Sun, Feb 11, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Holiday pilgrimages typify north-south issue

By Huang Tien-lin 黃天麟

Every Lunar New Year, the nation’s highways become jammed with vehicles as the great migration from north to south begins, and becomes congested again in the other direction when the holiday draws to a close.

Even if only one-tenth of the several million southerners who work in northern Taiwan returned home for the holiday, the highways would become choked with traffic.

This is Taiwan’s north-south problem in a nutshell. Northern Taiwan is home to the nation’s political, financial and academic centers, which pull on the south’s population and capital, leaving southern Taiwan marginalized.

In this year’s local elections, Pingtung County and Kaohsiung might each lose a legislative seat as a consequence of the south’s diminishing population, a direct result of marginalization.

It is not as if Pingtung County Commissioner Pan Men-an (潘孟安) or Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) have lacked effort, but no matter what they do, they will be no match for the north’s pull.

The kerfuffle over China’s unilateral opening of the northbound M503 flight route has also snowballed into a New Year problem that further amplifies the north-south divide.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration has denied requests from China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Air for additional flights over the route that would have brought up to 60,000 Taiwanese home from China for the holiday.

If the planned additions from eight other Chinese carriers are factored in, the number rises from 176 flights to 489. If the scheduled and additional flights operated by Taiwanese carriers and the “small three links” are also included, then the number of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople returning home for the holidays probably equals the north-south migration.

The New Year north-south flood of traffic is symbolic of Taiwan’s north-south divide, while the wave of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople returning home is symbolic of Taiwan’s economic marginalization, a result of the pull of China’s economy since 2000.

Pro-China academics like to use pre-existing theories to explain away the nation’s economic woes. The administrations of former presidents Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) developed a plethora of plans to boost the economy and drum up investment, but failed.

China is the main cause of the nation’s economic problems, and the annual wave of Taiwanese businesspeople returning for the holiday makes it clear why domestic consumer growth keeps falling.

If hundreds of thousands — or even more than 1 million — of Taiwan’s strongest consumer groups are in China, of course domestic demand will wither. The result is falling domestic investment, wage stagnation and a depressed economy.

Frosty Chinese relations, the result of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration not recognizing the so-called “one China” principle, has given Taiwan an 18-month window to take stock and rebuild its economic strength.

Last year, economic growth recovered to 2.58 percent from 0.81 percent in 2015. Beijing is well aware that the situation is advantageous to Taiwan and that it cannot allow the present state of affairs to continue.

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang (汪洋), who is about to take control of Taiwan issues, has emphasized the importance of “further integration of the economies on either side of the Strait.”

Wang intends to lure Taiwanese businesses and young people, as well as implement a policy to impoverish Taiwan.

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