Good Cross-Strait Economic Relations Equals Good Cross-Strait Political Relations
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 12, 2009
ECFA is not on the agenda of the fourth round of talks later this year, leading to all sorts of speculation and debate. Some people think it has merely been postponed, not ruled out. Some people think Beijing has no intention of going along with it, and that ECFA is probably done for.
Over the past year, the two sides have made unprecedented progress in cross-Strait relations. But the rapid development of cross-Strait relations means economics must be brought in synch with politics. Some people think the Ma administration's concept of "first economics, then politics" is "only economics, no politics." They think the Ma administration is too pro-Beijing. They fear that if Taiwan's economy is integrated with the Mainland's, Taiwan's poltical system will be as well. Others think that the Ma administration's concept of "first economics, then politics" is perceived by Beijing as a variation of the two-states theory. They think cross-Strait mutual trust is on the brink of disintegration, and that is why the mainland has little interest in ECFA.
These two viewpoints differ sharply. But they are a matter of opinion. One side thinks Ma Ying-jeou is pro-Beijing, and therefore Taiwan will be swallowed up by the mainland. The other side thinks Ma Ying-jeou is pro-independence, and Beijing has targeted him for punishment.
Actually, the Ma administration is not the only one to endorse the concept of "first economics, then politics." The Beijing authorities also hold this view. Their intention is to ease the pressure on both sides, to create more breathing room, to separate economics from politics, and to give economics priority over politics. But what isn't political between the two sides? How can the institutionalization of cross-Strait economic interaction not have political repercussions? Are the three links purely economic? Aren't they political? Are financial agreement purely economic? Aren't they political?
The rapid institutionalization of cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges over the past year was a highly political decision. The two sides knew what the political impact would be. The political impact may make Taiwan independence even less possible. But Beijing also knows it must forsake military force as a means of achieving reunification. Cross-Strait relations are currently in a state of "neither reunification, nor independence, both reunification, and independence." It is in an upward spriral, contained within a framework of peaceful development.
Such a strategy ensures that Taiwan is unable to declare independence, and that Beijing is unable to compel reunification. Beijing hopes that Taiwan independence sentiment on Taiwan will fade. The Ma administration hopes to turn cross-Strait hostility into a win-win scenario of peaceful coexistence. Beijing hopes of course to move toward reunification. It knows it must first convince the public on Taiwan. It must pass the test of democracy. The Ma administration does not advocate Taiwan independence. But "no independence" plus "no reunification" involves a delicate balance. Under the circumstances, Beijing knows that no government on Taiwan that advocates reunification can survive. The Ma administration also knows the "two states theory" cannot resolve the cross-Strait impasse.
In this delicate balance, what Taipei wants is for Beijing to realize that Taipei is not hostile toward it. What Beijing wants is for the public on Taiwan to understand that improved cross-Strait relations will enhance Taipei's dignity and interests. After all, the Taiwan region has a vibrant system of government. The majority of the public wants to maintain the status quo. Therefore the authorities in Taipei dare not engage in Taiwan independence. Nor can the authorities in Beijing demote the authorities in Taipei to the status of Beijing's "caretaker government." Beijing is unlikely to harbor such illusions. Therefore Beijing is unlikely to resort to violence to achieve reunification. It cannot turn Taipei into its charity case via procurement policies. That is not what the public on Taiwan wants from cross-Strait relations. Nor can it make the public on Taiwan feel good about cross-Strait relations by such means. Most importantly, it is not conducive to Taipei's survival and development. If the ROC finds it difficult to survive and develop because Beijing undermines cross-Strait relations, Beijing will also feel the pressure.
Therefore, we believe ECFA has merely been postponed, not necessarily ruled out. If our speculation is incorrect, we hope the situation can be turned around. After all, ECFA or CECA was Hu Jintao's idea, as formulated in his Six Points. High ranking officials in Beijing have repeatedly declared that "the name is not important." The authorities on both sides claim that ECFA is "economic in nature." But as we said earlier, it is essentially a political decision, and will have profound a political impact. Because of ECFA, the two sides will have a better framework for win/win, mutually beneficial peaceful development.
It is unnecessary to put bilateral opportunities and thinking over the past year into a stereotypical "reunification vs. independence" framework. As long as the two sides maintain good economic relations, there will be good political relations. The political impact will be positive. The result will be better than independence, and also better than reunification.
Therefore declaimers that the two sides are "only talking about economics and not politics" are untrue.
2009.05.13 04:38 am