To Members and Friends

One China Committee

Update 34
July 2011
New Members

Gregg Gethard, (PA), freelance journalist
Jeanne Henneh (IL), teacher, Prospect High School

Looking ahead to Taiwan's 2012 election

Since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou's inauguration in 2008, relations between Mainland China and Taiwan have made progress, a potential momentous turn in the long wrought story of cross-strait relations. Yet, can Ma Ying-Jeou, who promoted these achievements, sit back and wait for his reelection in 2012?

When Ma first got into office, private consumption plummeted and his government even responded by issuing coupons to each citizen to boost consumption. But then last year, Taiwan's economic growth rose to 8% - considerable change. However, in local elections for five major cities in Taiwan last year, the Taiwanese punished Ma Ying-Jeou at the polls. Many Taiwanese believe that apart from the cross-strait policy, he hasn't achieved much. Others worry that this fast development will harm Taiwan's autonomy and jeopardize its future.

Tsai Ying-Wen, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party candidate, wants to develop bi-lateral relations within multi-lateral ones. It's a sign that significant numbers of Taiwanese are still wary of the "passion" of mainlanders.

Even though both parties say they must put aside their political differences, their policies are always based on political issues. Under such circumstances, if Ma Ying-Jeou lost the campaign or won by a narrow margin, it would be a demonstration of "non-confidence" regarding the current progress.

Ma Ying-Jeou's policies aren't just responding to Taiwanese public opinion. What Taiwanese care about is the transformation and progress of Mainland China. Coming up with new ideas which can bring peace of mind to the Taiwanese and help them to trust China, would be a really effective way of helping Ma Ying-Jeou. (Gong Ling, Worldcrunch.com, Jul 11, 2011

China's mainland, Taiwan open annual cross-Strait forum amid stronger ties

An unofficial forum that targets the grassroots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait for closer exchanges in various areas was opened Saturday June 11 evening in Xiamen, a coastal boomtown facing Taiwan.

China's top political advisor Jia Qinglin announced the opening of the forum ahead of a grand gala that was attended by more than 8,000 participants, about 6,000 of whom are from Taiwan.

The opening ceremony was also attended by Wang Yi, director of State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, and Tseng Yung-chuan, vice chairman of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Party.

Tseng said the relationship between the mainland and Taiwan has entered the course of peaceful development.

The event, now in its third year since its inauguration in 2009, will feature an array of activities including a centerpiece conference and other sub-forums and seminars that focus on grassroots exchanges across the Strait and topics concerning people's livelihood.

The forum was first inaugurated in May 2009 in an effort to broaden civilian exchanges, enhance cooperation and promote mutual development between China's mainland and Taiwan. It also serves as a platform for the releasing of preferential economic and trade policies that will benefit both sides of the Strait.

During the first cross-Strait forum that was held on May 16-22, 2009, the Ministry of Transport of China announced nine measures to facilitate direct shipping service, including the opening of five more ports for direct shipping with Taiwan.

Eight new preferential measures that encourage enterprises in the mainland to invest in Taiwan and broaden items purchased from the island were released at the forum.

At the second forum on June 19-25, 2010, airlines from both sides of the Strait agreed to slash cross-Strait airfares by 10 to 15 percent to boost two-way travels.

Some 8,000 Taiwan guests, including Chu Li-lun, vice chairman of the Kuomkintang Party, mayors and magistrates from 25 of Taiwan's cities and counties as well as heads of key trade bodies on the island, attended the first cross-Strait forum.

This year's cross-Strait forum will for the first time extend to the Taiwan island as the closing ceremony will be held in Taichung City in west-central Taiwan, the third largest city on the island.

Authorities lifted the ban on mass mainland tourists to Taiwan in July 2008. Mainland tourist arrivals to Taiwan reached 930,000 in 2009 and shot up about 127 percent to 1.63 million in 2010, statistics from the tourism authorities in Taiwan show.

Fan Liqing, spokeswoman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a press conference on May 25 that the mainland and Taiwan are talking over allowing individuals from the mainland to travel to the island before the end of June.

In June, 2009, the mainland and Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in a bid to reduce tariffs and commercial barriers between the two sides. The pact is considered one of the most significant agreement since the two sides split after the 1949 civil war, as it covers 539 Taiwanese products and 267 mainland goods.

Under the agreement, China will also open markets in 11 service sectors such as banking, securities, insurance, hospitals and accounting, while Taiwan agreed to offer wide access in seven areas, including banking and movies. (Xinhua, Jun 11, 2011).

Unification looms: US academic

Beijing's economic, military and diplomatic leverage over Taiwan is increasingly forcing Taipei toward unification with China, a speaker told a conference in Washington on Monday May 9.

Robert Sutter, a professor at George Washington University, said many people in Taiwan favored what they "erroneously see" as a "status quo" in which the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou enjoys independence of action.

However, in reality, he told the conference at George Washington University's the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, Taiwan's "weak self-strengthening" and a marked decline in US support for its freedom of action further bound it to accommodating China.

Sutter said that US allies and friends in Asia -- notably Japan -- would require "extraordinary reassurance" that the US government's encouragement of conditions leading to the resolution of Taiwan's future and reunification with China does not foreshadow a power-shift in the region.

Next year's presidential election in Taiwan, which could return the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to power, has the potential to "complicate" the situation, he said.

However, the new leadership of the DPP would likely follow a much more "moderate" approach to cross-strait relations than former president Chen Shui-bian, Sutter said.

Under Ma, Taiwan's freedom of action had eroded in the face of the "remarkable growth" of China's influence, he said. His remarks were based on an extensive study he has made of Taiwan's future to be published soon. (William Lowther, Taipei Times, May 11, 2011).

Taiwan election on China-Taiwan ties

Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party announced Thursday April 28 that it had chosen chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, a moderate former law professor, against incumbent Ma Ying-jeou in next January's presidential contest. Polls put the two in a dead heat, setting the stage for eight months of scandals, accusations, and (hopefully) constructive policy debate before Taiwanese voters head to the polls. Security analyst say one likely outcome of the election, regardless of who wins, is a cool down in China-Taiwan ties.

Mr. Ma's recent tack is indicative of the political difficulties he faces as he seeks to keep China content enough to continue with ongoing economic cooperation while also reassuring the Taiwanese people that he is tough defend them against a neighbor that has not ruled out the use of force to take the island.

Ms. Tsai has called for trade links with China to be developed in balance with its links to the rest of the world, but her party is formally pro-independence and she will face a tough challenge appealing to moderate independent voters while also appeasing some of the more outspoken independence advocates within the party. She will also have to contend with a healthy dose of suspicion and antipathy from China, evidenced by a stern statement from its Taiwan Affairs Office following the announcement Ms. Tsai's victory in the DPP primary.

If [their] cross-strait policy is established on a 'Taiwan independence' splittist basis � it does not matter how ingenious the packaging," the Taipei Times quoted TAO spokesman Yang Yi as saying following the announcement of Ms. Tsai's candidacy. "It will certainly � damage the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and affect stability in the Taiwan Strait."

In an interview ahead of Taiwan's military drills in mid-April, Bonnie Glaser, a senior fellow for the Center for Strategic and International Studies said even if Mr. Ma wins in 2012, he will likely lack the mandate he had during his first term, which would compromise further efforts to bring Taiwan and China closer together either politically or militarily.

Ms. Glaser predicted that the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, a trade pact Beijing and Taipei signed last summer, would take years to implement and that Mr. Ma's efforts to dampen expectations for substantive discussions of political issues would probably cause problems with China.

President of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, Rupert Hammond-Chambers, also said he foresaw difficulties in China-Taiwan relations ahead regardless of the trade pact and argued the best way to fend against those difficulties would be strong U.S. military support for Taiwan, which he feared was waning. (Paul Mozur, Wall Street Journal, Apr 29, 2011).