Year: 2009

Strait talking | The Economist

RELATIONS between Taiwan and China may be better than at any time since Nationalist forces routed in China’s civil war fled for Taiwan in 1949. But not everyone is cheering. Chen Yunlin, China’s most senior Taiwan negotiator, visited Taichung in central Taiwan in December to sign three technical accords (covering co-operation on fishing, industrial standards and the quarantine of agricultural products). But public support in Taiwan for President Ma Ying-jeou’s China-friendly policies seems to be eroding.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) claimed 100,000 people had joined its protest rally on December 20th. (The police estimated 30,000.) They condemned the pact the government wants to sign with China, formally known as the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement, or ECFA, saying it would cause thousands of job losses and lead to an influx of cheap Chinese goods. Mr Chen was dogged by protesters, albeit in far smaller numbers than on his first visit in November 2008. In the worst scuffle, a policeman was badly hurt and six people detained.

Mr Chen and his Taiwanese counterpart, Chiang Pin-kun, agreed they would negotiate ECFA at a summit in China in the first half of 2010. Mr Ma hopes it will be signed then, but Chinese negotiators would not promise this.

ECFA is the cornerstone of Mr Ma’s cross-strait policies but he has provided scant details. It is born out of his fear that Taiwan, already ravaged by the financial crisis, will be marginalised as a free-trade pact between China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) takes effect this January. China puts pressure on other countries not to sign free-trade agreements with Taiwan. Mr Ma hopes that will change once Taiwan and China have their agreement, although there are no guarantees. Singapore is expected to be first.

Even disregarding other markets, however, China’s are attractive enough. Taiwan’s exports face tariffs ranging from 5% to 15% in China….


Government answerable to the youth about ECFA

On Dec. 14, student associations from National Taiwan University (NTU), National Taiwan Normal University and National Taiwan University of Science and Technology invited Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) to attend a forum at NTU this weekend to explain government policy on the proposed cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA).

The ECFA proposal is a major national policy, but it has been drawn up in an undemocratic way. The public has not been informed about the content of the policy because the government has failed to communicate adequately. It will affect the lives of Taiwanese, but they have had no chance to discuss it, still less make decisions.

The forum is being organized by the NTU Student Association under the title “ECFA — Boon or Bust for College Students?” Organizers invited government officials, academics and civic groups. Discussion workshops will be held for young citizens to inquire deeper into the issues. When the forum concludes tomorrow, participants will draw up a consensus report in which all participants will decide whether they agree to signing an ECFA.

All important policies should be formed and decided through a democratic process, which is why this forum has been organized in the spirit of deliberative democracy. Hopefully the government will take a similar attitude when deciding on policies, in accordance with democratic principles.

As chief of the country’s executive team, Wu should be answerable not just to the legislature, which represents the public, but to the public as a whole. All the more so given that the ECFA proposal is a policy with far-reaching implications. Consequently, the premier is duty-bound to give the public a proper and thorough explanation. He should not pass this responsibility on to the Ministry of Finance alone on the grounds that “they are the experts.”

If even the premier…


TSU chief says ECFA will cause ‘crisis’

Taiwan Solidarity Union Chairman Huang Kun-huei said signing an ECFA with China would cause ‘an employment and wealth crisis for the Taiwanese’


Echoing former Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) chairwoman Nita Ing’s (殷琪) remark that migration of industries was what “killed” the high-speed rail business, Taiwan Solidarity Union Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) yesterday said the government’s plan to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China would just make the situation worse.

“Ing said that migration of industries [to China] ‘killed domestic airlines and the high-speed rail,’ but I think it’s only the beginning,” Huang told a press conference. “The situation will only get worse as the government continues to open up to and signs an ECFA with China.”

Before stepping down as THSRC chairwoman, Ing said in an inteview with Common Wealth (天下雜誌) magazine that the migration of industries to China was a key reason why THSRC was NT$400 billion (US$12.3 billion) in debt. She said that more than 2 million people have moved to China to work in the past 12 years because of the government’s policy to open up to China, reducing the average daily number of passengers from an estimated 230,000 to 80,000.

Huang agreed with Ing and said that after signing an ECFA with China, Taiwan’s markets would further open up to China which would have a grave impact on low-skilled workers and low-threshold industries, as more people would leave for China and the dumping of cheap Chinese products would be more common.

“[The ECFA] will cause an employment and wealth crisis for…


Chinese expert on Taiwan contradicts Ma’s ECFA claims

  • By Ko Shu-ling / STAFF REPORTER

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…


Would an ECFA keep firms here?

  • By Chao Wen-heng 趙文衡

Despite a flourishing of research and debate about the possible effects of signing an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China, the potential relocation of Taiwanese businesses has been largely ignored. This is partly because relocations are a form of dynamic investment that is hard to predict with trade models. However, it is also clear that ECFA proponents are steering clear of the subject.

The most negative effects of trade between Taiwan and China have not been any toll on Taiwan’s imports or exports, but rather the relocation of Taiwanese businesses to China. This has undermined Taiwanese industries.

Therefore, as we consider the potential effects of an ECFA, it is senseless to project the impact on trade alone, while ignoring the threat of further relocations.

The government has repeatedly said that an ECFA will help Taiwan avoid marginalization. However, relocation of businesses is a key indication that a country is being marginalized.

Without evaluating the risk of business relocations, it is therefore impossible to analyze how the ECFA would affect Taiwan’s marginalization.

When businesses move abroad, they take their value-added production with them. If that trend intensifies after an ECFA is in place, it will exacerbate unemployment, cause output value to drop and eat into exports. These effects would diminish the business opportunities that the government says an ECFA would create. They are also classic signs of marginalization.

For an economic agreement to prevent Taiwan’s marginalization, it must be able to decrease the amount of Taiwanese businesses moving to China. The ECFA alone will not be enough to do that.

Because of Chinese pressure on other governments, Taiwan has been unable to sign…


DPP gives ministry three days to pull ‘racist’ comic

The DPP said a comic meant to explain the proposed ECFA to Taiwanese is based on an ‘extremely offensive’ and derogatory portrayal of ethnic groups

  • By Jenny W. hsu / STAFF REPORTER

A comic strip published by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) to promote a proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China is marred by racist, derogatory and “extremely offensive” content, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.

The party threatened to report the ministry to the Control Yuan unless it suspended the comic strip within three days.

On Monday, the ministry unveiled a four-frame comic strip featuring a male character named Yi-ge (一哥) and his female counterpart Fa Sao (發嫂) as part of its efforts to advertise the ECFA.


A ministry press release said the purpose of the comic strip was to “allow people of all ages to easily and clearly understand the purpose and content of the ECFA.”

The comics portray Yi-ge as a 45-year old Hoklo-speaking man from Tainan City who works as a salesman in an unspecified traditional industry. According to his profile, Yi-ge is a vocational school graduate who speaks “Taiwanese Mandarin” and knows very little about the proposed ECFA. He is content being a follower in all things, but when it comes to protecting himself, he “goes all-out.”

“For example, if he were ever accidentally short-changed by a clerk at a breakfast restaurant, he would do almost anything to get the money back, even if it is just NT$5,” the description…