World

More young Taiwanese working in China

TAIPEI: Taiwan has long seen its international allies switching allegiance to an ascendant Beijing, but now there are also fears of a brain drain of the island's youth as they pursue careers in rival China.

China still sees the self-ruling island as part of its territory to be reunified, but young people in particular have increasingly developed a sense of pride in their Taiwanese identity.

But with monthly starting salaries for college graduates unchanged at below NT$30,000 (S$1,350) since the 1990s, and property and consumer prices spiralling upwards, some are now taking a more pragmatic approach.

China is wooing young Taiwanese talent in what analysts have said is a "soft power" push to sway political sentiment.

Ms Katherine Wang, 33, quit kindergarten teaching in Taipei and co-launched a business in May offering a variety of courses for young Chinese women in China's south-eastern Xiamen city, saying she feels "hopeless" about Taiwan's economy.

She receives free housing and office space as an incentive from the Xiamen government, an example of the perks offered by provincial authorities, which also include generous grants.

According to China's Taiwan Affairs Office, more than 6,000 young Taiwanese people are working or interning at more than 50 youth start-up bases launched since 2015.

Top Chinese political and business leaders, including Premier Li Keqiang and Alibaba founder Jack Ma, have also encouraged Taiwanese youth to chase careers in China.

China is also Taiwan's biggest trade partner and market, with exports there totalling US$112 billion (S$153 billion) - 40 per cent of last year's total.

The youth links have an extra dimension, said Professor Shih Cheng-feng, a political analyst at Taiwan's National Dong Hwa University."Young people may not actively support Beijing's agenda, but their hostilities can be reduced and that for Beijing is a worthwhile investment," he said. - AFP

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