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Economic Daily News: Reality of Taiwan's joining regional cooperation

Two Chinese initiatives to establish a regional financial institution dubbed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and promote the development of "One Belt, One Road" were the central topics of the 2015 Boao Forum for Asia, held in the Chinese province of Hainan March 26-29. At that event, Taiwan spelled out its desire to join the AIIB and the "One, Belt, One Road" -- short for the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road -- initiative. China's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (???) told the press in Boao that Taiwan no doubt has the chance to join the AIIB. And in its vision and action plan for the economic integration approaches, Beijing said it will make appropriate arrangements for Taiwan, although it failed to elaborate on what these arrangements might entail. The positive attitude of the President Ma Ying-jeou administration toward the initiatives will help Taiwan's role in regional economic development but will also force the country to face political and economic realities. The blueprint for the "One Belt, One Road" initiative remains unclear, apart from Beijing describing it as a link that connects Asia, Europe and Africa, and saying that the goal of the initiative is joint prosperity and development. Different from the free trade zone-centered regional economic integration model, the "One Belt, One Road" is described as an opening regional cooperation idea. For the idea to become reality, Beijing, therefore, proposed the establishment of the AIIB, through which it said funds to the tune of US$100 billion will be raised for infrastructure construction plans in Asian nations to help regional links. Taiwan is an important economy in Asia and plays an indispensable role in the global supply chain. For Asia's future development, Taiwan can provide value-added resources. However, China-involved political factors bring the country an increasing risk of being economically marginized in the region. The political challenges facing Taiwan are expected to be relatively small in the "One Belt, One Road" initiative, a regional cooperation system with many business opportunities that Taiwan is hoping for. But Taiwan must first join the AIIB to gain access, which will bring it back to sensitive political problems. Facing Beijing's "one China" principle, Taiwan's identity and designation in the proposed regional financial facility will become difficult political hurdles. Also, cross-Taiwan Strait communication channels will be a problem, as Beijing never treats cross-strait affairs as diplomatic matters. Cross-strait affairs have always been handled through talks presided over by China's Taiwan Affairs Office and Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council. Now that the cross-strait policy of the Ma government has failed to win the support of opposition parties and some civic groups, its motion to join the AIIB, which will involve Taiwan's national identity and designation, is expected to be regarded by opposition activists as a political move. Negotiations on the issue will for sure spark great disputes in Taiwan, leading the Ma government and the ruling Kuomintang into a deeper dark hole. There is an old saying that "haste makes waste." It is important for Taiwan to join the AIIB, but right now, it should focus on communications between the Legislature and society to achieve internal consensus. Political wisdom and patient communication are the keys to resolving cross-strait problems. (Editorial abstract - March 30, 2015) (By Elizabeth Hsu)

Updated : 2021-09-27 19:41 GMT+08:00