Wed, Jan 18, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Obstacles to commerce from afar

On Saturday, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) met China-based Taiwanese businesspeople in Xiamen, Fujian Province. He told them that he hoped private transport organizations from both sides would be able to start negotiations in preparation for the opening of direct links.

Taiwan's opposition parties immediately chimed in, saying that during the next legislative session they would put forward a cross-strait transportation bill to force the government to establish direct transportation links across the Taiwan Strait.

The real problem, however, is that Beijing will not talk to Taipei. The Taiwanese side expressed interest in this issue last year during semi-official negotiations on direct flights for the Lunar New Year holiday. It is China that has been unwilling to talk to Taiwanese representatives, and it has created further obstacles by insisting that freight links be preceded by passenger links.

Yet, despite all of China's manifest obstruction, local business and political interests continue to concoct nonsense about Taiwan dragging its feet.

China's cross-strait policy has stalled the development of relations between the two sides for five years, a situation that has attracted criticism from both pro-unification and pro-independence supporters. Now, following President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) New Year's speech, a new policy of "active management, effective opening" has been put in place.

The policy aims to place Taiwan in the context of an increasingly integrated world economy as well as avoiding excessive investment in China. While it is difficult to change the distribution of markets overnight, Taiwan does have good choices available if it wishes to seek new production centers. Vietnam, India and South American nations are all ideal.

Recently, the EU moved closer to imposing anti-dumping duties on shoe imports from China. Problems like this will continue to arise as China's low-priced products are sent around the world. If the Taiwanese business community in China does not take measures to diversify investment now, it will suffer losses in future.

The pan-blue camp wrongly criticizes the idea of "active management, effective opening" as amounting to "closing the country to international intercourse." Taiwan is not shutting the door on China on the economic front but seeking a better way of regulating cross-strait commerce.

As long as the government effectively regulates how Taiwanese businesspeople invest in China, the nation will not neglect the Chinese market; indeed, it will be able to adopt a more progressive strategy.

The main cause of problems in the cross-strait relationship arise from the enmity that China feels toward Taiwan. This attitude has forced Taiwan to adopt an extremely wary posture out of a simple need to protect its national security. After all, it is China that has 700 or so missiles targeting this country, and backed this up with the enactment of the "Anti-Secession" Law. Only the foolish or defeatists can ignore this threat and shirk the responsibility of defending against it.

Taiwanese businesses based in China and the international community have to realize that the obstacles impeding direct links do not originate in Taipei, but in Beijing. It is to that quarter that the disgruntled should direct their pressure.

If Hu were genuinely interested in pursuing direct links, then he would approach the issue with a more open mind and make himself more accessible to delegations from this country. Until that happens, the impasse will remain.

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