To further its campaign of economic coercion against Taiwan, China exploits any channels available to steal trade secrets and collect intelligence. Taiwanese businessmen are an easy target because they speak Chinese and frequently do business both in China and Taiwan.
One of those businessmen overcame his fear of reprisal and recently spoke with the Chinese language of The Epoch Times about the risks of doing business in China.
Mr. Wu started doing business in China around 1995. A few years later, when Taiwan opened its border for trade, transport, and postal service between Taiwan and China—known as the “three links,” Mr. Wu moved his business entirely to China.
After the CCP took control of China, the national government retreated to Taiwan. It closed the border and all communication with the mainland in 1949. Thirty years later, in 1979, the "three links" policy was proposed by the CCP as a means of reinstating cross-Strait dialogue.
Mr. Wu described the standard of living in the coastal regions as low when China first opened up in the 80s. “Even the toilet paper was rough,” he said.
The Chinese Economy's 'Bitter Winter'However, the coastal regions such as Xiamen and Shenzhen in southern China, where most Taiwanese engage their businesses, have experienced another round of great changes in recent years, he said. “The Chinese economy is entering its bitter winter after three years of lockdown,” said Mr. Wu.
Increasing CCP control, surveillance of private industries, the U.S.–China trade war, decreasing exports, and sluggish domestic demand have all made a negative impact.
Concerned about these factors, Mr. Wu gradually shifted his business. He still travels back and forth between Taiwan and China but has greatly reduced his business in China.
Spies EverywhereWhen he first arrived in China, Mr. Wu was struck by how welcoming the culture was. "People were really nice," he recounted.
It was not until many years later that he realized that there was more than friendship in the interactions. The Chinese he encountered on a friendly basis frequently had another purpose. "Many years later I realized they were all tasked with monitoring Taiwanese," he said.
This often started with a relaxing chat about families and health, according to Mr. Wu.
A glass of wine and a dinner engagement was often the easiest way to induce targets to let down their guard. It was followed up with incentives like money and women.
Unrestricted InfiltrationAccording to Mr. Wu, CCP infiltration targets all walks of life. Any information is considered valuable, not just that limited to technology or military information.
The CCP also aims to change the general view of the regime in Taiwan, particularly ahead of the upcoming January elections. He believes this effort is the reason why pro-CCP businessmen often publicly tout the Chinese market. Either they are working with the CCP, or their opinions have been influenced by CCP propaganda.
Mr. Wu believes the ultimate goal of exploiting Taiwanese businessmen is to make connections with influential figures in national defense and politics.
The Danger of Underground BanksCash flow is more than a source of funding for the CCP's espionage efforts; it is also a way to acquire information and ensnare potentially useful targets.
Recently, a retired military officer and four other military personnel were arrested for alleged espionage. They were useful to the CCP because of their network of contacts in the active military. China provided funds which were then used to bribe the contacts for information.
However, it was the retired officer's involvement with Taiwan's underground banks that probably opened the door to the espionage scheme, Mr. Wu said. Chinese operatives most likely obtained his personal information through his banking activity in order to recruit him as a spy.
Penalties for Being 'Uncooperative'Based on his decades of business experience in China, Mr. Wu says he sees a shift in CCP infiltration. Whereas retired soldiers and businessmen have been targeted for some time, now all of Taiwanese society is seen as a target.
The stepped-up infiltration has made Mr. Wu uneasy. He used to feel safe once he was back in Taiwan; but no longer. He feels that only by completely cutting his ties with China will he be relatively secure.
Mr. Wu and his business partner agreed not to become involved in the CCP's infiltration system on any level, fearing possible repercussions from one side or both, depending on how the balance of power swings.
The Illusion of the Chinese Market“The CCP can easily support and grow Taiwanese businesses, but [can] also crack them down at any time,” Mr. Wu warned. It's time to wake up from the illusion of free trade between China and Taiwan, he said.
“They fulfill your desire. Be it the woman, power, or money, they’ll satisfy your need. But you’re tasked to bring them more businessmen, more friends. You’re bound by political red lines, and must even work as a spy,” he said.
“China is indeed tempting,” with its colorful image and infrastructures, but in truth, “It’s lawless, and anyone could lose everything overnight,” he stressed.
He said there are many political "red lines" to doing business in China.
“I have struggled for a very long time to come forward,” he said, referring to his interview with The Epoch Times. "I wanted to warn those who still have any illusions about the CCP, especially the younger generations hoping to find opportunities by going to China.”
Almost any other country will provide better opportunities than China, he said, because "once you are in China, you might not be able to leave."