China’s use of economic means to promote unification with Taiwan is in no way a mere conspiracy theory. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) openly admitted it some time ago and it is well known that it complements this policy by aiming more than 1,000 missiles at Taiwan. Despite this, some years ago a person who considers himself a wise man sang the praises of Taiwanese businesses “boldly going west” (大膽西進), and moving into China.
In 1998 that person was the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman. That year, he held an internal party debate on the DPP’s China policy in which he succeeded in incorporating the idea of “boldly going west” into the party’s previous stance of “strengthening the home base” (強本), and forming a consensus on the issue within the party.
This ultimately led to a situation in which Academia Sinica academician Yu Ying-shih (余英時) could say that the CCP is using Taiwanese businesspeople to buy Taiwan’s media. The former chairman later left the party, angry over his failure to be nominated for an election, but his actions had a lasting impact on DPP policies.
In 2000, the DPP aligned itself with corporations intent on breaking into the Chinese market. This led it to adopt a policy of “pro-active liberalization” (積極開放) in terms of trade with China, allowing Taiwanese businesses to go to China and set up factories for numerous types of industrial products.
“Pro-active liberalization” replaced the previous policy of “no haste, be patient” (戒急用忍) and Taiwan quickly lost capital and technology to China. Taiwan’s economic status has declined ever since.
Even though the DPP replaced this policy with one of “pro-active management” (積極管理) after two years, it was already too late. By then, an ever-increasing dependency on China had changed the way the Taiwanese viewed “localization” (本土化). The DPP gradually lost popularity and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was able to regain power.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration benefited from a combination of the DPP’s various China policies like “boldly going west” because it accepted China’s requests for a loosening of economic restrictions after the KMT returned to power.
Ma’s policy of “total liberalization” (全面開放), or the removal of restrictions on Taiwanese investment in China, saw a rapid increase in the number of Taiwanese businesses setting up there, along with an increase in the number and variety of industries they invested in. This caused Taiwan’s economy to slow down even more.
Then, in 2010, the Ma government took things a step further and signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China. This allowed China’s strategy of using economic means to promote unification to enter its second phase; controlling Taiwan’s economy by using Taiwanese businesspeople. This is why the recent buyout of the Next Media Group has caused people like Yu and young people concerned over the nation’s economic and political future to become suspicious and worried.
When looking at the mess Taiwan is now in, it should be remembered that this is the inevitable outcome of a combination of past policies such as “boldly going west,” “strengthening the home base,” “pro-active liberalization,” “total liberalization” and the ECFA. Even now there are still a certain number of people who promote these ideas within the DPP, a party that is supposed to concern itself with Taiwan’s democratic values. These people are contributing to Taiwan moving ever closer toward a path of no return that represents “eventual unification” (終統) and this is truly the saddest thing.
Huang Tien-lin was a presidential adviser to former president Chen Shui-bian.
Translated by Drew Cameron