Mon, Nov 13, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Who really benefits from cross-strait exchanges?

By Lau Yi-te 劉一德

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) has said he is planning to open a municipal representative office in China’s Shenzhen Province, while New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) has said he is interested in establishing a municipal representative office in Beijing.

Such actions would cross over into the issue of national sovereignty and exceed the powers of municipal governments.

After the 2015 meeting between then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) agreed to communicate and reach an initial consensus on how this was to proceed.

If the KMT had not lost the presidential and legislative elections last year, their plan would probably have been carried out.

If Taiwan were to establish representative offices in China, this could provide significant guarantees to the rights of Taiwanese in China.

However, as shown by Hong Kong’s experience, the opening of the Representative Office of Hong Kong in China was the final straw that enabled Beijing to secure its grip on the territory.

The Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China have maintained a diplomatic relationship for three decades.

The Straits Exchange Foundation and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits facilitate trade and cultural, educational and social exchanges between the two sides, in addition to processing travel documentation and organizing emergency assistance, humanitarian visits, certification of documents and other matters.

Trade organizations such as the Taiwan External Trade Development Council, Taiwan Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association and the Association of Travel Agents have long been operating in China.

Adding to these are various agreements covering the repatriation of convicted criminals, food safety, criminal prosecution, legal assistance and investment. Taken together, Taiwanese have no reason to complain that they lack a system to guarantee their rights while in China.

Since 1991, 7,599 Taiwanese have requested assistance from the Straits Exchange Foundation, of which 3,885 involved trade disputes and 3,714 were requests for assistance on the grounds of personal liberty.

The latter group consisted of 120 murder cases, 551 missing persons cases, 1,070 cases involving infringement of personal liberty and 1,972 involving theft, injury, extortion or intimidation.

The real problem is that Beijing is, purely for ideological reasons and under the pretext of increased exchanges, seeking to annex Taiwan.

Since the Sunflower movement, China has realized that those who stand to benefit from increased exchanges are pro-communist Taiwanese businesspeople operating in China and the comprador class trying to leverage business connections for political change in Taiwan — not small to medium-sized enterprises or ordinary people, who are on the wrong side of the decline of Taiwan’s economy and feel more distant from China as exchanges increase.

Since the KMT lost the presidency and legislature, the politicians who promoted cross-strait relations — most of whom were KMT — are no longer looked on so favorably by Beijing, and their influence has waned.

These two mayors — who don the comprador mantle and suggest opening representative offices in China, thereby besieging the central government with the power of their own jurisdictions and putting pressure on President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) — are doing so to assist China’s “united front” tactics.

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