China’s policy was both clear and bold: Do not give any advantages to superior Taiwanese industries, and let Taiwan protect industries that had lost their international competitiveness, terming it “foregoing benefits.”
This early harvest list was the exact opposite of the strategies other countries followed when negotiating FTAs. The reason for this is that the government lacked the competence to choose between economic liberalism and protectionism when the two clashed and instead greedily tried to obtain the advantages of both and the shortcomings of neither.
Having approved this list, which was enough to make business leaders cry, the Ma administration put on a happy face as it said that China had agreed to forego many benefits, once again playing the ringleader of the fraud ring. To make things worse, the opposition conceded that this was a very nice early harvest list.
The same thing occurred with the “three links.” The original plan was that following the opening up of the three direct links, the principles of a free economy would allow Taiwanese ports to become a transshipment hub for the Asia-Pacific region. However, due to the government’s inability to let go of Greater China economic nationalism, cross-strait sea routes were designated as domestic routes, thus excluding foreign ships.
The result was that the 97 percent of Taiwanese ships that fly a flag of convenience, as well as Maersk and other big shipping companies, were excluded from the cross-strait sea routes, causing Maersk to stop renting port space and blowing a hole in the transshipment hub dream. However, Ma continued the deceit, calling the opening of the three links a great success.
This inability to take decisive action under pressure and attempts to please everyone for the sake of minimal gains has done irreparable damage. In the end, the government has been forced to cover up its mistakes and continue the charade.
It is the long series of such major policies that has created this political fraud ring. It leaves one wondering if the government has turned into a gang of fraudsters not because it is evil, but because it is cowardly and incompetent.
Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
Translated by Perry Svensson