China has slapped a ban on thousands of Taiwanese food imports, from fruit and vegetables to cookies and baby food, ahead of an expected visit to the island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later Tuesday.
The unconfirmed trip by the highest-ranking U.S. official in a quarter century — and China’s reaction to it — have sent regional tensions soaring and plunged Sino-U. S. relations into the deep freeze, as fears grow over a possible military response by Beijing.
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has repeatedly warned against Pelosi’s trip, while Washington on Monday said it would not be intimidated by Beijing’s “saber-rattling.”
It was not clear when China’s customs agency imposed the sweeping ban on food and beverages from neighboring Taiwan, but local media reported that the freeze happened on the eve of Pelosi’s contentious visit.
“The ban is clearly an underhanded attempt to punish Taiwan for U.S. actions,” said Chen Kuan-ting, CEO of the Taiwan NextGen Foundation think tank. “China continues to use economic manipulation to try to coerce Taiwan’s political relationships and behavior. This is yet more proof of China’s heavy-handed approach to try to dictate the China-Taiwan relationship.”
The Chinese customs agency website showed products from at least 50 categories of imports — including vegetables, cookies, cakes, drinks and fresh seafood – were now listed as “suspended” on Tuesday, even though their registrations appeared to remain valid, with some slated to expire only in 2027.
Currently, more than 2,000 individual items are suspended, or about two-thirds of some 3,228 items registered as food imports from Taiwan, according to a Nikkei Asia review. It was unclear if all the suspensions were made at the same time.
The list included items from top Taiwanese brands such as Taisun, A.G.V. Products, Wei Chuan Foods, Wei Lih Food and I-Mei Foods. The Chinese customs agency did not give a reason for the suspensions on its website.
An official from Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs told Nikkei that the ministry, the Council of Agriculture and other relevant departments are aware of the ban and are helping industry players “respond properly.”
Lawmaker Wang Ting-yu from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party lashed out at the ban on social media, saying, “We will not be intimidated by [China’s] weaponization of trade.”
The Council of Agriculture said it was monitoring the situation and “advising the Taiwanese companies involved to prepare any documents that they need,” adding in a statement, “we will also assist and study whether we need to roll out related support programs for industries that are impacted.”
Taiwan exported around $683 million worth of food, drinks and alcohol to China last year, according to data from the Finance Ministry. For the first half of this year, Taiwan’s food and drinks shipments were valued at $183 million, as virus lockdowns in Shanghai and other major cities sapped demand.
China has suspended imports of Taiwanese food products in the past, including a ban in June on grouper after malachite green, a prohibited chemical used in aquaculture, was detected in samples.
Last year, China suspended imports of Taiwanese pineapples, sugar apples and wax apples.