Toward a Mutually-Acceptable Cross-Strait Exchange Policy
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 17, 2014
Executive Summary: Two days ago, former Vice President Vincent Siew and former Mainland Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan jointly chaired the annual meeting of the “Cross-Strait Entrepreneurs Summit." Citizen groups protested outside the venue and denounced the meeting as a cross-Strait “power elites summit.” They expressed intense dissatisfaction with current cross-Strait economic cooperation. Siew said cross-Strait economic cooperation must abandon old ways that benefit only a few people, and adopt a new cross-Strait cooperation framework that benefits more people. Zeng Peiyan and Gong Qinggai echoed the sentiments of SMEs and the grassroots.
Full Text Below:
Two days ago, former Vice President Vincent Siew and former Mainland Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan jointly chaired the annual meeting of the “Cross-Strait Entrepreneurs Summit." Hundreds of people from industry, government and academia on both sides attended. Current ARATS chairman and former president Chen Deming, Chen Yunlin, and Taiwan Affairs Office Deputy Chief Gong Qing participated in an advisory capacity. The summit was held
at a sensitive moment, right after Taiwan's nine in one elections. Citizen groups protested outside the venue and denounced the meeting as a cross-Strait “power elites summit.” They expressed intense dissatisfaction with current cross-Strait economic cooperation. Siew said cross-Strait economic cooperation must abandon old ways that benefit only a few people, and adopt a new cross-Strait cooperation framework that benefits more people. Zeng Peiyan and Gong Qinggai echoed the sentiments of SMEs and the grassroots.
The "Cross-Strait Entrepreneurs Summit" was chaired by cross-Strait representatives Vincent Siew and Zeng Peiyan. Participants included heavyweights from both sides. It was seen as a KMT-CCP forum, as a cross-Strait forum and cross-Strait business exchange and cooperation platform between participants of equal rank. It was an important symbol of cross-Strait economic cooperation. The summit was officially established last year. It promotes specific cooperation plans and projects affecting macroeconomic exchange, smart appliances, energy and petrochemical equipment, financial, cultural and creative industries, biotech, health care, and small and medium enterprises.
It must be said that in recent years the effectiveness of cross-Strait economic cooperation has diminished. The benefits have obviously accrued to big business and consortia. provoking an intense political and economic backlash on Taiwan. During the nine in one elections, beneficial cross-Strait cooperation was denounced as a “power elites monopoly”. This had a palpable impact on the ruling party in the election. Following the election, even party members have begun to question cross-Strait economic cooperation.
Since the Ma government took office in 2008, its main theme has been the promotion of cross-Strait economic liberalization and cooperation. Its goal has been to revive Taiwan's economy and reap a peace dividend that will benefit all walks of life, not just a few. Yet a few short years later, cross-Strait economic cooperation has become a major social issue. It has even become a liability to the ruling party's election efforts. The Ma government and many people are baffled. They blame the problem on distortions spread by the green camp cyber army.
Cross-Strait economic cooperation has led to social unrest, growing concern, and public resentment, for three main reasons. One. The form of exchange. Economic exchange and cooperation platforms such as the "Cross-Strait Entrepreneurs Summit" are attended mostly by representatives of big business and consortia. They inevitably take on the coloration of special interests. KMT elders often lead delegations of “hong ding” entrepreneurs to Beijing to meet with or play host to Mainland leaders. This inevitably leaves ordinary people with the impression of business government collusion and political privilege. These forms of cross-Strait exchanges are bound to engender public resentment. They are sure to be criticized and demonized. They likely to be adverse to long-term cooperation and regular exchanges.
Two. The form of cooperation. Cross-Strait industrial cooperation tends to treat Mainland China as the main body. The Ministry of Economic Affairs cross-Strait industrial cooperation bypass plan concentrates too much on developing the Mainland market. This increases the magnetic attraction that the Mainland has on Taiwan based talent, capital, and technology. This is unfavorable to full employment and salary increases. Furthermore, Mainland economic growth has slowed sharply in recent years. Hence the Mainland’s efforts to promote industrial restructuring and upgrading. Mainland companies have plagiarized Taiwan experience, talent, and technology. This has swiftly narrowed the gap between the two sides. The result has been rapid economic transition from a complementary cross-Strait relationship, to a competitive one. In recent years, Mainland investments abroad have increased. Political constraints have blocked investments in Taiwan. The transfer of talent, capital, and technology have remained a one-way street, leading to public unease.
Three. The distribution of benefits. The above model for cross-Strait exchange, cooperation, and market opening are the heart of the STA and MTA. The beneficiaries are clearly consortia and large enterprises. SMEs, young people, and the grassroots generally fail to benefit. Worse, they are often victims. As a result, cross-Strait economic cooperation continues to lose public support.
As a result, over the past six years, the benefits of cross-Strait economic cooperation have gradually been diminished and distorted. Reform is now essential. In the future, we should consider the interests of a majority of people. Siew advocates an upgraded version of cross-strait economic relations. He suggested that cross-Strait business cooperation should have two strategic objectives. They should be "palpable" and they should "share the benefits." Zeng Peiyan also says the two sides should explore new modes of business cooperation, pave the way for SME cooperation, and improve the people's livelihood on both sides of the Strait. As we can see, both sides share the same objectives. Both sides want economic cooperation to benefit the grassroots equitably.
Specifically, cross-Strait economic cooperation should change in three ways. One. Exchanges should be among the common folk. The cross-Strait exchange platform should not focus on large companies and consortia. It should help SMEs, young people, and the grassroots. Two. Cooperation should improve people's livelihood. It should establish and expand SME partnerships, web services, and public services. These should be the focus of future attention. Three. The benefits should be universal. Market opening and cross-Strait cooperation should make people feel good. They should not benefit only isolated companies and organizations. We hope the "cross-strait entrepreneurs summit" will work towards that goal. We hope the two governments will take specific measures to implement them.