Academic journal article China Perspectives

Taishang Studies: A Rising or Declining Research Field?

Academic journal article China Perspectives

Taishang Studies: A Rising or Declining Research Field?

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

Introduction

The story of Taiwanese investment in mainland China has often been told over the past two decades, and its economic and political repercussions continue to interest many Taiwan scholars.(1)After the first Taiwanese entrepreneurs set foot on the Chinese mainland in the late 1980s, they soon became important energisers in China's market transformation processes and contributed substantially to China's economic rise. Faced with the mounting pressure of rising labour costs in the structurally changing economy back home, Taiwanese entrepreneurs shifted their companies and much of their investment capital to the mainland, making best use of the low wages, cheap land, and tax breaks granted by local Chinese governments eagerly pursuing their respective development agendas.(2) During the 1990s and 2000s, cross-strait economic interaction became increasingly intensive despite the fact that the Taiwanese government strictly regulated investment flows to China. Cross-strait direct trade was finally legalised in 2008, when the KMT returned to power after eight years of DPP rule. At around the same time, the economic climate on the mainland changed dramatically for Taiwanese entrepreneurs as a result of structural adjustments made to the Chinese economy and the global financial crisis, which had a strong impact on the demand for Taiwanese goods.(3) Moreover, increasing Chinese competition from private and state enterprises and their privileged treatment by local authorities brought new challenges for Taiwanese entrepreneurs, who were forced to accept that their advantages in the early days of "reform and opening" had gone.(4)Today, they have to fight hard to survive in the shark basin called the China market, and although many of them do extremely well, others, particularly those belonging to the labour-intensive industries, face strong pressure to either upgrade, change their production lines, or seek new destinations, for instance in Southeast Asia, in order to continue their businesses.

Research on Taiwanese entrepreneurs operating in China (Taishang ...) has only recently been noted as an emerging field in Taiwan studies that stretches across different disciplines and covers a wide range of topics, including Taishang economic behaviour, (national) identity change, social integration in China, and political agency.(5)The nexus between these different approaches to the study of Taishang, as we argue, was and still is the unThis derlying hypothesis that this social group constitutes a specific "linkage community" (6) connecting the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and driving forward their ongoing integration - with all the potential advantages and disadvantages this process entails. In the realm of cross-strait economic relations, the "linkage effect" is probably the most obvious: first, Taishang investment has helped the Chinese economy become what it is today. (7) Although their significance as energisers of China's economic rise is dwindling, Taishang are still an important factor in China's ongoing market transformation due to their steady capital investment and the transfer of management skills and technology.(8)At the same time, Taiwanese entrepreneurs help Taiwan's export economy by linking it to the Chinese market and global value chains, which are arguably becoming increasingly "sinified." Taishang also play a significant role in facilitating access to Taiwan for Chinese capital, although this is a rather murky area and a politically contested issue (see below). Last but not least, there is the ever-present suspicion in Taiwan that influential tycoons are conspiring with KMT elites and the Chinese government to pull Taiwan irrevocably into China's orbit, solely for their own personal benefit. Concerning cross-strait migration and social relations, Taiwanese entrepreneurs, as long-term residents on the mainland, have gained the attention of sociologists who are interested in the conditions of their (non-)integration in Chinese society, in the question of identity change, and also in the impact of cross-strait marriages on Taiwanese immigration policies and family patterns. …

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