Sun, Mar 09, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Do not succumb to `China fever'

By the Liberty Times editorial

The latest statistics indicate that the number of Taiwanese businessmen serving time in Chinese prisons has reached more than 900. In the Pearl River Delta region alone, there are several hundred Taiwanese businessmen doing jail time.

Among them, many were found to have been guilty of illegal smuggling and others of falsifying export reports. Many of the businessmen thought it was OK because their conduct was not illegal in Taiwan or at least ran no risk of a prison term here. Those with such ignorance of Chinese laws are often the ones learning some really harsh lessons.

In many instances, those who crossed the Taiwan Strait, hot with "China fever" were conned or swindled. Many people with assets and wealth were deceived by the myth of China and took their money there. In the end, they often came back after having sustained devastating losses.

But those who managed to return should still by considered lucky. There are those who fared worse -- not only have they lost their fortunes, but now they've lost their freedom. Worse yet, some Taiwanese businessmen take all their money to China, leaving behind debts which must be born by their countrymen.

In the above-described scenarios, the relevant parties of course do not want to make a fuss because they want to save face. The pro-unification media and pro-China groups, who are pre-occupied with praising and kissing up to the communist state, won't bother to mention these things.

One cannot help but wonder what was on the mind of those who pressured the government to open up investments in China when they saw how some businessmen were already suffering from devastating losses.

Do those who had fantasies about China -- and who complained loudly about token incentives -- have any regrets when they lose their fortunes in China?

The Taiwanese must become alert about opening up investments in China before it is too late to do anything about it. The business losses or the prison sentences of individual Taiwanese businessmen are their own problems. However, if both the ruling and opposition camps support "active opening up" of investments in China, at stake is much more than any responsibility that any individual can bear. Rather, it is something that will impact everyone here in Taiwan. If people in Taiwan do not see things from a long-term perspective, it is only a matter of time before the country is sucked dry by these pipe dreams.

In recent years, the domestic economy has been on a rapid decline as a result of technological and capital flow to China. The number of unemployed people and those who face immediate unemployment is increasing by the day.

This is a change that is easily sensed by everyone. Yet it is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the side effects of opening up investments across the Strait. Less likely to be sensed are the impacts on government finances, financial order, national defense, social welfare, foreign affairs and the wealth of individual citizens.

If the nation's two major political camps continue to loosen China-investment regulations, can the people of Taiwan maintain their life of affluence here? Will Taiwan's economic performance continue to be the subject of praise and envy?

Not only do deluded industries and capitalists blindly head across the Strait but some people also gradually lose confidence in the direction of this country.

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