Since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his government assumed office, many people have been dissatisfied with the China-leaning cross-strait policies that have damaged Taiwan’s sovereignty, economy and diplomacy. A self-satisfied Ma, however, cannot see his failures and the resulting crises.
Last Sunday, the Cabinet held a seminar for senior Cabinet officials on Chinese affairs. At the seminar, Ma failed to show any signs of reflection on his failures or apologize to the public, but rather attempted to protect himself from many of the public’s concerns with a host of specious arguments. Ma said his cross-strait policies are successful and that all that is needed is stronger cross-departmental communication and promotion of his policies for the public to realize the benefits of his relaxed China policies. He also refused to recognize the efforts of the former government in upholding Taiwanese sovereignty and made it clear that he was not willing to engage in cut-throat competition with other nations or resort to diplomatic methods that provoke China.
The failure of the administration’s China policy has caused it to give more than it has gained in terms of both sovereignty and practical benefits. In other words, many of the government’s concessions in the realm of sovereignty were made for practical benefits to the nation. However, after making these concessions, China took full advantage of the situation and Taiwan ended up gaining much less than it gave up.
Many people are having a hard time figuring out what the Ma administration is doing. There are many examples of how Taiwan has lost out as a result of its China policies. One example is how Taiwanese gravel transport ships were recently refused entry to Chinese seaports.
The government has been wildly celebrating its success in establishing the direct three links with China, so it is hard to believe that only days later, Taiwanese gravel transport ships with proper documentation were refused entry into Chinese ports. People in the gravel industry said Taiwan imports 30 million tonnes of gravel from China each year, 75 percent of which is brought on Taiwanese-owned ships while the rest is brought on Chinese-owned ships. However, China is now using the excuse that Taiwan’s ships are “too old.” It has effectively imposed a technical barrier to trade on Taiwan and in doing so, Taiwan’s gravel market will now be totally controlled by China.
The Ma government constantly criticizes the former administration for failing to establish the three direct links with China, a decision which they say damaged Taiwan’s sea and air cargo industries and stopped Taiwan from becoming an Asia-Pacific transportation hub. After the Ma government came into power, it actively promoted direct flights with China and the three links. These have now been achieved, but all the benefits Ma said these developments would bring have not appeared, just as Ma has been unable to deliver on his “6-3-3” economic policy.
The problems Taiwan’s gravel shippers are experiencing are just the tip of the iceberg. In terms of direct cargo links between Taiwan and China, the most profitable factor for Taiwan would be the acquisition of navigation rights for inland China. However, Taiwan has still not secured these rights. Therefore, when Taiwanese shipping companies want to ship goods made by Taiwanese businesses from inland China, they must have the goods transshipped several times, greatly increasing costs and time. This is making them less competitive than their Chinese counterparts. These circumstances give China’s shipping industry unfair advantages.