On the issue of Taiwan learning from Hong Kong, one key point was overlooked in your editorial (“Taiwan can learn from Hong Kong,” Aug. 4, page 8). In fact, the point is always overlooked, which explains the widespread misunderstanding about “one country, two systems.”
The point is that the “one country, two systems” model was never meant to be a permanent solution. It was only meant to be a phase with a 50-year lifespan that began in 1997.
The Hong Kong model should therefore be portrayed as a means of finessing the transition to “one country, one system” by 2047. In Hong Kong that process of integrating with the Chinese political system is already well advanced.
Amid the public maelstrom over the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), there are two frequently reappearing sinkholes into which an opposition of any value risks disappearing.
The first is that the ECFA is a free-trade agreement. The second is that it should be rejected in a referendum as constituting a prelude to a de-facto Chinese annexation of Taiwan.
The ECFA is not a free-trade agreement (FTA). It is a commitment by two governments to fashioning a series of piecemeal trade regulation agreements. There are two important implications here.
First, in seeking to tie up the regulation of trade into a series of small agreements rather than establishing a general prohibition on tarriffs, the hope is that such regulatory agreements — and the indirect political power over Taiwan’s economy that they create — will be more time-consuming and difficult to undo by any future Taiwanese government. It is a smart play, although thoroughly reprehensible.
Second, in mistakenly characterizing the ECFA as some form of free-trade agreement, its’ opponents risk further discrediting the one political arrangement which could actually raise living standards while not violating the principle of the sovereign and free individual human being — free trade.
A rejection of the ECFA in a referendum begs the question of what to do instead. Whatever its faults, the ECFA is at least one answer to the very real question of how to ensure Taiwan’s continued position as an export economy.
To sit around putting up protectionist fences against certain Chinese and Southeast Asian imports would be even worse since it would invite retaliatory measures by those governments.
A campaign to establish actual FTAs with China and other countries in the region would be far better, although somewhat fanciful, since it is politically unpalatable to socialists and democrats everywhere.
What is missing in order to create real hope for Taiwan as a country of rich and free people is the clear recognition of government, of whatever stripe, as an immoral and dangerous impediment to individual freedom and prosperity and the courage to fight for this against the odds.