Tue, Apr 03, 2012 - Page 8 News List

The ‘China dream’ may become a nightmare

By Huang Tien-lin 黃天麟

Taiwan faces many problems, primarily caused by the alarming number of Taiwanese businesses relocating to China. It is getting harder to earn a decent living in Taiwan; average income levels are lower than they were 12 years ago, unemployment is high, exports are falling and GDP per capita is now lower than that of South Korea. The government cannot keep using deregulation as an excuse while ordinary people suffer.

I have written about this countless times over the past decade, but have been largely ignored by the pan-blue camp and even many important decisionmakers in the pan-green camp. Now that even a media baron has said as much about Taiwan’s problems, perhaps they might start believing me.

The pro-unification media has been encouraging Taiwanese businesses to enter China for the past 12 years. Now many people think that this is the only way Taiwanese companies can make a profit. Those who think about establishing themselves in Taiwan by following the “no haste, be patient” policy are labeled as proponents of a closed-door policy.

Twelve years of businesses relocating to China have passed. The administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) embarked on a policy of proactive liberalization, while President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has looked to total liberalization and the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement. However, all have failed to benefit Taiwan economically.

This is especially true of the past four years, during which the Ma administration was following its total liberalization policy. Instead of helping Taiwan’s economy, it caused great damage. South Korea invests much less in China than Taiwan, but is doing much better in many areas, such as its share of the Chinese market, growth in exports and increase in annual wages for workers.

The harm caused by Taiwanese businesses relocating to China goes beyond economics. It has also been damaging politically. The pan-blue parties know that rhetoric about relocation is a surefire way to keep their voter base: It certainly worked wonders in the week leading up to the Jan. 14 presidential election. The economic scaremongering employed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the CCP practically guaranteed them an extra 800,000 votes, turning the election in their favor.

This alone put Taiwan further down the path to unification with China. Some of the rhetoric used included: “Business is so great now between Taiwan and China and the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] is still talking about a Taiwanese republic.”

This speaks volumes about the impact the idea of relocation to China has had on Taiwanese politics.

The reason why a former KMT chairman had the gall to talk about “one country, two areas (一國兩區)” on a recent visit to Beijing was because of the huge amount of political capital the KMT has accumulated over 12 years of Taiwanese businesses relocating to China.

“One country, one system” is no hypothetical situation set in the distant future. If both sides of the political spectrum continue their policy of economic integration with China — essentially “unification via economic means” — “one country, two systems” is the only thing that can follow.

I really do not know when the pan-blue and pan-green leaders will wake up from this “China dream” they have been having for the past 12 years. I just hope it is sooner rather than later.

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