Lin Chun-lai purchased his grouper farm in southern Taiwan a decade ago in recognition of mainland China’s growing appetite for live fish. In just a few years, the former electrician made enough money to support his family of four and even open a small inn.

Then China abruptly banned all grouper imports from the island, in an apparent attempt to turn the economic screws on Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own territory. The move cut Lin and other farmers like him off from their main market, putting their livelihoods at risk and dealing a blow to a lucrative industry.

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