Ma often says that the opening up to China has brought with it 2.58 million Chinese tourists, but we must not be deceived by Ma’s habit of only counting the positives and ignoring the negatives. Leaving actual sums aside, if 2.58 million Chinese tourists come here for five days to spend money, that equals 12.9 million days of consumption. This is only a 46th of the 600 million days that 2 million Taiwanese managers and workers would be spending in China for 300 days per year — deducting a conservative estimate of the number of holidays they will spend in Taiwan. This does not even include the losses from falling domestic consumption caused by the decrease in domestic real salaries that is the result of the outflow of business. In short, this has fed corporations and starved the public.
Taiwan can open up to and integrate with the whole world, but what it cannot do is open up unreservedly to China or even discuss integration. Because Taiwan and China share a language and a culture, and because the difference in size is so huge, integration will immediately create a center-periphery effect in which the center — China — absorbs the periphery — Taiwan. The signing of the ECFA only served to speed up this process.
With this lesson fresh in the mind, can we really afford the cross-strait service trade agreement?
Huang Tien-lin is a former national policy adviser.
Translated by Perry Svensson