Mon, Apr 23, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Associations boost our diplomacy

By Huang Huang-hsiung

To promote exchanges and services, members from more than 100 Taiwanese business associations in China officially established the national-level Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland in Beijing last Monday. Just like the Taiwanese homeland associations that began appearing around the world in the 1970s, business associations symbolize the rise of the Taiwanese people, and their country's strength. The rapid growth of such associations in China carries a special significance in cross-strait relations.

When overseas Taiwanese associations were first established, the purpose was to promote communication among overseas Taiwanese, so they could feel at home wherever they lived. Most members shared a similar background -- they came from Taiwan and had gained academic degrees in their country of residence, with most holding doctorates or master's degrees. They were professionals with stable occupations and economic foundations, and their children received an excellent education. Most importantly, they grew up under difficult circumstances, were self-confident and shared a love for Taiwan.

Faced with the constraints of martial law as Taiwan's democratic movement began developing, the ideals, background and training of homeland association members turned many such associations, mainly in the US, into spiritual allies of the dang wai dissidents as they started a decades-long quest for democracy. With Taiwan's first direct presidential election in 1996, democracy was finally established in Taiwan.

The government and Taiwanese associations underwent three stages: oppression and division; confrontation; and reconciliation. In today's Taiwan, there are no political prisoners or exiles, nor is there any blacklist for homeland association members. Some association members have even become key government officials since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power in 2000. These are some of Taiwan's outstanding democratic achievements.

Following the development of Taiwan's economy, economic theory and the pressures of globalization caused the government to launch a "go south" policy. More Taiwanese businesspeople made increasingly large capital investments in Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Meanwhile, more and more Taiwanese emigrated to Australia and New Zealand, and Taiwanese established continent-wide business associations in Asia, North America, Europe and Africa. Just like the homeland associations had established the World Federation of Taiwanese Associations, business associations established the World Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce (WTCC) in 1994.

However, the WTCC does not include China-based Taiwanese businesspeople. China has always been a forbidden land for Taiwanese businesspeople due to the long-term confrontation and tension between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. After Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) regained power for the third time, and especially after his inspection tour of southern China in 1992, China deepened, expanded and hastened its reform and opening up policies.

Taiwan and China are basically economically complementary, and the attraction of the rapidly growing Chinese market made many Taiwanese businesspeople look to China to do business, openly or secretly, despite the Taiwanese government's "no haste, be patient" policy.

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