Chinese expert on Taiwan contradicts Ma’s ECFA claims

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Aug 14, 2009 - Page 1

The essence of cross-strait economic integration is to advance the undertaking of peaceful unification with China, a Chinese expert on Taiwan affairs said at a cross-strait forum yesterday.

Li Fei (李非), deputy director of the Taiwan Research Center at Xiamen University, said China’s policy of pushing cross-strait economic exchanges has three benefits.

First, it will strengthen China’s economic power and propel economic development in the region. Second, it will stabilize cross-strait relations and spur the two sides’ policy interactions. Finally, it will push forward peaceful unification through economic integration.

Li made the remarks during the first annual forum on the global development of businesses across the Taiwan Strait and the eighth annual cross-strait scientific and economic forum in Taipei City yesterday morning.

Li caused a stir in February when the Washington Post published an interview in which he suggested that Taipei’s plan to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with Beijing “represents an important step toward the possibility of unification of the longtime adversaries.”

He told the Post that the agreement would be a significant milestone in gradually warming relations between the two sides.

“It’s a start toward full cross-strait economic integration and a necessary condition for marching forward toward final unification,” Li said.

The Presidential Office later dismissed concerns that signing the economic pact would be one more step toward unification, insisting that the government would make the nation’s interests the priority when dealing with China.

While the administration has tried to play down the political implications of an ECFA, Li yesterday said that to intensify trade and economic cooperation with Taiwan would facilitate Taiwan’s economic reliance on China and increase the might of China-based Taiwanese businesses.

Analyzing Beijing’s strategy for promoting cross-strait economic cooperation with Taiwan, Li said the top priority was to develop trade relations and let market power gradually become the driving force behind economic exchanges.

As bilateral talks were resumed under the so-called “1992 consensus,” Li said future political negotiations would be based on the “one China” principle under the pretext of negotiations on issues concerning the economy or people’s livelihoods, as well as technical or administrative issues.

The development of political relations between the two sides would consist of several steps, he said. They were: engaging in political dialogue, ending cross-strait enmity, signing a peace treaty, conducting political negotiations on such issues as Taiwan’s political status and finally, undertaking negotiations on unification.

The second priority was to dole out small favors to “Taiwan compatriots,” he said, adding that “you don’t get something for nothing” and that “a man with big wisdom makes big compromises, and a man with small wisdom makes small concessions.”

As the normalization of economic exchanges is attained, Li said, efforts must be made to institutionalize economic ties, including establishing a “cross-strait economic cooperation mechanism” and signing a “cross-strait economic cooperation agreement.”