PRC-ROK FTA is not Frightening. Our Loss of Direction Is
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 11, 2014
Executive Summary: Our nation’s plans have been stalled by the nine in one elections. Throughout the coming year, the ruling and opposition parties will be focused entirely on the 2016 presidential election. How many more major policies will be obstructed? Worse still, everyone will have their heads buried in the trivialities of the nine in one elections. The next time we look up and see the world, will we even know where we are?
Full Text Below:
The PRC-ROK Free Trade Agreement has been finalized. The Shanghai and Hong Kong stock market link will begin operations the coming Monday. The Mainland authorities are promoting the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). Their roadmap was endorsed during the APEC summit. Developments such as these continue to unfold, wave upon wave. Yet we on Taiwan seem mere observers, incapable of seeing where we stand in all this. We let industry take the brunt of the impact. We leave behind an uncertain future for the next generation. Our nation has lost its sense of direction. How can the public not be concerned?
The PRC-ROK FTA was anticipated. Xi Jinping and Park Geun-hye announced it before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. But the psychological impact us still exceeded expectations. Beijing and Seoul announced the agreement in advance. This had a number of effects on international relations. One. It was a blow to the US-led "Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement" (TPP), which deliberately excluded Beijing. Two. Cooperation between Beijing and Seoul in Northeast Asia sent Shinzo Abe’s hawks a powerful message. Three. Until now Beijing has been playing the nationalism card in cross-Strait relations. This announcement suggests that may change.
Vincent Siew did a decent job at APEC. At the very least, he met with Xi Jinping. The two of them resolved recent disagreements. As Siew noted, "The skies over the Straits have cleared." The next task is to improve cross-Strait interactions. The green camp media however insisted on slinging mud. They ridiculed Siew, calling him a "dwarf" in Beijing. There mentality makes one wonder just who the enemy is, and is truly chilling.
It is not difficult to see where Taiwan’s problems lie. The ruling party took part in APEC, but it evinced little ambition. It skimmed surface of cross-Strait relations. It failed to use the international venue to establish trade relations or propose new ideas. It even failed to give the long stalled STA bill a badly needed boost in the Legislative Yuan. As for the opposition, it continues to indulge in Schadenfreude. It continues sharpening its knives, hoping the government will embarrass itself. It remains indifferent to Taiwan’s image in the international arena, as if any glory or shame is none of its concern. This is the perverse “your loss is my gain” relationship between the ruling and opposition parties. Under such circumstances, how can Taipei establish sound foreign relations? How can people work together to move the country forward?
Once the PRC-ROK FTA takes effect, 90% of Korean exports to the Mainland will be tariff free. The impact on Taiwan industries will be enormous. No hyperbole is required. We cannot pretend this is not happening. Several petrochemical industry magnates predicted this. Many businesses have fled. Future monthly salaries for young people on Taiwan will not be 20,000 NTD, but 15,000. This may sound alarmist. But if we do nothing, if we remain indifferent to global developments, if we foolishly assume we can “maintain the status quo," then the nightmare of 15,000 NT monthly salaries will surely come true. When that day comes, will our generation say to the next generation?
In fact, neither Mainland China's rise nor South Korea's expansion is terrifying. What is terrifying is Taiwan’s loss of direction amidst other peoples’ progress. We on Taiwan have lost our ability to set and pursue goals. In March the STA "thirty seconds to cross the border" provision gave rise to the student movement. The students’ anger may have been real. But their anger was misdirected. The student movement may have been powerful. But its answers were wrong. The STA negotiations, conducted in smoke filled rooms, were an object of public derision. But the Sunflower Student Movement exploited this fact to incite fear and loathing toward Mainland China. The Oversight Regulations, which had life or death implications for industry, were obstructed along with the MTA. This may look like a political victory. But it was a textbook case of public reason and economic vitality being sacrificed on the altar of ideology. The Ma government shares blame. It lost its sense of direction and its ability to lead the nation. It sat back and watched as the the nation lost one golden opportunity after another.
In fact, people need to be worried about far more than the impact of the PRC-ROK FTA. The Shanghai and Hong Kong Stock Market Connection is sure to attract vast amounts of capital. The TAIEX will be subject to long term pressures. But where are our countermeasures? The DPP has blocked passage of the STA Oversight Regulations and the Cross-Strait Agreement Oversight Regulations. It insists that Taiwan can increase international trade through the TPP. But how does the DPP intend to join the TPP? The Beijing-sponsored Asian-Pacific free trade zone has been well received. A breaking in period is required of course. But the DPP blindly incites anti-Mainland sentiment, even as the region undergoes economic integration. What position will Taiwan find itself in?
Our nation’s plans have been stalled by the nine in one elections. Throughout the coming year, the ruling and opposition parties will be focused entirely on the 2016 presidential election. How many more major policies will be obstructed? Worse still, everyone will have their heads buried in the trivialities of the nine in one elections. The next time we look up and see the world, will we even know where we are?
2014.11.13 02:15 am