Common sense trumps political rivalry
|November 11, 2008||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Common sense trumps political rivalry
China, Taiwan agree on trade deal
When called Formosa, the country was the worlds poster child for development, and still is, thanks to using the geonomic land tax. Mainland China, too, uses taxes on land to try to curb speculation. If those reforms pushed by the father of modern China, Sun Yat-sen, become widely utilized, both nations will leap ahead of the rest of the world. Solving their political problems gives them the space to employ economic solutions. This 2008 article appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Nov 4.
By Mark Magnier and Cindy Sui
In a move that chips away at decades of tension and distrust, China and Taiwan agreed to expand cargo and passenger flights and allow direct shipping service across the 110-mile strait separating the longtime adversaries.
The deal delivers on campaign pledges by Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who took power in May vowing to boost the island’s economy by improving relations with China. Both sides also agreed to hold high-level talks every six months and further strengthen economic ties. Taiwan is among China’s largest investors, with an estimated 1 million of its citizens living on the mainland.
But in a sign of the divisions that still define Taiwan’s democracy, about 7,000 police reportedly were deployed to protect the Chinese envoy, Chen Yunlin, with his hotel ringed by nets to prevent eggs and rotten vegetables thrown by protesters from hitting him. Last month, Chen’s deputy was insulted and manhandled by protesters during a reconnaissance trip. A massive protest march was also held on Oct. 26 in Taipei, and more demonstrations are planned for this week.
Critics, including many from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, accuse Ma of moving too quickly and “selling out” Taiwan, a charge he sharply denies. Some fear that the island’s territory and unique identity will be swallowed up by its giant neighbor.
Today’s historic deal is part of a warming trend after eight years of tense cross-strait relations under the independence-leaning DPP. After today’s signing, Chen and his Taiwanese counterpart, Chiang Pin-kung, shook hands, sipped champagne and held up calligraphy that read: “Peacefully negotiate; Jointly create a win-win situation.”
Most elements of the deal have been discussed for years, and, in many ways, they were economic measures the two wary sides could easily agree on. Continued progress, however, will likely require the sleight-of-hand of skilled diplomats able to finesse the perilous and deeply emotional issues of identity, sovereignty, and political control. Polls show most Chinese favor unification, while most Taiwanese favor the status quo.
Today’s deal paves the way for direct shipping links across the Taiwan Strait for the first time in more than half a century, which should help speed up factory production, save industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually and encourage closer economic integration. The agreement also increases the number of weekly passenger flights from 36 to 108, expands the number of Chinese airports served from 5 to 21 and, for the first time, allows about 60 cargo flights a month.
Direct postal service will also be introduced, as will new food safety procedures. China’s tainted-milk scandal angered many Taiwanese, underscoring the development gap between the two societies.
The changes may spur Chinese investment in Taiwan and encourage foreign companies to base their Asian operations in Taiwan.
Beijing’s softer line is consistent with its moves to settle border disputes and improve relations with other neighbors, including Russia, Vietnam, and India, allowing it to concentrate on internal development. Media in China have played the story big, with multi-page newspaper spreads detailing what the envoys wore, ate and gave as gifts. “The agreement shows the world that both sides are taking the compromising, peaceful route,” said Zhu Weidong, a Taiwan expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.
But Antonio Chiang, a journalist and independent analyst in Taipei, said Beijing needs to build on its good-faith efforts by allowing Taiwan more leeway to join international organizations and by dismantling some of its 1,000-plus missiles pointed at the island. “The question is how China treats Taiwan, whether it deals on an equal footing,” he said.
As Chen landed Monday, critics hung banners along the route to his hotel. “Get Lost Communist Bandit,” read one. “We can talk about anything with China,” said Sunson Lin, 39, a substitute teacher in Taipei at a sit-in near the legislature. “But they must first recognize Taiwan is a sovereign country. All they seem to want to do is treat Taiwan as a part of China.”
Harvard-educated President Ma and Chinese envoy Chen are expected to meet, although the encounter has not been announced. One of the big issues is whether Chen will call Ma “zongtong,” or “president,” given that China views Taiwan as a renegade province and is wary of anything that implies sovereignty.
This has been a topic of great speculation. Among the scenarios laid out include a cancellation by the Chinese side, which would give Ma political points at home for standing up to China, or a face-saving dodge in which Ma is announced as the president before Chen enters the hall, allowing him to claim he never heard the dreaded word.
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