Restoration of economic autonomy apriority
By Paul Lin 林保華

Taipei Timws  2015.5.26


While answering questions regarding what

she plans to talk about on her upcoming

visit to the US, Democratic Progressive

Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡

英文) said that the US places a high

degree of importance on Taiwan’s

ability to maintain an independent and

autonomous economic system.

It is the first time the US has raised

the issue of Taiwan’s economic

independence. This is because, without

economic autonomy, there can be no

political autonomy, or, to put it

another way: Commerce can be used to

usurp a nation’s political


In June last year, former US secretary

of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, in an

interview with the Chinese-language

Business Weekly, warned Taiwan in no

uncertain terms that it had reached a

tipping point and should consider how

far it is willing to open up its economy

to China, because once economic

independence is lost, political autonomy

would then be affected.

Although Clinton is no longer secretary

of state, she remains politically

influential. The interview took place

after the Sunflower movement had

exploded onto the political stage and

showed that Clinton maintains a keen

interest in global affairs.

The White House has surely taken in

Clinton’s views and is paying close

attention to Taiwan’s economic

autonomy. It has also appointed Clinton

’s former deputy at the US Department

of State, Kin Moy, as director of the

American Institute in Taiwan.

Late last month, an anonymous Department

of State official provided further

background information in an e-mail. The

official said that the US encourages

officials from Beijing and Taipei to

continue their constructive dialogue and

that this development has brought about

marked progress in cross-strait

relations, but that the detail, speed

and scope of cross-strait interaction

should be acceptable to the people on

both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Particular attention should be paid to

the official’s choice of words. The key

words here are “constructive dialogue.

” By using the adjective

“constructive,” the author is calling

for a mutually-beneficial outcome, one

that is advantageous to Taiwan and does

not harm the nation’s interests. The

phrase “should be acceptable to the

people on both sides of the Taiwan

Strait” means that any agreement should

be acceptable to all 23 million


President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九)

approval ratings clearly demonstrate

that the public does not accept his

administration’s China policy,

including Chinese Nationalist Party

(KMT) Chairman Eric Chu’s (朱立倫)

recent remark that the “two sides

belong to one China.”

A serious threat to Taiwan’s economic

independence has happened under Ma’s

watch, yet his administration continues

to relax controls on Taiwanese

investment in China, while ignoring the

limitations of his China policy and

brushing aside public scrutiny. Ma needs

to be reminded that the so-called

“cross-strait relationship” is not

simply about bringing peace between the

two sides, it is also about the wage

deflation that the cross-strait economic

relationship has brought to Taiwan, and

the public’s struggle to make ends


With Taiwan’s economy already severely

dependent on China, an attack could come

at any time. In order to bolster Taiwan

’s autonomy, the US is likely to adopt

a more positive and flexible approach

when it signs the Trans-Pacific

Partnership with Taiwan, resist China’s

meddling and finally put into practice

the long-awaited Asia-Pacific


However, Taiwan should make concessions,

too. If the DPP regains office, the

party must work hard to restore the

economic autonomy that has been

destroyed under the Ma administration.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Edward Jones


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