The State Council of the Communist Party of China (CPC) recently released the “Outline of the National Comprehensive Three-Dimensional Transportation Network Plan”, proposing a vision for China’s transportation construction from 2021 to 2035, which includes a high-speed rail link from Fuzhou to Taipei, causing heated discussions among netizens on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Some scholars on both sides of the Taiwan Strait believe that the CCP is “serious” about this plan, but it can only be realized under the premise of mutual trust between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, which is not yet the case. However, whether or not there is any practical significance, China’s united front against Taiwan is full of implications.
China’s State Council recently released the “national comprehensive three-dimensional transportation network planning outline”, in accelerating the construction of “6 axes, 7 corridors, 8 channels” of the main skeleton project, six traffic spine of “Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei-Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao “layout of Taiwan Taipei into the road network planning, constituting a” path a “branch, that is, from Beijing through Xiong’an, Hengshui, to Fuyang, after another branch line from Fuyang through Huangshan, Fuzhou to Taipei.
In fact, this is not the first Time Taiwan has been included in China’s overall national road network planning. In the “Long-term Railway Network Plan” of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), China proposed to build a high-speed railroad from Fuzhou to Taipei, and the “Beijing-Taiwan Railway” is expected to be completed by 2030. “; even earlier, in 2004, the “national highway network planning”, Beijing’s seven radial highways have a route planned to connect across the sea to Taipei; 2008 to 2011 repeated railroad planning case also Fuzhou to Taipei railroad as a “planning study section”.
Beijing-Taiwan Railway is not a paper project
The Beijing-Taiwan Railway, which has been placed in China’s national road network planning, is it really just a paper project? The “13th Five-Year Plan” of the Beijing-Taiwan high-speed railway in China’s most end of the Pingtan section was opened to traffic at the end of last year, and scholars and experts from both sides of the Taiwan Strait have held several meetings for this purpose.
The first cross-strait channel (bridge and tunnel) engineering symposium was held in Fuzhou in April 2007, and a book of papers was published in 2012.
According to Ke Zhenyang, the envisioned route of the cross-strait passage has three options: north, middle and south. He said, “(Beijing-Taiwan Railway) Fuzhou to Taipei, in fact, not to Taipei, is to go ashore in Hsinchu, this has been discussed for one or two decades, there were originally three programs, this is the most northern of this program, and the central and southern program, now talking about all the northern of this program.”
According to the northern scheme, which is the scheme proposed in China’s 2021 “national comprehensive three-dimensional transportation network planning outline”, the “northern route” is connected from Dong’ao village in Pingtan County to Nanliao fishing port in Hsinchu City, Taiwan, where the water depth of the strait terrain is shallow and historically The first phase of the route is generally recognized by experts as the preferred route, as no earthquakes of magnitude 7 have occurred.
The other two options, one from Quanzhou City, China to Changhua County, Taiwan, the “Central Line”, this line can be set up midway between an artificial island and the interchange, the past south to connect the highway branch to Penghu, the Chinese coast and the Taiwan Sea islands are connected, is considered the second phase of the long-term project, to be considered after the first phase of construction. Another is Xiamen to Chiayi County, the “southern route”, through the small Kinmen, Kinmen to Penghu, and then through the Penghu waterway, connected to the island of Taiwan, due to the deep water depth and often 5 to 6 magnitude earthquake, so temporarily excluded.
Engineering and technical challenges
The Pingtan Times reported that Chen Libiao, director of the Engineering Department of Fujian Provincial Highway Construction General Command, said that the Pingtan section of the Beijing-Taiwan Expressway will play a good supporting role for the construction of China’s entire national highway network.
Ding Yuren, Party Secretary and Chairman of Fujian Pingtan Comprehensive Experimental Zone Transportation Group, has also said that the completion of the whole section of Beijing-Taiwan Expressway Pingtan will lay a good foundation for the future construction of the submarine tunnel from Pingtan to Taiwan and make sufficient preparatory work.
However, since the existing cross-sea bridge connecting Fuzhou and Pingtan Island by Fuping Railway is shared by both railroad and highway, it is judged that the future Beijing-Taiwan Railway will also be used by both railroad and highway.
If the Pingtan-Taiwan section is opened to traffic, the 126-kilometer-long undersea tunnel is likely to replace the 125-kilometer-long Bohai Bay Tunnel and become the longest undersea tunnel in the world. At that time, technically complex submarine geological investigation, as well as the accompanying construction difficulties, but also need to overcome the Taiwan Strait typhoon, earthquake, tide and salt water, etc., are a great test of engineering technology.
Kezhen Yang said, whether it is a submarine tunnel, or cross-sea bridge, in terms of the current engineering technology is not a problem. He said, “We will make one or two working islands in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, this working island will of course be very long when you think about it now, and several working islands will be made according to the design needs.”
China’s infrastructure docking Taiwan cross-strait win-win
The news that China’s road network is planned to span to Taiwan immediately sparked a debate between public opinion on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Chinese media “Observer” reported: “Building roads to Taiwan, we are serious!” This is not a transportation plan, but a reunification timetable. The Taiwanese media criticized it as “dreaming”. Some netizens sarcastically said, “The DPP authorities should plan a railway highway to Japan and Hawaii, and then to the United States, Britain and France, as a countermeasure.” Others said “to sincerely unify is not to build this, is to allocate funds to help us (Taiwan) to repay the money pit of labor insurance liabilities, other types of social insurance also incidentally.”
In an interview with the Voice of America, Ni Yongjie, executive vice president of the Taiwan Institute in Shanghai, was optimistic about the Beijing-Taiwan railroad. He said that China is indeed serious about pre-doing forward planning for 2035 or even 2049 through its professional transportation department, and dovetailing China’s infrastructure with Taiwan will help people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to interact with each other for mutual benefit. However, he also admitted that the political environment and conditions of the cross-strait access do not yet exist, and only stop at the planning of the professional sector, but expects that if cross-strait relations have a good development, this channel will be able to complement the advantages of both sides of the Taiwan Strait, creating a win-win situation.
Ni Yongjie said: “The transport department is doing forward planning, we will of course think about the future cross-strait for the direction of development, in terms of access to bridges, access, water, electricity and other infrastructure, for the future 2035, or even 2049 to do overall planning. Currently may not have the conditions, but we have ten years or a period of preparation later, and so have the conditions, both sides have the will, many people in Taiwan are willing to accept. To put it in the long term, do such planning in advance, this is a professional sector to do planning, the people are willing to accept or not, with time can be seen, but the planning department can be ahead of the study, think of some of the difficulties that may face, to create the conditions to complete such planning. This thing is not immediately to do, but do planning should be possible.”
Deutsche Welle questioned how actionable it would be for Beijing to include Taiwan in its transportation plan, given the difficulty of establishing political mutual trust between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. The Nikkei Asian Review says that Communist Party President Xi Jinping‘s goals for the next 15 years provide clues that he wants to stay in power longer, and this transportation blueprint hints that he has intentions to change the status quo.
Beijing’s Two-Handed Strategy
Guo Yuren, a professor at the Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Regional Studies at National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan, told the Voice of America that the Beijing-Taiwan railroad sends a signal of unification with Taiwan on the one hand, and hints at Xi’s ambition to extend his tenure on the other. He believes that Taiwan will be China’s next target after dealing with Hong Kong. He believes that Xi will focus on consolidating his power base internally in 2021 and 2022, and will accelerate his crackdown on Taiwan from 2023 onwards with a multi-pronged approach, reinforcing his two-handed united front strategy of “harder on the hard side and softer on the soft side.
I think the planning of the railroad network from Fuzhou to Taipei is a bit of an inculcation to weaken the will of the Taiwanese people to resist, which is also considered a ‘two-handed’ approach,” said Guo Yuren. He (Xi Jinping) planned to 2035, his attempts would have been there, Xi Jinping is only 67 years old this year, he will still be there after 2022, he will still be there after the 21st Congress.”
Shu Hsiao-Huang, a scholar at Taiwan’s National Defense and Security Research Institute, also believes China is serious about the Beijing-Taiwan railroad. He said the railroad transportation network is China’s strategic plan, and Taiwan is only an extension of it. China proposed this idea a long time ago, but it involves cross-strait relations, and when the water comes to a head, perhaps it will actually do so, but the conditions are not there to make it happen now, and it is not feasible for China to brute force it unilaterally even if it wanted to.
Laying the groundwork for improved cross-strait relations?
Shu Xiaohuang told Voice of America, “I think it (China) is leaving an ambush of its own, that cross-strait relations are likely to improve in the future. Some of its policies will want to pull in the hearts and minds of Taiwan, for example, economically, it is still maintaining very close relations with Taiwan, there may be some hearts and minds in Taiwan for the improvement of cross-strait relations is still some expectations; is also to (Taiwan) the ruling authorities some political pressure, more or less this implication in, clearly I (China) can build, then you (Taiwan) want to agree.”
The Chinese official media “Xinhua” reported that the “national comprehensive three-dimensional transportation network planning outline” to achieve international and domestic interconnection in 2035, the country’s major cities three-dimensional smooth, effective coverage of county-level nodes, powerful support “national 123 travel traffic circle”:. 1 hour commute to urban areas, 2 hours access to urban clusters, 3 hours coverage of major cities across the country, and “global 123 express cargo flow circle”: 1 day domestic delivery, 2 days delivery to neighboring countries, 3 days delivery to major cities around the world.
Shu Xiaohuang said, if the Beijing-Taiwan railroad is really completed, which represents the Taiwan into the scope of China’s “national 123 travel traffic circle”, Taipei and the circulation of China’s major cities can also be reached within a few hours, the same as Taipei into China’s economic circle, in a way is really attractive.
Experts: the railroad has strategic significance
In addition, Shu Xiaohuang and said that the railroad has always been seen as a way to accelerate the power control of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, whether it is the Qinghai-Tibet Railway or the Belt and Road, the construction of China’s national railroad network is not only to drive China’s economic development, but also vital for China’s military strategy. In the past, China has rehearsed the use of high-speed rail for rapid troop transport during exercises, which is faster and has a greater capacity than military vehicles or helicopters.
He said the Beijing-Taiwan railroad plan is a war cry to the hearts of the Taiwanese people, and whether or not it has any practical significance, the united front is full of implications. He said, “If there is really a chance to talk about the Beijing-Taiwan railroad across the Taiwan Strait, it should be under the premise that cross-strait relations should already have an adequate reconciliation relationship before it is possible to talk about this issue, and now it is obvious that this condition is not available.”
Ni Yongjie, executive vice president of the Shanghai Taiwan Research Institute, believes that after the cross-strait bridge access, traffic is more convenient, can drive the two sides of the economy, goods, information flow, business is also more convenient, the construction of bridges and unification is not necessarily related to the economy is the economy, should not be the economy on the political intentions of the hat, should be viewed with a common sense.
Ni Yongjie said: “This time to the people as the center, there are elections in Taiwan to fight for votes, this is the best, if which party played after I came to power, launched with the mainland through the bridge, electricity, water, I think this support is certainly very high, more than 50% will support. And not to unify, unification and bridge-building is not necessarily linked, even those who oppose unification can take a boat, drive, take the high-speed rail to the mainland to see. You say we built the Beijing to Taipei high-speed rail or highway or, of course, is beneficial to China’s national development, but it (Beijing-Taiwan high-speed rail) will also drive the development of Taiwan, will also bring convenience to the people of Taiwan, there will also be more convenient to enjoy and happiness index of Life will rise, I think the people of Taiwan will not refuse.”
Taiwan Land Commission: do not impose rules on the Taiwanese
Ni Yongjie also said that the Taiwan Land Commission has changed its chairman, perhaps by the cross-strait joint construction of bridges, tunnels and railroads to open dialogue, it is not a good thing, this is also the “spring blossom” the best occasion and the best atmosphere.
However, Taiwan’s Land Commission spokesman Chiu Chui-ching told the Voice of America that China has long included Taiwan in its transportation plans, including highways, railroads, high-speed railways, undersea tunnels, bridges, and so on and so forth. The Beijing-Taiwan Railway is China’s unilateral plan and its unification propaganda. The construction of cross-sea transportation involves matters of public authority on both sides, and there has never been any official discussion between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait on related issues.
He called on the Chinese government to respect Taiwan’s public opinion and to deal with and improve cross-strait related issues in a pragmatic manner; unilaterally imposing various frameworks or plans on the people of Taiwan will not make the people of Taiwan feel goodwill and sincerity, and will only make the two sides move further and further apart.