A Taiwanese attorney explains in brief summary how the Cross Straits Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) between Taiwan and China will increasingly put the former in political jeopardy – an increasing dependence on the latter that, many fear, will eventually end up with a ‘complete Chinese reunification’.
The original essay is available on the attorney’s Facebook account (only in Mandarin). The translation itself, meanwhile, can also be read on Tea Leaf Nation. And here I’ve copied the essay’s translation below.
China, We Fear YouBy Richard Chiou-yuan Lu on March 22, 2014
Many people don’t understand what the CSSTA says, so some protesters don’t even know why they oppose it. No one in Taiwan dares to write in support of the pact because sentiment here has almost reached the point where anyone who dares to support the CSSTA is seen as a traitor. But could Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou really have been that flagrant in selling us out? If everyone believes that the agreement is bad for Taiwan, why did Ma insist on signing it?
Put simply, the CSSTA opens up cross-strait investment in the service sector. In the future, Taiwanese investors will have far more latitude in China to go into sectors like hospitals, publishing, tutoring, and banking. The same will be true of Chinese investors here. For Taiwanese financiers, the benefits absolutely outweigh the drawbacks. For average Taiwanese people, if they don’t mind having a Chinese boss, there will be more jobs because increased investment in Taiwan will bring about more employment opportunities.
In fact, according to the pact, China will open up more sectors to us (80) than we to them (64). If our legislature had voted on the agreement one provision at a time, it would not have been favorable for us, because the whole negotiation would need to be reopened. In renegotiation, it’s unreasonable to expect China to let us insert yet more provisions that work for us but not demand something in return.
If the CSSTA were with any other country, it would be acceptable. If Japan’s economy opened up to Taiwanese capital and Japanese companies were to set up branches here, and there ended up being Japanese people all over our streets, would that be so bad? Not for Japanophiles like me. But Japan would not give us these favorable terms because it would insist on equal exchange and not give an inch in negotiations. As economists say, there’s no free lunch. Why should China act any differently?
Kids, we all know China “loves” us. They want us to return to the “motherland” as soon as possible. But first they have to seize our economy by its lifeline. If one day our convenience stores and supermarkets become Chinese-owned, the Taiwan Taxi company is renamed Chinese Taiwan Taxi, our bank and credit card records are sent to headquarters in Beijing, and directors of our top hospitals are replaced by Chinese, can we accept that?
The truth is, the Taiwanese companies that can afford to set up branches in China are large conglomerates, and those Taiwanese profiting the most from the CSSTA are tycoons and their families, not your family or mine. As far as Chinese companies are concerned, their investment in Taiwan is a drop in the bucket that won’t affect their overall operations. And those Chinese companies are deeply influenced by their political system. If Taiwan were to hold a referendum on independence, the Chinese government might order its companies to cease operations in Taiwan. For example, our convenience stores would close and our taxi service would stop, assuming they had Chinese investment, and Beijing would have our credit card records and hospital records in hand. With such a scenario staring us in the face, could we still hold the referendum?
This is not as far-fetched as it may sound. Something like this has already happened to our media when the Want Want Group, which has significant business in China, acquired the China Times, one of Taiwan’s largest newspapers, in November 2008. People’s Daily, China’s widely reviled Communist Party mouthpiece, is probably better than what the China Times has become today.
The truth is that if the counterparty to the agreement were a country other than China — or a democratized China that would treat Taiwan as an equal and stop trying to achieve its political agenda through business, and didn’t want to swallow us up — we’d happily accept the pact. Take the words from the above paragraphs and insert “Japan” or “the United States” in place of China — there would be no issue. When Taiwan signed a free trade agreement with New Zealand in June 2013, the public wasn’t out for blood then.
But why is it that when it comes to China, we won’t give an inch? It’s because we’re afraid of you, China. Really. We’re very afraid.
Bonus: read another research paper by Brookings Institution to understand more about Taiwanese economy.