AP's Peter Enav's great piece on the ROC Centenary is well worth a look. Two great quotes, one from Tsai of the DPP:
"The Republic of China came to Taiwan in 1949 and became part of the history of this land," said Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, whose platform formally espouses independence. "We understand and respect this historical fact, and we believe we can only change the system that has existed for over 60 years through democratic mechanisms."...and my favorite:
"My country is the Republic of China on Taiwan," said Stella Tsai, a 30-year-old bank employee. "The mainland is not included. It is an enemy of our republic."The carefully nuanced presentation by AP, complete with the dorky "We will assimilate you!" quote from the Borg on the other side of the Strait, suggests that someone with a Beijing-centric point of view outside of Taiwan had a hand in shaping the piece. Otherwise I expect it would be a lot tougher on both Beijing and on the ROC. Still, there's much there that doesn't ordinarily appear in the media. AP's longer stuff is usually excellent. Good work, AP!
Veteran Taiwan reporter Ralph Jennings had a piece in SCMP on the failure of Ma to live up to his promises of more free trade agreements in the wake of the ECFA sell-out. An excerpt:
But Ma Ying-jeou made that pledge nearly nine months ago. The only country that has come forward to talk trade with Taiwan is Singapore. Other countries have resisted Taiwan's aggressive efforts to sign free trade agreements (FTAs), normally dominated by cuts on import tariffs, owing to domestic issues, fear of a backlash from China and likely snags over agriculture and light manufacturing.Jennings notes that China has never really stated it would let Taiwan have FTAs with other nations. Indeed, as numerous commentators have noted, it is not in China's interests to do that. At minimum, Taiwan would compete with China in both industries and regions that China wants to move into. But more importantly, if China has an FTA with countries X, Y, and Z, but Taiwan does not, this puts pressure on Taiwan firms to relocate to China in order to take advantage of those FTA agreements.
Those setbacks could eventually put Ma's government under the spotlight as the export-reliant island has looked towards those deals as a vehicle for global expansion that would lift Taiwan's US$400 billion-plus economy.
Taiwan needs FTAs with its major trading partners to keep its key exporters competitive against regional peers such as Japan, South Korea and Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) members.
The mainland forbids Taiwan's trading partners that are also Beijing's diplomatic allies from signing deals that would imply sovereignty for the island. As a result, Taiwan's main economic rivals have far more FTAs to their name, boosting their respective exporters.
Taiwan has only five FTAs, all with minor Latin American diplomatic allies.
"Ma Ying-jeou is under political and time pressure to complete FTAs with certain countries so he can deliver a promise to voters," said George Tsai, a political scientist at the Chinese Cultural University in Taipei. "But as a matter of fact it's not as simple as it appears to conclude an FTA."
Sticking points depend on the country. The US, the top prize for Taiwan because of its market size, says the timing is wrong as Congress still has not approved an FTA with fellow Asian export powerhouse South Korea despite three years of debate.
The US, Taiwan's No2 single-country export destination after the mainland, would also require an FTA covering all key sectors rather than the more narrowly focused deals popular in Asia, diplomats in Taipei say.
De facto embassy spokesman Chris Kavanagh put it plainly: "There are major obstacles in the way of a free trade agreement."
Most of Taiwan's major Asian trading partners have held back over fears of upsetting China.
Will the lack of trade agreements hurt Ma politically? It doesn't seem very likely. After all, the DPP can hardly make a huge issue of it, since the Chen Administration was hardly better. What is hurting Ma is stuff like this, in his talk on the soft power of Taiwan and making Taiwan an educational hub:
President Ma Ying-jeou noted that Taiwan has many universities that are able to provide a wide range of courses up to post-graduate level. But what makes Taiwan stand out is its strength in Chinese education, especially in traditional culture and script - the original version of Chinese characters used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and many other overseas communities.Some of the technology and medicine programs offered in Taiwan are super strong and they are what makes Taiwan stand out, not its use of traditional characters. Nobody from Vietnam or Indonesia or Malawi comes here because of Taiwan's strength in Chinese education. Ma is pushing a Taiwan that doesn't exist -- the "traditional Chineseness" of Taiwan -- to solve a problem faced by his parents -- the competing Chinas. Yet all things for Ma come back to its being Chinese. Meanwhile the public doesn't think of itself as Chinese, especially the young. Expect roll-back of this rhetoric as the 2012 election approaches.
A rhetoric which, btw, shows that the "pragmatic" Ma is a China-centric ideologue.
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