Commentary: China’s pineapple ban another prickle in relations with Taiwan

Commentary Chinas pineapple ban another prickle in relations with Taiwan

ATLANTA, Georgia: Beijing abruptly introduced on Feb 26 that it will droop pineapple imports from Taiwan beginning Mar 1, citing pests detected on the pineapples.

The Taiwan pineapple ban is harking back to China’s ban on Philippine bananas in the aftermath of the Scarborough Shoal standoff in April 2012, when China equally cited pests on Philippine fruits to disclaim their importation.

Taiwan’s companions, together with Japan and the United States, shortly took motion to indicate their solidarity with the island.

Unlike the banana ban in 2012, this pineapple ban’s timing seems mysterious as a result of no incident preceded the suspension. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen referred to as the announcement “ambush-like”.


The bigger background to this ban entails the triangular dynamics between Beijing, Taipei and Washington.

The Biden administration’s statements and actions since its inauguration point out that it’s going to proceed the Trump administration’s robust help of Taiwan. 

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The pineapple ban is Beijing’s sign to Taipei that it can’t circumvent the affect of Beijing over its affairs, even with US help.

The ban may be defined with reference to Taiwan’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities having just lately reshuffled its Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

The new MAC head has signalled optimistic expectations in breaking the cross-Strait deadlock.

The pineapple ban lays naked the fact of cross-Strait relations when there isn’t any official channel to deal with a problem as minor as “harmful creatures” discovered on pineapples. 

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Beijing reiterated its political precondition for trade – that Taipei must discover a technique to come to phrases with Beijing’s “one China” precept – and laid the blame for disrupted cross-Strait relations on the DPP authorities.

The ban would possibly simply be another try and squeeze Taiwan, the most recent measure in an extended course of that kicked off in 2016.

While much of Taiwan's pineapple crop is consumed at home, 90 percent of its overseas shipments

While a lot of Taiwan’s pineapple crop is consumed at house, 90 per cent of its abroad shipments head on the market in the huge Chinese market. (Photo: AFP/Sam Yeh)

China has thwarted Taiwan’s worldwide participation, most noticeably in the World Health Organization (WHO) throughout the pandemic. 

The Chinese army has elevated its vessels in areas round Taiwan, most just lately intruding into Taiwan’s southwest air defence identification zone. 

Economically, China has minimize vacationers to Taiwan and suspended its contract manufacturing with the island. The pineapple ban falls underneath this final class of measures.


Beijing’s intention is to not economically sanction Taiwan as an entire however to focus on sanctions in opposition to the DPP’s core constituencies.

These embrace the so-called “three middles and one youth” who are usually extra sympathetic to the DPP: Middle-to-small companies, middle-to-southern Taiwan, middle-to-low-income individuals, and Taiwan’s youth.

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The pineapple farmers fall into the overlap of a number of of those classes. It has been rumoured that China’s subsequent sanction goal is likely to be wax apples, predominantly grown in southern Taiwan.

Since the ban, Taipei has tried to spotlight what it perceives as Beijing’s coercion and has sought to garner worldwide help by launching a #FreedomPineapples marketing campaign. The slogan mimics the #FreedomWine tagline supporting Australian wines sanctioned by China.

China is the biggest market for Australian wine, importing a record $900 million worth in 2019

China is the largest marketplace for Australian wine, importing a report $900 million price in 2019 AFP/NOEL CELIS

Australia and Taiwan’s circumstances are comparable as a result of China denied entry to its huge market as a software of financial coercion to sign its displeasure with Canberra’s and Taipei’s political behaviour.

Both situations additionally present China’s desire for grey-zone commerce coercion by slicing off market entry on regulatory grounds. This type of coercion permits China to disclaim it’s utilizing financial sanctions.


The circumstances of Australia and Taiwan additionally differ in important methods. China’s dispute with Taiwan is essentially about Taiwan’s standing — the “one China” difficulty — which China doesn’t look forward to finding an answer to in the brief time period.

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China’s disputes with Australia are about Canberra’s insurance policies, together with the banning of Huawei in Australia’s 5G development and calling for an unbiased investigation into China’s dealing with of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Policy points between China and Australia will shift regularly. Beijing has focused a few of Australia’s largest exports to China to discourage Canberra from encroaching on China’s pursuits in the long run.

China Taiwan US

Taiwan Strait. (Photo: AP)

Beijing has not focused Taiwan’s high exports to China. Taiwan’s pineapples rely totally on the home market, with exports to China solely accounting for 9 per cent of gross sales. China additionally hopes to win Taiwan’s hearts and minds.

Following the pineapple ban, Beijing introduced a package deal of twenty-two new incentive measures, together with providing land and monetary help to encourage Taiwan’s agricultural companies to speculate in China.

If China presses too onerous on Taiwan’s standing, there’s a real danger that financial coercion might transition into armed battle. Taipei might present its defiance by transferring in the direction of independence and this would possibly power Beijing’s hand.

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China has averted placing all-out financial strain on Taiwan to permit each side a possibility to keep up peace, regardless of an more and more tense relationship.

The pineapple ban won’t really be pre-meditated and China’s phytosanitary considerations may very well be actual.

But by selecting to not discuss to Taipei to resolve the problem, Beijing’s message has been delivered: Taiwan can’t circumvent China and, with no frequent political understanding, breaking the cross-Strait deadlock will stay wishful considering.

Dalton Lin is Assistant Professor on the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Executive Editor of Taiwan Security Research. This commentary first appeared on East Asia Forum. Read it here.


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