On June 21, Taiwan and China signed a cross-strait service trade agreement in Shanghai. After a fight in the legislature, lawmakers have now agreed to review the agreement clause by clause, instead of reviewing it as a package.
Taiwan independence groups are planning a large street protest on July 27, just before the pact is to be reviewed. Through this, two voices have emerged.
One voice is more passive, as some supporters think that the protest is just a repetition of the protest three years ago when Taiwan and China signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).
This group thinks that after people get to demonstrate and opposition legislators are allowed to protest in the legislature, the service trade agreement is likely to be passed anyway. Once again, everything will simply proceed according to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) plans, and the stimulus-and-response pattern will do nothing to address the issue. This group suggests that the opposition camp make other plans instead.
The other voice is more active, as they think that they should stage a protest regardless of whether they will be able to block the agreement.
In the past, Taiwanese businesspeople moved to China; in the future, workers and capital from the Chinese service industry will flow into Taiwan. The daily lives of Taiwanese will soon be permeated by all kinds of “Chinese factors.” Therefore, people want at least to show their doubts about the agreement, and make the Ma administration hear their concerns.
Which of these approaches is most likely to resolve the problem? Comparing the two camps, the so-called “passive camp” is actually more aggressive in terms of their push for amendments to the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) and the Constitution.
From this perspective, the so-called “active camp” which wants to show its opposition in action is in fact more passive. As the Chinese saying goes: “Don’t forget to pay attention to the big picture while tackling smaller tasks.” Neither camp is better than the other.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) recently distributed 50,000 flyers to show its opposition to the service trade agreement, but it has failed to come up with a clear strategy and may fall short of expectations.
Due to electoral concerns, the DPP promised to fully recognize the ECFA during the 2010 mayoral election campaigns and during last year’s presidential election campaign, although it differentiated itself from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) by opposing the so-called “1992 consensus.”
Since the service trade agreement is merely a pact signed under the ECFA framework, the question is if the DPP’s opposition focuses on procedure or content. Is the party opposed to the pact in its entirety or only to parts of it? To what extent should it express its opposition in order to avoid a counter-attack?
Nevertheless, after Hong Kong was returned to China and their political and economic systems were integrated, the protests as a result of the territory’s history have not only impressed Taiwanese, but also frightened Beijing.
Taiwan and China are two political entities, and the development of a close business and cultural relationship will not necessarily lead to a close political relationship.
In this new phase, Taiwanese should avoid bringing a Trojan Horse into the country by being wary and not too greedy. There is currently no need to be too pessimistic.
Chen Yi-shen is an associate research fellow at the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Modern History.
Translated by Eddy Chang