China Unveils Ambitious Integration Plan with Taiwan Amid Military Show of Force

Hong Kong — In a move that has raised eyebrows across the international community, China has unveiled an ambitious plan aimed at deepening integration between its coastal province of Fujian and Taiwan, a self-governing island. This announcement coincides with a conspicuous display of military strength, with Chinese warships patrolling the waters around Taiwan.

The directive, issued jointly by the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee and the State Council, outlines a vision to transform Fujian into a "demonstration zone" for integrated development with Taiwan, becoming the "first home" for Taiwanese residents and businesses looking to establish themselves in China.

Chinese experts, cited in state media, have described the document as a "blueprint" for Taiwan's future development. This move comes at a sensitive juncture in cross-strait relations as Taiwan prepares for its upcoming presidential election in January.

Simultaneously, China continues to exert military pressure on Taiwan, asserting its territorial claims over the democratic island, home to 24 million people, despite never having governed it.

Leading up to the release of China's integration plan, reports emerged of a Chinese aircraft carrier and approximately two dozen warships assembling in waters near Taiwan, according to Taiwanese authorities.

China has traditionally employed a dual approach with Taiwan, utilizing both threats of military action and opportunities for economic and cultural exchange to advance its interests among those more amenable to Beijing's stance.

Given the recent strain in cross-strait relations, it remains uncertain how Taiwan will respond to China's sweeping proposal.

In reaction to the integration plan, Taiwanese lawmaker Wang Ting-yu, a member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, criticized it as "ridiculous." Wang argued that China should instead focus on addressing its financial challenges rather than engaging in united front activities against Taiwan.

The concept of integrating Fujian with Taiwan was initially introduced in a Chinese official document in 2021, but no specifics were provided at that time. In June, when a senior Chinese leader broached the integration plan at a forum, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council dismissed it as "meaningless" and "futile," stating that it did not align with Taiwan's public expectations and belittled the island.

CNN has reached out to Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council for their comments on the recent development.

China's directive also pledges to create a more favorable environment for Taiwanese companies to operate in Fujian, enhance industrial and capital cooperation, and encourage Taiwanese businesses to list on Chinese stock exchanges.

In a groundbreaking move, Taiwanese firms will be permitted to invest in and establish radio and television production companies in Fujian as part of a pilot program.

The directive additionally aims to attract Taiwanese individuals and families to settle in Fujian by improving social welfare programs. These enhancements will facilitate property ownership for Taiwanese expatriates and provide equal educational opportunities for Taiwanese students in public schools.

Chinese analysts have described the document as outlining Taiwan's future development and its potential to gain greater momentum and prospects by integrating with Fujian, as reported by the state-run Global Times.

Fujian, a province of 40 million people located closest to Taiwan both geographically and culturally, shares historical ties with many Taiwanese individuals whose ancestors migrated from Fujian over the centuries, bringing with them dialects, customs, and religious practices that have influenced the traditional culture of Taiwan's Han population.

China's Communist Party has persistently cited these geographic, historical, and cultural ties as a rationale for closer economic and social integration, with the ultimate goal of unification with Taiwan.

Notably, China's integration efforts focus on Taiwan's outlying islands, Kinmen and Matsu, which are geographically closer to Fujian and have historically maintained stronger connections with the mainland.

The directive commits to accelerating integration between Xiamen, a city in Fujian, and Kinmen, which are only a few miles apart. Plans include infrastructure projects that will facilitate the transportation of electricity and gas from Xiamen to Kinmen, as well as the construction of a bridge connecting the two cities. The plan also promises Kinmen residents the same privileges as local residents in Xiamen.

Similar integration initiatives are outlined for Fuzhou, another city in Fujian, and Matsu.

For some Kinmen residents, the prospect of increased connectivity is appealing. Earlier this year, a cross-party alliance of eight local councilors in Kinmen proposed the construction of a bridge to Xiamen as part of a broader initiative to transform Kinmen into a demilitarized zone or a "peace island." Situated on the front line between Taiwan and China, Kinmen has historically faced numerous amphibious assaults and shelling by the Chinese military following the Chinese civil war. The councilors' proposal envisions the removal of all Taiwanese troops and military installations from the islands, creating a setting for Beijing-Taipei talks aimed at "de-escalating tensions."