Taiwan, ECFA, and the Traitorama

ECFA, the Economic Cooperation Framework Trade Agreement, is to be signed in Chongqing today. The choice of the big city in Sichuan Province was probably made for historic reasons in that it was the site of talks between the KMT government and the Chinese communists from August to October 1945, including talks between Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong themselves (the whole affair turned into a propagandistic movie in the 1990s). The location probably also wants to make an extra case for the agreement, as Chongqing is considered the diving board for the “development of western China” (西部开发) – a strategy that could maintain economic growth in China for the years to come.

Both sides chose the place, because both sides – the KMT or Ma Ying-jeou government and the CCP – want to make a case in favor of ECFA to the Taiwanese public. It makes the KMT and the CCP appear to stand on one side of the line, and much of the Taiwanese public – possibly a majority of it – on the other.The Taiwanese government apparently shunned an opportunity to have a referendum on ECFA – president Ma wants to see the agreement with Beijing through, and then convince the Taiwanese public:

With a message that ECFA will flood Taiwan with cheap goods, creating massive unemployment, and is a first step toward a Chinese political takeover, the opposition is looking to score big in the local elections to give it chance of ousting pro-China President Ma Ying-jeou in 2012 presidential polls.

“‘(The deal) gives Ma a beautiful list of scores he can deliver at the next elections,’ said Lin Chong-pin, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taipei.

‘It’s a political decision made by Beijing, not economic. It’s Beijing’s high-level strategic political decision to win the hearts and minds of the Taiwan people and pre-empt the pro-independence opposition party.'”

Both the CCP and the KMT count on an effect which the Beijing-leaning Hong Kong paper Ta Kung Pao described this way, in April this year:

[Presidential] aides say that while the Green Camp is now strongly against ECFA, one has to remember that all the Ma government’s decisions since it assumed office have proven to be accurate. Now the DPP ostensibly condemns ECFA, but they do actually know that when ECFA comes into effect, it will invigorate Taiwan’s economy, enhance the competitiveness of Taiwan’s exports, and when it leads to the government’s success, the DPP will definitely pretend once again that this wasn’t the case. The Ma government believes that promoting ECFA amounts to step-by-step improvement, and the gains will emerge over time.

Former president Lee Teng-hui, who repeatedly warned against the ECFA’s political implications, on Saturday joined a protest against signing the agreement. Ironically, KMT lawmakers had called on the opposition to cancel the anti-ECFA march because it was “driven by political motives”.

Many independence-minded Taiwanese consider Ma Ying-jeou and the KMT sellouts these days. Chiang Kai-shek and maybe Chiang Ching-kuo, too, might have considered them sellouts, too, even if for less modest reasons than the Taiwanese opposition now. And many bloggers from Taiwan have long deplored that international media bought the Chinese version of Taiwan being a “renegade province”, or that there had been a “split” between China and Taiwan in 1949. Michael Turton, a Taiwan-based blogger, jubilates that finally, given most recent international coverage on ECFA,

A number of media outlets are openly acknowledging that the purpose of ECFA is to drag Taiwan into China’s orbit, and not attributing that to the opposition as a mere claim. Thanks, guys. Now isn’t it time to deal with the ridiculous “split in 1949” formula?

Most of the media he quotes are Western. To some extent thanks to the efficiency of Chinese propaganda, and possibly for laziness on the other, the split theory is probably here to stay, at least for another while. Convenience may play a role, too. After all, the West’s main interest is hardly about Taiwanese self-determination. America can reserve the last word about Taiwan’s future to itself, as long as it stands behind the Taiwan Relations Act, and as long as it remains able to maintain a military edge over China – with or without ECFA.

Let’s face it: mainstream media are mainstream media. They are extremely useful sources of information – but only for a judgmental audience. For the “split” theory, frequently used by the BBC, too, Taiwan bloggers could help themselves to a cartoon made by Michael Cummings, published by the Daily Express on May 12, 1982, during the Falklands war. The BBC, back then, was heavily criticized for airing the views and positions of the military regime in Buenos Aires. Cumming’s cartoon was a historic recourse to World War One:

Traitorama »


Taiwan’s Unbelievable Justice, Sept 12, 2009
That was long ago, June 16, 2008

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