China is directly urging Taiwanese voters to re-elect President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to stop “secessionist” activities that promote independence, as stated by Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Chairman Jia Qinglin (賈慶林).
This shared goal of China and Ma will be achieved by expanding the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) into the “greater China market,” embracing China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. In contrast to the slow integration among countries in the EU, Taiwan’s disappearance into this greater China market will be swift and will close the doors on Taiwan’s independence. For this reason, the result of the presidential election in January next year will be decisive for the country’s future.
The greater China market has been envisioned by the KMT for years. If Ma is re-elected, the KMT will be promoting this market as an economic necessity which would benefit the country and Taiwanese. Hidden behind these arguments, the KMT is promoting unification with China by using a step-by-step unification strategy.
A comparison with the EU is revealing. The EU began as a small trade agreement among a few countries, which, in a step-by-step process, was expanded into a politically integrated union. The ECFA can be considered as the first trade agreement in a series of agreements that will lead to the greater China market. Therefore, the ECFA is not only an economic agreement, but also has definite socio-political repercussions for the relationship between the two signatories.
Also, by promoting the ECFA on the basis of the non--existent “1992 consensus,” and damaging Taiwan’s sovereignty by not signing the ECFA as a WTO member, Taiwan’s current international status and sovereignty has been undermined. This is actually beneficial to the KMT’s end goal, which is unification through the greater China market.
The integration of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau will take a long time, but the implications for Taiwan will be felt instantly. The reason is that the establishment of an integrated greater China market can be done swiftly. Seen from the perspective of Europe and the US, this start to the greater China market can only be considered an extension of the “one country, two systems” model to a “one country, four systems” model, and Taiwan will be considered part of China.
The whole strategy is unsustainable, as it runs against the wishes of the vast majority of Taiwanese. More than 80 percent of the public reject any formulation of a “one China” system, and Taiwanese are currently moving toward a common Taiwanese identity, which does not include being a part of China. For this reason, the KMT will not reveal its ambitions during the election campaign, which makes future prospects even more worrisome.
Consequently, Taiwan needs to create a new political direction, a third way. The third way has to create hope for the future and develop a desired alternative to the KMT policy. It has to combine solid intellectual and political ingredients and create optimism. Taiwan cannot deny its complex history, but it does not help if the country becomes trapped in the past. The KMT’s strategy is keeping the country in the past by its constant references to China and unification.
A third way should also create a solid strategy by addressing domestic issues, such as job creation and expanding the knowledge economy, and it has to take a pragmatic, meaningful and forward-looking approach to international relations, which includes the relationship between China and Taiwan. During this process, Taiwan’s international status has to be respected and expanded.