Taking a more comprehensive view of the agreements signed at the second meeting between Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) in Taipei last month, the biggest danger is that the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration has not conducted an assessment of the agreements’ impact on the nation’s security and economy.
Looking at the cross-strait air transportation agreement, the number of Taiwanese visitors to China reached 4.6 million last year, while a mere 320,000 Chinese visited Taiwan. The disproportionate number of Taiwanese visiting China and their consumption there is certain to have a negative impact on Taiwan’s consumer industry. Because faster air links will increase the speed with which such imbalances in the flow of travelers take place, the government must balance this development by increasing the flow of Chinese visitors to Taiwan.
When the SEF and the ARATS signed the first tourist agreement, the Ma administration drew a big tourism pie in the sky and increased the frequency of chartered flights to 108 weekly flights, thus increasing the one-sidedness of cross-strait exchanges. Further, the cross-strait air transportation agreement is supposed to lead to the arrangement of regular cross-strait traffic within six months, which will have an even greater impact on Taiwan’s consumer industry. Despite all this, the government still hasn’t conducted an assessment of the agreement’s impact.
Other things that will have the same kind of effect on Taiwanese industry are the deregulation policies, such as allowing 12-inch wafer plants to invest in China, relaxing limitations on China-bound investment, allowing financial institutions to open in China, recognizing Chinese academic credentials and accepting the Chinese gift of pandas despite heavy overtones of unification. Any of these deregulation policies may of course bring partial benefits, but they will also have a harmful effect, and will therefore have to be preceded by structural adjustments to minimize their negative impact on Taiwan. Despite this, the government hasn’t conducted any assessments, instead calling only for deregulation.
Under the air transportation agreement, Taiwan agreed to open several domestic airports to cross-strait flights. It has been repeatedly pointed out that doing so lowers the flights to domestic status and ignores Taiwan’s sovereignty, but the Ma administration has made no response. In particular, as China’s military deployments aimed at Taiwan have not been reduced, opening airports that are available for military and private use poses obvious risks to national security.
In addition, Penghu is Taiwan’s first line of defense, but has already opened to air and sea transportation to and from China. Taiwanese are still very clear on how Shi Lang (施琅), an early Qing dynasty official, used Penghu as a base for attacking Taiwan. Not only has the Ma administration not designed any measures to complement the opening of Penghu to allay public concerns, it has also come up with an unthinkable new principle for national defense based on the final battle taking place on Taiwanese soil, something that has dumbfounded the three military branches as well as national security experts.