East China Sea: Beijing steps up efforts to cut off Taipei fishing as tensions rocket

China has ramped up its dredging in the surrounding waters of the Matsu Islands in the East China Sea. Speaking to DW News, the fisherman said: “This fish used to be worth 100,000 Taiwan dollars a year and now it’s dropped to 10,000. Matsu used to be called the fishing paradise but now all the fish are gone.”

He added: “This was covered with sand in the past and now is all stones.”

The move comes as the leader of Taiwan’s main opposition party Kuomintang (KMT) said on Tuesday he is in no rush to travel to China to meet President Xi Jinping, and that Beijing’s proposals to get Taiwan to accept Communist rule had “no market” on the island.

The KMT ruled China before retreating to Taiwan at the end of a civil war with the Communists in 1949. While ties across the Taiwan Strait have improved dramatically in the last three decades, Beijing continues to claim Taiwan as its own territory.

The KMT was trounced in presidential and parliamentary elections last year, unable to shake accusations by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party that they were Beijing’s lackey.

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Johnny Chiang, elected as leader following the party’s defeat, told Reuters that he was in no hurry to follow his predecessor’s footsteps and visit Beijing to meet politicians from the Communist Party, and its leader President Xi.

“We can wait for a better timing. There’s no insistence for it. It’s not just a meeting for a meeting’s sake, but it needs to be meaningful, respectful,” he said at party headquarters in central Taipei, adding the pandemic also made travel hard now.

“The timing needs to be right, but more importantly there needs to be the precondition of equality and dignity, and it has to be beneficial for Taiwan.”

Mr Chiang said they were maintaining routine contacts with the Communist Party, but there had been no high-level communication.

In July he faces re-election as party leader, though he reiterated he has no interest in running for president and would rather serve as a “kingmaker” in choosing its candidate for elections in 2024.

But being firm with autocratic China will be an important test of whether the KMT can get back into power – Chiang described China as the major threat Taiwan faces.

Chiang said that China’s offer of using “one country, two systems” to entice Taiwan with a high degree of autonomy, like how Beijing is supposed to run unrest-hit Hong Kong, has “no market” on the island, where people like their freedoms.

“We are already used to this kind of lifestyle. If you want Taiwan’s people to change it – impossible.”

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