On Dec. 27, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) suggested the idea of a EU-style integration model. On the face of things, he was responding to the conclusions of former Mainland Affairs Council vice chairman Chen Ming-tung's (陳明通) report at a memorial held for Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) not long ago: "We should think about the future of cross-strait relations along the lines of European integration."
The conclusion clearly states that this is the government's strategic goal for the cross-strait relationship.
Chen first mentioned the concept of a European model when he attended a banquet hosted by the European Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan in June 2002. He then talked of several main directions in a statement in January 2003, when he said that "the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should establish a framework for peaceful and stable interaction" and "begin with economic exchanges and cooperation to jointly build a vision of a new spring."
This implies that a European-style integration model is not merely a flight of fancy, but part of the government's cross-strait policy.
However, this European-style integration model is an inappropriate approach to thinking about the future of our country.
First, the cross-strait relationship does not offer the conditions required for European-style integration. Building a vision for the nation's future on non-existent conditions creates a dangerous illusion. We must understand that the EU is a conglomeration of sovereign states. In other words, only after a sovereign and independent nation has been established can there be talk of economic integration.
And as China sees Taiwan as one of its provinces, talking about integration using the same conditions as Europe while Taiwan's sovereignty is being attacked only denigrates Taiwan and traps it within a Chinese framework that will eventually suffocate it.
Second, the government's biggest mistake in the past five years has been to adopt a cross-strait strategy that begins with economic integration and progresses toward political integration. In other words, as long as its counterpart does not recognize Taiwan's sovereignty, unilaterally following this dangerous road is the equivalent of heading down a path of no return.
The government has not won any concessions from China, but by first calling an Economic Development Advisory Conference and then adopting a cross-strait policy of active deregulation, it instead finds itself carrying out China's policy of promoting unification through economic means.
The past five years have seen unchecked economic integration. Taiwan's export dependence on China has increased from 24.18 percent to 37.21 percent, while the proportion of Taiwanese exports produced in China has increased to 41 percent. For laptop computers, that figure was 82 percent last year, when accumulated Taiwanese investments in China reached an amazing US$278 billion (according to a study by a US think tank).
The payback for this has been a fiercer China that applies even more pressure on Taiwan in the international arena, while the domestic economy becomes less dynamic. This only helps to create more voters with a muddled understanding of national identity.
Third, it is an irreversible mistake to pin the hopes of Taiwan's economic future on China.
The government seems to be naively ignoring the cruel reality that China is much bigger than Taiwan, and making the mistake of thinking that integration with China will enhance the nation's economy. It is also infatuated with China's long history, while lacking an understanding of Taiwan's history. Neither does it understand that the sheer size of China means that integration will marginalize Taiwan and force it to recognize Beijing as its master.