Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Encouraging Foreigners' China Aspirations

Lots of ECFA stuff out there this week, with President Ma talking to the media continuously since the debate with DPP Chairman Tsai. It almost looks like the KMT wants it to appear that the debate was some kind of turning point and is now in full on media blitz to gain control of the talking points.

First there were the usual happy noises from the US side. As Obama administration officials said nice things about the KMT-CCP closeness, Paul Wolfowitz, currently head of the US-Taiwan Business Council, said:

In related news, former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said May 17 that with the ECFA Taiwan will have “unprecedented access to the [mainland] Chinese market. Given its democratic system, its advanced economy and its centrality in global manufacturing and supply chains, Taiwan has the potential to become a leading economic and business-operations hub in Asia.”

In addition to benefiting the economy, the pact will also help meet Taiwan’s national security needs, he said.

Wolfowitz, current chairman of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, and a former deputy secretary of defense, undersecretary of defense for policy and assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs in the State Department, spoke at a conference on Taiwan’s economy at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington.

He urged the Ma administration to engage in in-depth consultations with the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which has raised objections to the ECFA. “Taiwan needs the ECFA, and it needs an uncontroversial ECFA supported by both parties,” he said.

Wolfowitz pointed out that signing the ECFA will also promote relations between Taiwan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He specifically called on Beijing, once the ECFA is sealed, to declare that it would be happy to see the signing of a free trade agreement between ASEAN and Taiwan. (THN)

While the Taiwan Today piece above highlighted Wolfowitz's remarks on ECFA, the Taipei Times had a fuller article that gave a more robust picture of his remarks:
“What would make a real substantive difference would be if Taiwan could bring more international businesses to Taiwan. Maybe I am exaggerating here, but I think getting one major international corporation to make Taiwan the base for its regional operations would be worth more than all the possible memberships and participation in international organizations,” Wolfowitz said.

US business leaders found that Hong Kong provided a much more business-friendly environment than Taiwan, he said, despite the fact that Taiwan has major advantages over Hong Kong, including space and geography, air quality and freedom of expression, protection of intellectual property rights and the ready availability of Mandarin speakers.
It's always fun to compare outsiders with locals on the subject of Ma Ying-jeou. The pro-KMT paper UDN published another poll on Ma's satisfaction ratings, noting that 39% are satisfied, and 43% unsatisfied.

Ma meanwhile announced a Golden Decade at his latest press conference.

ROC President Ma Ying-jeou spoke of the coming “golden decade” for Taiwan while outlining his vision for the nation’s future at a news conference on the eve of his second year in office.

“I will do whatever benefits Taiwan and its people,” Ma said during his “Stride Forward, Create a Golden Decade” address delivered before a contingent of local and foreign media representatives at the Presidential Office May 19.

After nearly 24 months in power, Ma said the Kuomintang administration has succeeded in cracking down on corruption, promoting human rights, reforming financial policies, reaching consensus with the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, initiating cross-strait dialogue, and expanding Taiwan’s international space.

Read that list carefully...
  • ....has Ma reached a consensus with the DPP? When did this happen?
  • ....has Taiwan international space expanded? Or has diplomacy on Taiwan's behalf ceased?
  • ....what corruption crackdown?
  • ....human rights? There's been serious concern on that score among Taiwan watchers.
  • ....cross-strait dialogue? Who is carrying that out? Did the Ma Administration initiate it, or was that the DPP (publicly) and the KMT (privately) years before Ma was elected.
This is actually similar to the list in his inaugural speech in 2008. And Golden Decade? That's just an updated version of 6-3-3. Ma's handlers are simply recycling his original electoral strategy just in time for the November 3 in 1 elections. The reality of KMT cross-strait strategy was caught in Far Eastern Sweet Potato's post the other day... read the whole post, but note:
So here we are: Only 3.75 percent of all administrative orders have been reviewed by the organ that supposedly keeps the government in check. And yet, Presidential Office Spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) was telling reporters on Sunday that “All official dealings with China are supervised by the legislature … Everything is open and transparent.”

Not only are orders not being monitored by the legislature, but amendments are being made that are so vague — intentionally so — that they can open doors to all kinds of abuse. Much as the “in the public interest” clause in the Computer-Processed Personal Data Protection Act (電腦保護個人資料處理法), amended on April 27, is vague enough to allow government authorities to interpret it in a manner that suits their needs, the amendment to the Act Governing Approval for Mainland Area Professionals to Engage in Professional Activities in Taiwan uses language (“making a contribution”) that can mean anything. What are “contributions” and who is the judge of that?

As I wrote in my review of Christine Loh’s (陸恭蕙) study of the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong, Underground Front, the danger of signing agreements Beijing-style is that everything is vague and open to interpretation — by those in power. Again, the entire negotiation process during the 1980s, in which the UK and Beijing prepared the terrain for handover in 1997, should be closely studied by Taiwanese watchers, as history appears to be repeating itself. One complaint on the British side and among those in Hong Kong who worried about their future, was that everything was done behind closed doors, by unelected elite with close ties to the business world, with little oversight or supervision, no public consultation. And a heavy does of vagueness.
But what would the week be without this gem of insight from our fearless leader:
“The US has never worried about its sovereignty as its economic ties with China tighten,” said Ma at an interview held by the Central News Agency (CNA), explaining the importance of the trade pact with China.
No comment.
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Anonymous said...

From the Jon Adams piece: "Relations between China and Taiwan have improved considerably in the last two years, but Taiwan still faces a rising military threat from the People's Liberation Army, according to Taiwan's defense ministry and the Pentagon."

Well, I'm glad Jon covered the BIGGEST SCANDAL IN TAIWAN GOVT HISTORY, but I don't understand how relations have improved if the REALITY is that Taiwan faces a GROWING THREAT from China.

Relations improve if everybody has nice words to say, but the chances and consequences of war are growing? Seriously?

D said...

Well, as long as Wolfowitz has the same insight into China and East Asia as he did into Iraq and the Middle East I guess we should be ok.

What is the US-Taiwan Business Council and who made this guy the head of it? Christ.

Anonymous said...

I can't for the life of me figure out what the US government really wants. It always praises closeness between Taiwan and China, but when or if Taiwan reunifies with China, will Washington suddenly realize that it's just encouraged an island nation of 23 million to do something that is NOT in American interests?

Michael Turton said...

D, many of the neocons have been Asia hands from way back, with experience and connections out here. On China, I believe they are mostly right. But their disastrous middle east policies have discredited their voices.

D said...

Right about China? Maybe. Or maybe their voices are rightly discredited.

Perhaps Wolfie will be able to convince Halliburton or Blackwater to place a regional headquarters in Chinese Taipei.

Anonymous said...

His assumption is that ECFA will attract foreign companies to Taiwan. The detractors claim that ECFA will cause another wave of industry exodus from Taiwan, esp since placing headquarter in China with cheaper production costs can export tariff-free to Taiwan and ASEAN, but Taiwan only to China and not elsewhere. So it's more strategic to place headquarters in China to tap into more markets.

And then another "visionary" comment from someone saying that Taiwan should depend on foreign companies, instead of building up its own industry. The outcome of that would be Taiwan would be at the mercy of foreign powers again. Taiwan should learn from Japan and Korea, build up their own industry and economy, and not ask for handouts from others. I mean didn't Japan become strong after Toyota, Sony, etc. and Korea with Samsung and LG became known worldwide?

Taiwan is doing better after Acer, Asus, HTC, etc. are establishing their brands worldwide.

And of course international organizations are super important. If Taiwan is in the UN, if could negotiate with China on equal footing and be less worried about China attacking, since China would be attacking another UN nation, lack moral authority. If Taiwan has stronger connections and recognition in the world, it wouldn't have been ostracized and would be able to sign FTAs and be in trade blocs. In this globalized world, politics impact all areas of life: economy, human rights, sports, etc. That's why diplomacy is important.

Anonymous said...

{I can't for the life of me figure out what the US government really wants. }

US foreign policy has been consistent for decades: keep countries destabilized by promising them democracy, freedom, etc. They end up being excellent customers for the military-industrial complex.