaign against a free trade agreement with Beijing.
But the salaries of young people leaving university have not moved since the 1990s, stagnant under the Taiwan 30,000 monthly (842 euros). Consumer prices and real estate have soared, prompting pragmatism.
In the context of “soft power”, a policy of cultural and economic influence abroad, China is trying to seduce young Taiwanese talent.
Katherine Wang, 33, has left her job as a kindergarten teacher to co-found a company in Xiamen, south-east China, which offers young Chinese students various courses.
She “has no hope” for the Taiwanese economy. “I am happy to work in Xiamen. I want to make a name for myself, spreading all over China.”
– Incentives –
Ms. Wang’s apartment and office are free of charge, as a result of Xianmen’s largesse to entrepreneurs.
According to the Chinese Bureau of Taiwanese Affairs, more than 6,000 young Taiwanese are working or doing internships in about 50 start-up incubators opened since 2015.
Visitors to a job fair in Taipei, July 1, 2017
Senior politicians and bosses such as Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Alibaba founder Jack Ma have also put theirs to attract the Taiwanese.
Ms. Wang says she does not have political opinions but others leave them to find work.
A 20-year-old Taiwanese told AFP on condition of anonymity that he has chosen to work in China even though he is for Taiwan’s independence, a concept deemed intolerable by Beijing.
Taiwan, a democracy in its own right, has never officially declared its independence. Beijing threatened to intervene militarily in such a case.
“I’m just trying to do my job well,” said the anonymous employee, who hopes that China will serve as a springboard for an international career.
“My Chinese colleagues sometimes say stuff like + Taiwan is part of China + but that is their freedom of expression.”
Bilateral economic relations are already well established.
– ‘Carrots’ –
After the restrictions were lifted in the late 1980s, Taiwanese companies rushed to China to exploit its resources and cheap labor.
Visitors to a job fair in Taipei look at the map of China, July 1, 2017
China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner and market. Last year, Taipei exported $ 112 billion, or 40% of the total.
But Beijing also knows “that it has to adopt the gentle way and use carrots to attract (young people) in the hope that it will have consequences at crucial moments, such as during the presidential election, AFP Shih Cheng-feng, an analyst at Dong Hwa National University.
“Young people may not be coming, but their hostility can be mitigated, and for Beijing, it’s an investment worth it.”
In Taiwan, there are no official figures on the number of young people working in China.
But a survey published in March by Global View magazine in Taipei showed that 60% of respondents aged 20 to 29 agreed to work there.
Recently, more than 1,500 Taiwanese have applied for 80 Beijing-based positions proposed by Chinese company Hainan Airlines, according to the official Chinese press.
Some welcomed a current that would promote stability at a time when official relations were deteriorating.
Others denounce the brain drain.
Recently, the Liberty Times of Taiwan accused Beijing of attempting to divide the territory and divert youth from its ideals.
“If the younger generations have no hope in Taiwan, if poverty is a fact, how could they feel obliged to defend democracy?”