Wed, Jan 02, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Awaking from the ‘China Dream’

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

However, following his departure from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the party took up the dream again.

At this time, China’s was starting on its path to becoming an economic juggernaut, just as Taiwan’s economic growth was slowing down and the nature of the China dream slowly began to morph: It went from being a dream of a Greater China economic area guided by Taiwan, to a situation in which Taiwan would become entirely dependant on the Chinese market.

Taiwan was standing on the shoulders of the Colossus of China –– a dream coined as a cross-strait common market.

Ma’s “6-3-3” plan — his promise of an economic growth rate of 6 percent, an unemployment rate of less than 3 percent and per capita income of more than US$30,000 within his first term of office — has become a bit of a laughing stock.

Ma contends that he was fully justified in believing he could deliver on his promise when he made it.

According to Ma, the plan was only dashed as a result of the global financial crash that originated in the US. In this he is being disingenuous. Apparently, he and his advisors would have the public believe that they were blissfully unaware that the crash when it occurred.

This seems unlikely, because at the time former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) had noted that the US financial crisis was extremely serious and that the US was in decline, with the caveat that there was no need to panic because Taiwan could always rely on China.

With the “direct three links” in place — trade, transport and postal communications — Kaohsiung Harbor could become an Asia-Pacific shipping hub and the cross-strait common market would ensure that Taiwanese goods would have an advantage in China over goods from other countries.

The China dream appeared to be rosy and the 6-3-3 plan looked entirely reasonable.

The reality was not so optimistic, and despite the official restoration of the three links on Dec. 15, 2008, the shipping container volume going through Kaohsiung Harbor for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011 — 8.58 million, 9.18 million and 9.64 million standard crates respectively — did not attain the 9.67 million-crate volume recorded in 2008, or the 10.25 million crates in 2007.

China had evidently already woken from its Taiwan dream and was now realizing its own. Its manufacturing strategy had moved from following Taiwan’s lead, to competing with it directly.

Ma has made the mistake of believing that reliance on China would give Taiwan more access to the spoils of China’s success.

The much-touted establishment of the three links meant that foreign vessels and foreign-registered vessels were prohibited from using these routes, proving a headache for shipping companies and ports alike.

With the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and the supposed trade benefits it would bring, Taiwan lost sight of its goal of signing free-trade agreements with other countries, creating problems for companies such as Formosa Plastics and LCD panel makers.

As it turns out, Beijing’s interpretation of the China dream was its own dream, its own industrial strategy and had nothing to do with complying with Ma’s interpretation.

Most important, in relying exclusively on China and investing too heavily in the “three links” has led to China beginning to replace Taiwan’s manufacturing base.

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