Special government/business relationship: the case of Taiwanese Businessmen Association in mainland China

Publication Date03 October 2008
AuthorChun‐Yi Lee
Journal of Chinese Economic and
Foreign Trade Studies
Vol. 1 No. 3, 2008
pp. 244-256
#Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/17544400810912392
Special government/business
relationship: the case of
Taiwanese Businessmen
Association in mainland China
Chun-Yi Lee
The School of Politics and International Relations,
University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
Purpose – This paper focuses on the relationship between spontaneous business groups, such as the
Taiwanese Businessmen Association (TBA), and the Chinese government.
Design/methodology/approach – In analysing the relationship between the TBAs and the
Chinese government, this paper focuses on three cities, Tianjin, Kunshan and Dongguan.
Furthermore it observes Taiwanese investment in mainland China from 1987 to 2004, in three sub-
periods: 1987-1993, 1994-1999, 2000-2004. Statism (e.g. rational choice) appears to be a valid
theoretical framework.
Findings – It was found that the Chinese government’s changing interaction with Taiwanese
businesses always suited their best interests at the time, which proves that the Chinese government
applied rational module in interacting with Taiwanese businesses.
Research limitations/implications – Rational choice is not a comprehensive approach in political
science, but it is the most suitable approach to analyse the interaction between the Chinese
government and Taiwanese businesses.
Practical implications – The first TBA was established in Beijing in 1990; nowadays there are
over 100 TBAs in mainland China. It has been argued that TBAs can be seen as the emergence of a
sort of civil society in mainland China; to others, they merely reflect the strong will of the Chinese
government to attract foreign investment.
Originality/value – This paper demonstrates that Taiwanese businesses is a security asset for the
Chinese government in the cross-Strait relationship.
Keywords Taiwan, China, International relations, International investments
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
The main goal of this paper is to analyse China’s national power in attracting
Taiwanese businesspeople in order to achieve the goals of Chinese central and local
governments. This paper mainly applies statism, especially the state’s rational choice,
to explain the Chinese government’s changing attitude towards the development of the
Taiwanese Business Associations (TBAs) in mainland China. The research period of
this paper is from 1987 to 2004, mainly because before the authority of Taiwan lifted
martial law in 1987[1], business people were completely prohibited from investing in
mainland China. After lifting martial law, the Taiwanese authority[2] g radually
released the controls on investment in mainland China. Nevertheless Taiwanese
business people still need to transit through a third area, most of the time Hong Kong
or Macau, to invest in mainland China. Therefore, in this paper, the starting point of
Taiwanese investment in mainland China is the milestone year of 1987.
Although the Chinese government aimed to consolidate the market-oriented
economy, they are a substantially state-centred economy. The Chinese government
dominates business groups, especially Taiwanese business groups in mainland China.
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