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Bricks in PRC wall locking in Taiwan

Bricks in PRC wall locking in Taiwan

More bricks in the Chinese wall locking Taiwan into the orbit of the authoritarian People's Republic of China will be put in place this weekend by Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin and his Taipei counterpart Strait Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Ping-kun in Nanjing.
Ostensibly, the third meeting between the SEF-ARATS proxies since the restoration of the right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) government under President Ma Ying-jeou last May will be devoted to the signing or ratification in principle of four "economic" agreements, including measures to allow "mainland capital" from the Chinese Communist Party-ruled PRC to be invested in Taiwan, to expand and regularize cross-strait commercial air links, to regulate cross-strait financial services and to enhance judicial assistance for cross-strait criminal activity.
The new agreements hold out new promised benefits to "save" the Taiwan economy, including opening the PRC's doors to the establishment of bank branches or other financial investments by Taiwan's financial holding companies, the opening up of flights to more Chinese cities where Taiwan tourists and businessmen can spend more money, the possibility of "living water" or capital inflows from PRC enterprises into capital rich Taiwan, and the remote possibility that some notorious Taiwan economic criminals might be returned to face either justice or, perhaps, pardons.
Since these agreements sound innocent enough and since President Ma has just reaffirmed that his government will focus "exclusively" on "economics first" in the cross-strait detente, pro-KMT and pro-China pundits alike maintain that Taiwan citizens have nothing to worry about and much to gain.
As proclaimed by an editorial in the "China Times" daily newspaper Tuesday,"Taiwan Cannot Hesitate When Facing the Rising China."
The invisible print
However, the question that everyone should be asking in the face of this vision of cornucopia is: "If these agreements are so good for Taiwan, what does the PRC side get?"
As in the case of the first six SEF-ARATS pacts, all of which were actually negotiated by the secretive KMT-CCP "party-to-party" platform, the answer largely lies in both the proverbial "small print" and the attached "invisible print."
For example, the touted "breakthrough" agreements that opened direct cross-strait commercial marine and air links both denigrated Taiwan's status by treating such routes as "domestic" through the exclusion of foreign carriers and thus also harmed Taiwan commercial interests by excluding the vast majority of Taiwan-owned ships which fly foreign flags of convenience and by refusing to extend "fifth freedom" or onward passage rights for even Taiwan airlines.
The four pacts to be rubber-stamped in Nanjing will undoubtedly benefit some Taiwan businesses but promise to inflict even greater damage on our overall economic and political autonomy and future development prospects.
After all, anyone who lived in Hong Kong in the 1980s and 1990s can see what PRC firms want in Taiwan: economic, financial and political control.
For example, the failure to include onward flight rights in the new pact will reduce Taiwan into a "commercial air dependency" of the PRC, whose airports will gain control over the lion's share of lucrative "hub" onward connections. Given the widespread claim that Taiwan is rich in capital but short on "investment opportunities" (at least for myopic Taiwan investors), the influx of PRC state-owned companies, with the assistance of local proxies, will be able to use the maximum of 30 percent ownership to secure effective managerial control over Taiwan companies and their technology or knowhow in most economic fields, including telecommunications and news media, snare public works contracts and channels for patronage, and, with investments in hotels and travel companies, secure control over the bulk of renminbi spent in Taiwan by Chinese tourists.
The imminent financial services memorandum of understanding (MOU), which even KMT lawmakers have warned will result in "Money Out" of Taiwan, will offer the PRC's giant state banks channels to control over even more Taiwan capital and access to up-to-date inside financial information on Taiwan companies and any citizen who has a credit or finance card, access which will undoubtedly be utilized for political as well as commercial purposes.
Moreover, the obvious "quid pro quo" that Beijing will overtly or covertly demand for an agreement to "fight cross-strait crime" and any grudging assistance in sending "economic criminals" back to Taiwan will be "reciprocal" assistance in securing the "return," expulsion from Taiwan or control of political dissidents, perhaps painted as "terrorists," such as advocates of Tibetan independence or Chinese democracy.
Last but not least, the insistence by Ma and the KMT government that these agreements have nothing to do with "politics" or Taiwan's sovereignty means that no "firewalls" will be set in place to prevent PRC interests from expanding political influence in Taiwan in the pattern of the China Resources Group and the Xinhua News Agency in Hong Kong.
To paraphrase the words of the British rock group Pink Floyd, these pacts "will just be more bricks in The Wall" being built by the KMT and CCP to suffocate Taiwan's economic vitality and democracy.