Why the US Approves of President Ma's Cross-Strait Policy
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 5, 2010
The cross-Strait situation has changed. The most important factor in Taipei's security is no longer military might. Instead it is the restoration of Taiwan's regional economic status. Rather than buying arms from Washington, Taipei would be better off upgrading Taiwan's economy. Doing so would attract international trade. International companies, including US companies, would increase economic and trade relations with Taiwan, and thereby transform Taiwan into an international trade platform.
This is one reason why Taipei should sign ECFA. It is also the reason Washington wants Taipei and Beijing to sign ECFA.
Taipei faces a new global and cross-Strait scenario. The only way for Taiwan to survive is for Taipei to open Taiwan up. Taipei must transform Taiwan into an "island of free trade" or an "Asian Pacific Platform." Actually ECFA is merely one of any number of ways of transforming Taiwan into an "island of economic freedom." Doing so will improve exports for businesses that have kept their roots on Taiwan. But this is hardly the only benefit. Even more important, doing so will attract foreign and mainland companies, encouraging them to develop trade relations with Taiwan. If capital from Taiwan, the mainland, and abroad can come together on Taiwan, creating common interests, not only will Taiwan's economy be reborn, the Republic of China's national security will be reinforced. This is something we have consistently advocated for over a decade. If Taiwan's economic role can be internationalized, the "Taiwan problem" can also be internationalized.
Tsai Ing-wen issued a strategic assessment of ECFA. She said that if Taipei and Beijing sign ECFA, East Asia will become a "Sino-centric East Asia." The result would be a weakening and marginalization of the US. Her unspoken implication was that [mainland] China's "rise" and the United States' "decline" must not be allowed. What is this but turning the clock back? What is this but a Cold War mentality? Tsai Ing-wen tried to play the America card. Unfortunately her play was inconsistent with US interests. As a result Washington gave her a sharp slap across the face. The American Institute in Taiwan issued a statement saying that the United States would be happy to see Taipei and Beijing sign ECFA.
Washington's cross-Strait policy naturally includes strategic considerations. But these are not considerations Tsai Ing-wen can readily manipulate. Washington of course has interests in East Asia. But obviously they are not what Tsai Ing-wen imagined them to be. In recent years, Washington has held the Ma administration's cross-Strait policy in high regard. Clearly Washington's strategic thinking has changed. Washington wants Taipei to move from violent confrontation with Beijing, to peaceful relations with Beijing. Washington wants Taipei to move from military and political confrontation to economic coopetition. Therefore ECFA is consistent with Washington's strategic thinking. It is also consistent with Washington's interests.
Any sensible person can see that the most pressing national security concern Taipei faces is not any military threat from Beijing, but Taiwan's economic plight. Taipei cannot eliminate the military threat from Bejing by force. It must use economic and trade coopetition to blunt the threat and transform the crisis. The Ma administration's policy uses economics and trade to change Taipei's strategic circumstances. Washington holds this policy in high regard. Washington is well aware it can no longer determine the direction of cross-Strait relations through military intervention. It knows the best way to balance cross-Strait relations is to help Taipei turn Taiwan into a regional economic platform. Given this thinking, Washington will naturally want Taipei and Beijing to sign ECFA. American, Japanese, and European companies will naturally be happy to see Taipei and Beijing sign ECFA. They consider it beneficial to the development of trade with Taiwan.
Opposition to ECFA is in effect opposition to foreign and mainland business interests entering the gateway to Taiwan. Opposition to ECFA prevents Taiwan from becoming a "island of free trade" or and "Asian Pacific Platform." Taipei has a strategic goal -- to establish a national security system based on international trade. Opposition to ECFA runs counter to this goal. In other words, Tsai Ing-wen's strategic proposal was not merely incompatible with the Ma administration's strategic thinking. It was diametrically opposed to the strategic thinking of the U.S. government, and the economic interests of American, Japanese, and European businesses. Is it any wonder Tsai Ing-wen received a slap in the face?
Given globalization and the G2 framework, Washington may still wish to help Taipei. But it can only do so by means of economics and trade. If Taipei wants to defuse cross-Strait tensions, it must deal with cross-Strait trade and economic coopetition. What else is there? Opposition to ECFA effectively slams the door in the face of US and foreign investors. Opposition to ECFA will also force cross-Strait economic and political relations to spiral out of control. Opposition to ECFA may deliver a fatal blow to Taipei's security. Even Washington objects to it. Is Tsai Ing-wen the only one who fails to see this? Tsai Ing-wen boasted that she hoped to "join the world in its march into [mainland] China." But why not let the world march into Taiwan first?
Washington may sell Taipei F-16Cs and F-16Ds. But such sales are mere political symbolism. Besides, Washington has been quite hesitant about such sales. Taipei can and must commit to opening its doors, post haste. It must rescind its Closed Door Policy. It must improve Taiwan's international trade environment. It must allow capital from Taiwan, the mainland, the US, and other nations to create a deeply-rooted community of interests. This community of interests will be Taipei's security system. Time is not on our side. Circumstances are not on our side. It is not enough to sign ECFA. Far more must be done, and time is running out.
Rather than buying F-16s, why not sign an FTA with Washington? Why not transform Taiwan into an "island of free trade?" Signing ECFA is merely a tiny step. But without this tiny step, nothing else is possible.
2010.05.05 03:17 am