Fri, Feb 23, 2001 - Page 12 News List

Rethinking models of cross-strait exchange

By Liu Chi-hsiao 劉起孝

Following the visit last month by a team of observers from Shanghai investigating social work and education in Taiwan, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) made an official visit to Hong Kong to conduct a "city exchange." Such events expose problems concerning future cross-strait developments that are worth consideration.

Ever since the late 1980s, when Taiwan lifted martial law and cleared the way for its citizens to visit relatives and invest in China, cross-strait exchanges -- whether economic, cultural, or academic in nature -- have gradually multiplied. According to statistics, there are presently more than 4,000 Taiwanese businesses and more than 100,000 Taiwanese busi-nesspeople operating in Shang-hai, with investment already surpassing US$4.5 billion. If the government of Taiwan does not take action, a change in the nature of cross-strait relations could result in a change that would surely not benefit the people of Taiwan.

In recent years, amid the trends of internationalization and liberalization,Taiwan has come to understand that if it wants the economy to continue to develop, it cannot operate outside the world economic system -- hence the decision to join the WTO. By comparison, since China began to adopt economic reform policies during the Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) era, its advantages of land and population -- as well as an extremely effective autocratic political system -- have enabled it to enjoy double-digit growth figures for the last 10 years. As a result, China has turned up its nose at the rest of the world.

But because China's legal system is still immature, a risky investment trap has been created. The result: Not only have Taiwanese businesses suffered, but foreign-owned companies as well. Hence, everyone hopes that China will enter the WTO early, so that it can join the world economic order. China has made considerable progress in the entrance process. Its immense market potential has attracted numerous investors (especially Taiwanese), who have scrambled to stake their claim there.

When China's doors were closed, Taiwan could still develop trade relations with Europe and North America. The situa-tion, however, has changed. If Taiwan, with the present international division of labor and with China's transition to capitalism, blindly adopts a protectionist attitude -- and doesn't reconsider its development strategy -- it will inevitably be cast aside. What is unfortunate about Taiwan-China relations is that the bizarre political atmosphere has created a situation where both sides waste time and energy in ideological struggles. Both continuously waste their national resources on things such as the arms race and diplomatic offensives that in no way improve the prosperity and development of people on either side.

It is evident that both sides of the Strait can put aside the unification/independence question, and rationally plan the future on the basis of cooperative partnership. By putting forth a model that incorporates steady, ordered, and gradual progress, good conditions and mechanisms for exchange can be created. If this kind of consensus can be reached, a new phase of cross-strait relations could follow the Taipei-Hong Kong model. Taipei and Shanghai could likewise be "direct link" destinations, examples of how national security problems can be technically overcome.

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