Fri, Jul 13, 2007 - Page 8 News List

The ideology behind the trade talk

By Huang Tien-lin 黃天麟

Economic issues will become the next political battleground for Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in next year's presidential election. His strategy consists of using economic topics to deflect national focus from the KMT's weakness on the question of national identity.

But the KMT may not have thought that even economic issues cannot escape the rigorous test of national identity. The reason is that land, society and national identity are the starting points of human cognition.

The reason why certain politicians advocate "eventual unification" is that the land and the nation they identify with are the "greater China," which they believe should include Taiwan. Hence their support, too, for the "one China" principle.

Similarly, advocating ideas such as an "economic one China," "boldly heading west," "all-Taiwan free trade area" and "cross-strait common market" -- all of which at first glance seem to be emblematic of an economy-driven discourse -- are all ultimately based on identification with Chinese land and culture.

This economic structure is centered around China, with China as the central principle and with all things originating from China. Its proponents believe that Taiwan cannot live without China and that globalization should emanate from China, rather than Taiwan. In other words, these people take the ideas of "boldly heading west" and "locking into China" as a legitimate discourse on globalization and regard it as an economic pillar that cannot be questioned.

In order to realize their dreams, these pro-China politicians must formulate a set of economic theories that serve the idea of an "economic one China." One of these is that "the best way to handle cross-strait issues is by respecting market mechanisms."

This is based on the Western classical economic theory that the invisible hand of the market will lead to the most efficient distribution of scarce resources.

Ma's election campaign team has held up this same theory as a reason to advocate the lifting of all political restrictions and intervention in cross-strait economics and trade.

The pan-blue camp must know that the complete opening of investment in China will result in more investments in China and accelerate the migration of Taiwanese industries to China. But they do not think this is a threat, because they believe that all this capital and investment is going into their so-called "greater China."

This deep-rooted Chinese identity can sometimes force them to believe what are otherwise far-fetched economic myths.

These include believing that research and development can take place in Taiwan, while manufacturing takes place in China, and that opening direct links will establish Taiwan as an Asia-Pacific regional operations center.

It is common knowledge that research and manufacturing are inseparable. The pan-blue camp must know that China, a country that has long perpetuated one-party dictatorship, intends to annex Taiwan.

Therefore, it is also common knowledge that China will never let Taiwan enjoy the advantages brought by being an Asia-Pacific regional operations center.

Sadly, their deep-rooted Chinese identity blinds people who believe these myths to such truths.

The aforementioned "cross-strait common market" theory is another example.

The pan-blue camp must know that given the huge difference in population, territory, and political power between Taiwan and China, as well as China's denial of Taiwan's sovereignty, a cross-strait common market would severely threaten Taiwan's survival. This, of course, is something that people who identify with Taiwan would never accept.

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