Thursday, January 6, 2011

Taiwan’s Strides Toward China Accelerate

How long before Beijing has complete control over the island nation?
On December 4, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry forecast that Taiwan could return to China’s control before President Barack Obama’s first presidential term is over. One month later, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou delivered a New Year’s address that outlined Taiwan’s future as one that will position it much nearer to China—bringing the scenario that Mr. Flurry forecast much closer to fulfillment. The rapidly warming relations between Taipei and Beijing bode poorly for the United States and its allies.
Turmoil has thrived between Beijing and Taipei ever since Taiwan’s establishment in 1949, when Chinese Communists fought Kuomintang soldiers off the mainland and onto Taiwan, effectively dividing the nation into two but still claiming rule over the island. But when Ma came into office in 2008, he made conciliatory overtures toward Beijing, and cross-Strait friction began to diminish. Ma’s most recent remarks show that the relationship is on course to warm drastically.
“The two sides of the Taiwan Strait should not quarrel over political power, independence versus reunification, or Taiwan’s breathing room on the international stage,” the president said. “We should instead focus on encouraging and helping each other grow in terms of the core values of freedom, democracy, human rights and rule of law.”
Ma explained that since people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait share common ancestry, they should build mutual trust and dispel their disagreements. Their common culture, Ma said, should give Taiwan and China the wisdom to find satisfactory solutions to their quarrels.
And the thawing tensions extend far beyond words.
On January 3, Taiwanese media reported that Taipei has scrapped its plans to deploy its powerful new “Thunder 2000″ rocket system on islands near mainland China. Analysts believe Beijing could respond by reducing its battery of Taiwan-aimed missiles.
Two weeks earlier, Beijing and Taipei signed deals regarding drug development and disease outbreaks, the latest in a long string of agreements between the two sides.
On January 4, China and Taiwan tightened their economic ties by implementing a pivotal phase of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ecfa) called the “early harvest program.” Under the deal, China has cut tariffs on 539 Taiwanese products and Taiwan has reduced duties for 267 Chinese goods. By 2013, all of the duties on those goods will come down to zero.
Also on the same day, in an indication of strengthening cultural ties, Taiwan’s Education Ministry announced that the island’s universities will admit their first batch of Chinese students this year.
The warming relationship between China and Taiwan is bad news for the U.S. and its allies that are concerned about China’s ascendancy. For many years, Taiwan has been the best location from which to monitor China’s rise because of both the island’s advanced information technology and its proximity to China. Shared language, ethnicity and culture also allow Taiwanese spies to blend into Chinese society, giving them a great advantage in their reconnaissance mission. But now Taiwan appears to be questioning its role of being the eyes and ears for other nations. Reports say that Ma has already halted the activities of some Taiwanese spy agents operating in China, and is now planning to stop sharing intelligence with the U.S. and its allies.
The relationship between Taiwan and Beijing has warmed significantly even since Mr. Flurry’s prediction at the beginning of December. We can expect China’s gentle approach to likely continue until Taiwan is offered something similar to the status Hong Kong currently holds. If Taipei were to refuse China’s advances, Beijing would probably respond with threats of force—but under Ma’s Beijing-friendly rule, such refusals are becoming less and less likely.