Tuesday, April 15, 2008

China and Taiwan negotiations back on track

By China Watcher

The meeting on late Saturday in Hainan Island, a province in Southern China, between the Vice President-elect Vincent Siew of Taiwan and Chinese President Hu Jintao was called “a gradual thawing of ice” after nearly a decade of deep frozen ties between the DPP’s President and the mainland leaders.

The strong elections showing in March 2008 by the Taiwan’s candidate from the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang), Ma Ying-Jeou, now the President-designate has given the Taiwanese people a measure of hope in improving economic relations and possibly, a discussion on the sensitive subject of reunification in the distant future.

Mr.Ma Ying-jeou will take office in Taipei on May 20, 2008.

What is important here is that negotiations are back on track and the people from both sides of the straits can look forward to a lessening of tensions brought about by the DPP’s President over the past 8 years. Negotiations are expected to be tough as both governments on each side of the straits would not like to be seen giving out too many concessions at too fast a pace to pacify its stakeholders.

I believe high on the agenda will be the enhancement of tourisms and the implementation of direct flights between the mainland and Taiwan. At present, there are no direct flights between the two governments as it had to transit to a third “country”, mainly though Hong Kong.

This meeting though is just a warm hand shake to exchange pleasantries but it is also an indication of warmer relation in the making. Peace talk and confidence building measures to reduce tensions will be the next item on the agenda but it will only be discussed after economic and cultural exchanges and direct linkages are introduced.

The easing of Taiwan's visas for Chinese tourists from mainland will provide an added boost to the weak and lackadaisical Taiwan’s tourism sector. The introduction of direct flights will reduce the time and costs of making trips to the mainland for the many Taiwanese investors and businessmen. Chinese investors will also be encouraged to invest in Taiwan to ensure that there is healthy flow of capital on both sides of the straits. More agricultural products will also be able to make it to the mainland if direct economic and trade ties are further improved.

I am confident that the next meeting of representatives will be an official discussion to enhance direct links and normal trade ties between the two sides. Weekend direct chartered flights will commence in the middle of the year and followed by commercial flights which may happen just before the Lunar Spring Festival in 2009. Political unification talks can be set aside for the future generations to settle where there would be a higher level of confidence among the people from both sides. There is no constraint of time as long as each side is willing to discuss under an environment promoting the current status quo – not going for independence but eventual unification when the time is ripe.

I believe Hong Kong’s impending direct elections between 2017 and 2020 will serve as an impetus for political changes on the mainland. By then, the discussion on the unification timeline will hopefully be less sensitive and the reality of a unified China will not be just a dream.

No comments: