Mon, Jul 28, 2008 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Beijing is simply biding its time

When politicians tout the idea of “win-win” situations, the first question to ask is: “Win-win” for whom? The phrase, meant to put a positive spin on controversies much like diplomat speak uses the words “challenge” or “issue” instead of “problem” or “conflict” when discussing a crisis, has been elevated to a mantra in international relations and has become a major talking point in the administration’s approach to cross-strait affairs. The corollary, of course, is that win-win situations must be acted upon in the quickest time possible or the opportunity will pass.

The most recent pilgrim in the quest for the “win-win” grail is Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤), who said at a meeting at the Presidential Office last Monday that improving cross-strait relations could not wait any longer.

Chiang’s statements need to be placed in the context of his talks with China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) last month, where he called for closer economic cooperation between the two sides, while at the same time putting aside the presumably “lose-lose” issue of the nation’s sovereignty. While in Beijing, Chiang stayed at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, a residence usually reserved to house visiting provincial government officials — a symbolic gesture that was lost on no one.

The fruits of those talks, for China at least, became apparent less than two weeks ago when Chiang, at a seminar hosted by the Board of Trade, discussed his ideas on a free-trade agreement (FTA) with China. Perhaps Chiang needed to be reminded that there already exists a framework for implementing this economic policy called the “common market,” a policy proposed by Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) that is based on the EU model.

What seems clear, however, is that China has little intention of negotiating a “cross-strait common market” with Taiwan under the European model for the very reason that the framework from which it is based presumes nationhood status. So it was hardly surprising that Siew’s plan was shelved for the moment in favor of a proposal more appealing to China. Where did Chiang look for a precedent? The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Chiang said the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement signed between Beijing and Hong Kong in 2003 could serve as a model for negotiating an FTA with China.

Placing the original common market into a new framework palatable to Beijing does not bode well for the nation’s sovereignty and is indeed just another ruse to force Taiwan into a “one country, two systems” framework. Chiang’s notion that negotiating an FTA with China will somehow magically make political problems disappear demonstrates the same hubris Siew exhibited in thinking that a common market could be negotiated with Beijing.

This policy shift demonstrates a growing problem confronting President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration in its negotiations with China: The number of campaign promises Ma made are forcing his administration into a corner and as a result, in negotiations it is giving up Taiwan’s sovereignty.

China’s politicians, though tyrants, aren’t stupid. They are fully conscious that Ma must make good on the promises he made during his campaign. In other words, China has all the bargaining chips in its negotiations with the administration and can afford to bide its time in hopes of realizing the “win-win” situation of snuffing out Taiwan’s sovereignty and creating a “Taiwan Special Economic Region.”

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