China makes no secret of its ambition to annex Taiwan with its “united front” tactics. Government decisionmakers in Taiwan must be more alert when formulating cross-strait policy, a solemn matter — as former national policy advisor Rex How (郝明義) put it, “a matter of life and death” — that has direct consequences for Taiwan.
A growing number of Taiwanese have criticisms of the cross-strait service trade agreement. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should empathize with their worries in the same way as, in his opinion, China has adopted a softer and more delicate manner in dealing with cross-strait relations.
“In recent years, both Chinese academics and officials have gained more confidence in dealing with cross-strait relations and become more soft and flexible in dealing with Taiwan,” then-Taipei mayor Ma said in January 2003. “This is something over which the Taiwanese government should exercise caution in mapping out its cross-strait policies.”
“If China always threatens Taiwan by saying it will never renounce the use of force against Taiwan, it will further boost Taiwan’s solidarity. However, if China uses a soft approach, it might aggravate internal splits within Taiwanese society,” he said. Ma went on to advise the then-Democratic Progressive Party administration that it “should deal with this with meticulous care and try to reach a domestic consensus soon; otherwise, it will be very disadvantageous to Taiwan.”
Fast-forward to the present, with Ma himself now dictating the nation’s policy directions: He is well advised to revisit his statements and heed warnings about China’s “sugar-coated poison” that came straight from the horse’s mouth.
Under the agreement, China would open 80 service sub-sectors to Taiwan, while Taiwan would open 64 sub-sectors to China. While a casual glance at the numbers might suggest that China is giving greater benefits to Taiwan, there is more to this than meets the eye.
The sectors opened to China include commerce, telecommunications, distribution, health, tourism, entertainment, culture, transportation and finance. A close study of the agreement — which was not made public until after it was signed in Shanghai on June 21 — suggests that one sector actually includes a wide range of sub-industries that exceeds the “64 sub-
sectors” touted by the Ma government.
A former official of the Ma administration is among its critics. Former finance minister and Council for Economic Planning and Development minister Christina Liu (劉憶如), predicting the impacts of the agreement, said it was “worrisome” that the government has not mapped out adequate supplementary measures to care for the affected industries.
Bureau of Foreign Trade Director-General Chang Chun-fu (張俊福) argued that the agreement would not have negative effects on Taiwan’s workers other than seeing many of their employers change to be Chinese nationals, just like others who may have foreign nationals as their company bosses. However, he missed one crucial fact: Apart from those from China, none of the foreign employers harbor the malicious intent to call Taiwan a part of their own territory.
In response to the concerns expressed by academics, industry experts and service operators over potential adverse repercussions, the Internal Administration Committee, entrusted by the legislature’s plenary session following intra-party negotiation, will hold another 16 rounds of public hearings to gauge opinions before the legislative review of the pact.