The signing of the service trade agreement with China, purportedly to promote economic freedom, has been met with a wave of protests. The government says the agreement will allow Taiwan to walk onto the world stage via China, but its economic strategy is flawed because it follows Chinese policy on every point. In effect, the agreement is binding Taiwan to China, leaving it no way out.
How can there be talk about free trade in China? The authoritarian Chinese Communist Party will not allow economic interests to pose a threat to its political interests.
There are clear restrictions and hidden rules regulating commercial and industrial development, and since Taiwanese players could arouse hopes of democracy and freedom among Chinese, they will be even more strictly regulated. There is only one condition under which such a regime would be willing to enter into commercial talks with Taiwan, and that is once it is sure that any political influences will be one-way.
The only reason Taiwan and China can hold talks on trade is because China’s strategy to use economic interests to push its political agenda is irreversible. This has also been verified by the developments in Taiwan over the past few years.
Just like democracy, freedom needs cultural roots to bloom and become part of our daily lives, and it must be nurtured by the economy to grow strong.
However, too much nourishment will have negative effects and heavily imbalanced nourishment will be even worse.
Policies that focus only on economic achievements will in the end be eaten alive by economic interests.
If Taiwan implements the service trade agreement, the roots of freedom will rot and the flowers of democracy will wither and die.
The best example of this is Hong Kong. The demonstration on Monday made loud demands for the return of gradually disappearing democracy and freedom.
Yet the Taiwanese government willingly accepts all kinds of unequal agreements in closed-door negotiations with China in exchange for instability and insecurity.
When a government sinks so low, it has been threatened by organized crime or frightened by industry, or government officials are driven by their own individual interests, or ideology is at play.
Hong Kongers have decided that they will occupy the territory’s Central District on July 1 next year to show their determination to safeguard democracy and freedom.
However, in Taiwan, as a result of the government already sacrificing everything worth protecting, we may not even get the opportunity to make such a stand.
This is a situation that requires serious consideration and monitoring.
We must take concrete action and demand that the legislature stop the service trade agreement and stop the government from ending democracy and freedom before it is too late.
Chu Ping-tzu is an associate professor of Chinese literature at National Tsing Hua University.
Translated by Perry Svensson