News Analysis

Amid elevated cross-strait tensions, Beijing once again suspended imports of several food and beverage products from Taiwan, citing “incomplete registration information.” Experts believe it is a political move aimed at suppressing Taiwan and inciting nationalism at a time of domestic crisis.

The recently suspended products include biscuits, candies, alcohol, and other beverages. According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA), as of Dec. 10, the number of import suspensions had reached 2,409.

China’s General Administration of Customs claimed that the suspensions were due to “failure to comply with a new customs registration system the Chinese authorities introduced last year.”

Some Taiwanese companies reported that their registration with Chinese customs suddenly became “invalid” despite adhering to the customs rules and having previously secured a qualification code for import.

The seafood industry is the most impacted, according to Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture (COA).

The COA confirmed on Dec. 8 that 178 seafood exporters were suspended from sending their products to China, with squid, Pacific saury, and fourfinger threadfin being the most affected items.

In terms of volume, Taiwan exported 75,000 tons of squid to China last year—an export value of about $120 million.

The Chinese customs cited several reasons for what might constitute “incomplete registration information”: the ingredient labeling does not meet the requirements; the production license certificate does not meet the requirements; the company’s application letter does not meet the requirements; the declaration of origin does not meet the requirements; the registration documents are not provided as required; the application product code is invalid or that it is wrong and does not belong to the registration of food enterprises.

Epoch Times Photo
Bottles of Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor and cans of Taiwan Beer have become the latest Taiwanese products to face hurdles in exports to China. The photo was taken on Dec. 10, 2022. (Courtesy of CNA)

Discrimination Against Taiwan

Wang Pi-sheng, Taiwan’s deputy minister of Health and Welfare, said at a press conference on Dec. 11 that the reasons provided by the Chinese customs might appear plausible on the surface, but there’s more to it.

He said the problem is that the review standards are unclear, adding that the Chinese customs did not inform what content was allowed and what was not. And that the ministry couldn’t figure out the logic behind the suspensions upon comparing the passing and failed documents.

Wang added that the ministry repeatedly asked Chinese officials why those products did not meet the requirements, but they did not reply.

Lo Ping-cheng, a spokesperson of Taiwan’s Executive Yuan, said on Dec. 10 that Beijing’s move was a technical trade barrier and discrimination against Taiwan.

He pointed out that in November 2019, Beijing proposed new draft regulations for registering overseas food manufacturers. The rules stipulate that all countries, except Taiwan, can complete the registration form online.

In addition, all other nations have an application deadline until June 30, 2023, but Taiwan’s deadline is one year earlier.

Furthermore, in the past two years, China’s General Administration of Customs has also banned several Taiwanese agricultural and seafood products under various pretexts, such as pork, pineapples, lychees, citrus fruits, groupers, hairtail, and jack mackerel.

Epoch Times Photo
China suspends Taiwanese snacks and pastry imports ahead of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan on Aug. 2, 2022. (Courtesy of CNA, Taiwan’s Central News Agency)

‘Undisciplined Trade Partner’

Akio Yaita, a prominent Japanese-Chinese journalist and the Taipei bureau chief for the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, said Beijing’s actions were not due to technical problems but blatant political suppression.

“In the past two years, China has repeatedly banned the imports of Taiwanese products, and it is getting worse. These behaviors are nothing more than political suppression and coercion through business,” Yaita said in a post on Facebook on Dec. 11.

“[These moves] demonstrate great political risks in doing business with China and show that it is not a reliable business partner. Making money in China is nothing more than ‘asking the devil for pocket money,’ [a business] may profit in the short term, but it may lose everything when ‘the devil changes his face.’”

Yaita encouraged Taiwan not to cave under pressure or make any compromise in the face of an “undisciplined trade partner.”

Regarding Beijing’s unilateral trade suspensions, Zhuge Mingyang, an independent journalist and China expert, told The Epoch Times on Dec. 12 that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “urgently needs an external factor to ease domestic and international pressures,” and provoking Taiwan is a way.

He said the regime is facing an “encirclement of pressure” as nations decouple from China and public grievances arise from within the country over its draconian pandemic control measures.

In NTD’s “Elite Forum” TV program on Dec. 11, Wei Jingsheng, a Chinese pro-democracy activist in the United States, said that the CCP always tries to incite nationalism among its people at a time of crisis.

“Who should the CCP incite nationalism against at this moment? Japan? America? India? None of them seem like an easy target. So the most ‘justifiable’ target is Taiwan,” Wei said.

Shawn Lin

Shawn Lin is a Chinese expatriate living in New Zealand. He has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2009, with a focus on China-related topics.

Sean Tseng

Sean Tseng is a Taiwan-based writer. He focuses on China news.




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