The thawing of relations between Taiwan and China over the past year
has brought unprecedented economic exchanges between the long-time
rivals. But critics say the
government is moving too fast in reconciling with Beijing.
Wallace Kou, chief executive officer of Silicon Motion, warming
relations between Taiwan and China promise to benefit his company.
Silicon Motion has research and manufacturing sites in China.
believe the China region is the most important region for us to grow,
for our future," said Kou. "That's because of the people, the
population, its internal need and also exports. Southern China is the
largest consumer electronics manufacturing site. They are moving to the
3G [third generation mobile phone technology] era, so it becomes a lot
of business opportunity for us to grow."
Despite 60 years of
rivalry, China is Taiwan's biggest trading partner, and the top
destination of Taiwanese foreign investment. This relationship has
developed despite restrictions on both sides of the Taiwan Strait on
dealing with the other.
The Nationalist Kuomintang fled to
Taiwan and established a separate government here in 1949 after the
Chinese civil war. Now a Kuomintang-led government is taking a bold
move by proposing to enter into an economic cooperation agreement known
as ECFA to normalize trade and economic ties with China.
Taipei government says the agreement will widen the market for Taiwan's
exports. And it says the deal makes the island an attractive trade
partner for other economies, which could help Taiwan climb out of its
Over the past year, both sides have established direct air, naval and postal links.
Liu Te-Shun is the deputy minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, the agency in-charge of relations with China.
says the agreement hopes to bring more Chinese investments into Taiwan,
just as Taiwanese capital poured into the mainland in the past.
Schive Chi's office bus loads of mainland tourists disembark to see
Taipei 101, one of the world's tallest buildings. Chi is the chairman
of Taiwan's Stock Exchange.
"They [the Chinese] like this
place, talk the same language and now it's just [a matter of] whether
or not you can convince them that ...this place is a safe place for
them," he said.
He says enhanced relations have raised both local and foreign investor confidence in the stock market.
"That removed one of the very critical concerns from our local investors' point of view," Chi said.
Moving too fast for reunification?
But many Taiwan residents are unconvinced about the agreement. In May, tens of thousands marched in Taipei against it.
considers Taiwan part of its territory, which must be reunited with the
mainland, by force if necessary. Many, like this demonstrator, fear
that ECFA will be the beginning of an irreversible process toward
"We in Taiwan will not accept China annexing
[swallowing up] us," said Chi. "We want self-determination. We want
to decide our own name [title]. Our authority is our own to decide.
We don't want foreign political powers controlling our Taiwan."
two previous presidents advocated greater independence from the
mainland. And opposition parties continue to call policies that foster
the island's separate identity.
Hsiao Bi-Khim, director of the
opposition Democratic Progressive Party's international affairs
department, says the government is moving too fast without adequate
"We feel such an agreement would make
Taiwan too dependent on China and neither does it guarantee that we
would have greater room to engage with other major economies around the
world. On the political side, there are many people in our party that
feel that too many compromises have been made," said Hsiao.
of the Mainland Affairs Council says the government listens to public
opinion and that recent polls indicate most people see the economic
gains of warming ties with Beijing.
The DPP wants all of Taiwan
to have a say on the issue and has started a campaign for a referendum
on the agreement. As Taiwan nears the 60th anniversary of its split
from China, talk about its future remains fraught with much debate.