WSJ's anonymous commmentary:
The DPP has a point that Beijing may gain some leverage over Taiwan as ECFA opens the economy. But then this has already been happening, just as it did before the Hong Kong handover. Business elites with interests on the mainland always take Beijing's side to some degree. Regionally, too, China's power will only continue to grow. Defenders of Taiwan's sovereignty have to play smarter than pretending they can command the tides. The island's separate identity and public consensus in favor of maintaining the political status quo remain strong. However, it is best to negotiate with the mainland from a position of strength: economic, political and military. That means retaining Taiwan's vitality and centrality to the world's production chains, so that other powers have an interest in the country's survival. The armed forces also need remedial attention if they are to remain a credible deterrent.The commentator has it wrong: the pro-Taiwan side isn't attempting to command the tides, but to teach the horse to sing. This commentator also takes the common position that Taiwan needs to negotiate from a position of economic and political strength. Completely correct -- and then the commentator remarks that Taiwan can achieve that strength by becoming more economically and politically dependent on China. Wait -- how's that again?
Simon Tisdall turns in an excellent piece in the Guardian that looks at the pro-Taiwan side:
How many writers cite Bob Yang of FAPA? Great work. AP errs rather strongly:
"This agreement is not about free trade, it is about political control," said Bob Yang of the US-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs. "[It] undermines Taiwan's sovereignty and the ability of Taiwanese to determine their own future … The net effect will be to push Taiwan closer to a still repressive China at the expense of freedom and democracy."
Taiwan's main opposition parties strongly agree. Tens of thousands of protesters rallied at weekend demonstrations in Taipei. Outrage was also expressed at the blocking of a national referendum on the deal. A new referendum proposal has now been tabled. Whatever the outcome, the opposition is vowing Ma's KMT will pay a high price in local elections this autumn and in the 2012 presidential poll.
Polls DO NOT show a majority of the island supports the deal. Polls consistently show support in the forties. Note how the total of "more than 30,000" deprecates the actual number -- probably twice that.
For Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, the deal is the centerpiece of a campaign of rapprochement he has helped engineer since taking office in May 2008. Ma argues that a trade deal with China is necessary to prevent Taiwan's economic marginalization amid growing commercial ties between Beijing and neighboring Asian countries. But he is under pressure to prove his strategy is working to Taiwan's boisterous democracy and a divided public skeptical about Beijing's intentions.
More than 30,000 Taiwanese protested the deal in the capital Taipei over the weekend. Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party have criticized Ma for proceeding without enough public input and rejecting calls for a public referendum on the agreement.
Still, polls show a majority of Taiwanese support the deal because of the economic boost it promises - although most on the island still prefer self-rule.
CS Monitor writes:
Meanwhile, President Ma has seen his approval ratings dip as he's spent political capital pushing ECFA, to 28 percent in mid-June from about 40 percent in mid-2009. With the pro-independence opposition mounting a full-throated anti-ECFA campaign, he’s likely to shift back into campaign mode. That means more pro-Taiwan rhetoric and less happy talk about China.Someone out there is noting that ECFA and Ma's unpopularity are linked!
Ma and his party will face tough local elections this November, a legislative election in late 2011, and a March 2012 reelection bid. There's already loud domestic opposition to his cross-strait economic agenda, let alone anything more ambitious.
"Ma Ying-jeou will make every effort to prove to voters that [ECFA] really brings the positive results he promised," says George Tsai, a political analyst at Chinese Culture University in Taipei. "But time is short, and people's patience is also short.
Taiwan News blasted ECFA for putting Taiwan on the road to Hong Kong:
Yes, once again, the Ma Administration sold out the island. Taiwan News claims the escape clause from ECFA is vague but the TT has a piece on it (below) that suggests otherwise. Check out that political symbolism -- on the anniversary of the Hong Kong CEPA and in the former capital of the KMT regime in China, where dictators Chiang and Mao once met. Hilariously, KMT negotiator Chiang said it was all just a coincidence. The fact that the Taiwan negotiators accepted this political symbolism speaks volumes.
Instead, the ECFA as signed has reduced Taiwan's status as a democratic and independent state to a status similar or even lower than the PRC's "special administrative regions" of Hong Kong and Macau.
The most telling signal of this reality was the date and place of the signing, which occurred precisely on the seventh anniversary of the signing of the "Closer Economic Partnership Agreement" between the PRC central government and the PRC's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region" and the location of the ceremony in Chongqing, the location of peace talks between the late KMT autocrat Chiang Kai-shek and the late CCP Chairman Mao Zedong in August 1945.
These "coincidences sent the symbolic messages that the pact was a "party to party agreement" between the KMT and CCP and that the ECFA was parallel to the CEPAs signed between Beijing and Hong Kong and Macau.
Moreover, Appendix Three of the ECFA specially excludes the right of either side to use WTO "trade remedies" and thus reduces Taiwan's defenses, such as "anti-dumping" or "anti-subsidy" duties or "national security" or cultural exceptions, against the PRC's institutionalized "social dumping."
The Taipei Times had a detailed examination of the termination clause:
The statement said the term was one of the provisions the Taiwanese team fought hard to include in the accord.Note that the Taiwan team says it had to fight hard to get the termination clause -- meaning that China did not want one. Think about it.
“It is the ultimate safety net,” the statement said.
“It is improper to describe it as a bargaining chip that China will use to threaten Taiwan or to demand that it toe the line,” it added.
The statement was made in response to a Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) report that warned Beijing could use the termination clause to demand that Taiwan behave.
Commenting on the termination clause yesterday, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) spokesperson on ECFA related issues, Julian Kuo (郭正亮), said: “It doesn’t matter either way ... the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government doesn’t have the courage to activate this exit clause anyway.”
He said DPP headquarters would, along with the DPP legislative caucus, look into a proposal to table a bill that would force the KMT government to invoke the exit clause of the agreement if it were not able to sign free-trade agreements (FTA) with other countries within a year.
DPP lawmakers would also consider attempting to force the government to terminate the agreement if GDP growth did not reach government estimates, unemployment continued to increase or if average salaries remained stagnant, Kuo added.
It's FTA time. Will any of the important countries stand up and offer Taiwan an FTA? Should be fun to watch.
CNN Money cheerleads ECFA, as does WaPo. WSJ points out that banks on either side cannot invest in the other. NPR, though it repeats AP's erroneous "split in 1949" formula, manages a good roundup that gets both sides, citing APs summary:
One unlooked for effect: the deal boosted investor confidence in Taiwan, pushing up its currency. Since a stronger NT affects Taiwan's exports, the central bank was busy dumping NT dollars last night to offset the pressure on the NT to move up. BBC's Cindy Sui, whose balance and depth is a welcome departure from the usual pro-China line at BBC, had another long and sturdy look at ECFA yesterday:
As the Associated Press succinctly puts it:
Beijing hopes the deal signed Tuesday can lead to political accommodation. Taiwan is looking for the tighter economic links to keep the island from being economically marginalized as China's global clout grows.
NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Beijing says it's unclear if the pact will genuinely ease cross-Strait political tensions.
Kuhn says while China views greater economic integration with Taiwan as the road to eventual unification, Taiwanese opponents of the pact argue that it makes the island too economically dependent on Beijing.
That, critics and others say, could give Beijing a way to control Taiwan's politics, society and sovereignty.Finally, an acquaintance of mine passed around this witty Chinese tone drill from her father on Taiwan-China relations: The Four stages of Tong: 1 通, 2 同 , 3 統 , 4 痛
"In the years to come after the FTA is signed, it may be very difficult to separate Taiwan from China," said Sung Kuo-chen, a research fellow specialising in Taiwan-China relations at the National Chengchi University in Taipei.
"For example, the fruits you buy may be Chinese, many people around you may be Chinese compatriots. Eventually, you might be able to take Taiwanese currency and use it in China. In that sense, what is separate about China and Taiwan?"
Perhaps 50 years from now, Taiwan may be like a province of China in all but name, some analysts say.
Taiwan may very well be able to keep its current democratic system and self-rule, and China's leaders may even eventually accept the concept of Taiwan having a president, analysts say.
REFERENCES: ECFA text and related articles. ETFs and Taiwan. DPP anti-ECFA ads on Youtube.
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