During President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) five years in office, the economy has slumped, democracy has regressed, the government has become authoritarian and suppresses popular opinion, social injustices have increased, the wealth gap has widened and the government has shown itself to be inept and incapable of solving these problems.
The problems can be traced to a single source: Ma is only concerned with China and he has no interest in governing Taiwan. This is why, although Taiwanese are having a tough time getting by and public complaints abound, Ma has ignored all the problems and has instead chosen to throw himself even deeper into his work of integrating the two nations.
After signing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), the Ma government signed a service trade agreement and is now negotiating a trade in goods agreement with China.
There are two main points to be made about the service trade agreement: First, it is an unequal treaty under which Taiwan would open its doors wide to China, while China will restrict access to its economy. Second, it would open Taiwan completely to Chinese immigration, allowing Chinese nationals to work and also open businesses and shops here, paving the way for the biggest influx of Chinese immigrants since 1949.
Eslite Bookstore’s recent refusal to put the book Death of a Buddha — The Truth Behind the Death of the 10th Panchen Lama (殺佛 – 十世班禪大師蒙難真相) by exiled Chinese writer Yuan Hongbing (袁紅冰) on their shelves is an example of how China is controlling distribution channels here.
If the service trade agreement comes into effect, this control will become much worse. It will be applied to cultural industries with ties to political ideology and also distribution channels in industries from food and clothing to daily necessities.
The reason China is in such a rush to sign economic agreements with Taiwan is to facilitate the introduction of political negotiations. This was one of the main goals for Taiwan-related work set out at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 18th National Congress.
In addition to exchanging liaison offices dealing with cross-strait relations, a wide range of “forums” and “summits” have been established in the two nations to bring about an atmosphere more conducive to political dialogue.
For example, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the CCP forum for the ruling elites, the Strait Forum for Taiwanese politicians, the Boao Forum for Asia and the Zijinshan Summit for Entrepreneurs across the Taiwan Strait for the business world. Recently, so-called “peace forums” held by politicians and academics have also started. These forums are referred to as the CCP’s five major platforms for unification.
The CCP uses these unification platforms to establish what it calls “common opinions,” “common notions” or “consensuses” to make Taiwan retreat step by step, minimize Taiwan’s space in the international community to force it into accepting the principles laid down by the CCP without even realizing it.
The best example of this is former KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) who, without even being aware of it, went from the view that relations between Taiwan and China should be defined as “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” to saying that the two sides use a “one China” framework to define cross-strait relations during the recent ninth Cross-Strait Economic, Trade and Culture Forum held in Nanning, in China’s Guangxi Province. The same thing is happening in Taiwan’s political, business and academic realms.
Some say that many media outlets are influenced by the KMT and the CCP, and that they cannot be beaten. Is this really how things are? When the Taiwan Solidarity Union expressed its opposition to the ECFA, people echoed the party’s comments.
The truth is that the public does not have a sufficient understanding of the ECFA, and they have been mislead by the KMT’s promotion of it.
By contrast, many academics and those involved in cultural pursuits like writers and musicians have come out in strong opposition to the recent signing of the service trade agreement. They have constantly sought to reveal the truth about it to the public. As a result, even opinion polls conducted by the Mainland Affairs Council have revealed that support for the agreement has dropped from 60 percent to 30 percent.
Others say that the opposition parties are in the minority in the legislature and that they will never be able to out-vote the KMT. The bill recently proposed in the legislature by the two main opposition parties to get Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) to step down, the joint protests from the various party caucuses against China’s air defense identification zone as well as demands that the Ma administration should not provide China with flight plans, are all decisions made under strong public pressure. This proves that people will stand up against an inept government.
Opposition to the service trade agreement works on the same logic: The public must stand up and be counted.
Huang Kun-huei is the chairman of the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
Translated by Drew Cameron