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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times SEF-ARATS talks subvert Taiwanese sovereignty

SEF-ARATS talks subvert Taiwanese sovereignty

The resumption of talks between the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) has been flaunted by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as one of his major political achievements. With the fourth round of talks between SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) scheduled for next month, how should we assess these high-level talks?

The agreements signed during the previous three rounds of SEF-ARATS talks were all limited to economic issues, ranging from cross-strait postal services and regular flights to Chinese tourists and investment coming to Taiwan. However, now there are reports that the regular flight services may be reduced. Not only is the inflow of Chinese tourists to Taiwan unsteady, but China’s political maneuvers include its tourist boycott of Kaohsiung following the screening of a documentary on World Uyghur Congress president Rebiya Kadeer at the Kaohsiung Film Festival earlier this year. The contaminated Chinese milk powder scandal also remains to be settled.

All this suggests that these economic agreements with China did not benefit the Taiwanese economy, but instead have begun edging out existing foreign economic and trade cooperation.

Furthermore, the SEF-ARATS talks have thrown light on problems facing Taiwanese democracy. Since the four agreements reached during the second round of talks circumvented legislative review through technical measures, future cross-strait agreements will probably be treated in the same way. Referendum proposals on legislative oversight initiated by civic groups are blocked by the administration.

This practice of dodging legislative supervision has not only led to a confidence crisis for the Ma government, but people have also started to question the democratic system’s ability to defend their right to self-­determination — another root cause of the problems surrounding the government’s plan to relax restrictions on US beef imports.

The previous SEF-ARATS talks have systematically sabotaged Taiwan’s sovereignty. To pave the way for Chen’s visit to Taipei last year, Ma told the international media that Taiwan was not a country, and, worse yet, agreed that Chen would not have to address him as “president” in front of international media outlets.

Ma denied the nation’s status during the second round of SEF-ARATS talks, and now has apparently begun to accept Beijing’s “one China” principle in the run-up to the fourth round of talks. This is contradictory to the position he held during his term as Mainland Affairs Council vice chairman that the Republic of China is a sovereign, independent nation that is not subordinate to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Although only economic issues will be discussed at the coming round of talks, the political significance has been emphasized since Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) pledged to complete unification with Taiwan in his address on the 60th anniversary of the PRC.

The meeting between then-SEF chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) and then-ARATS chairman Wang Daohan (汪道涵) in the 1990s highlighted the equal status of China and Taiwan as well as Taiwanese democracy, whereas the recent SEF-ARATS talks have witnessed Taiwan denying its own sovereignty and being marginalized.

In the face of this great crisis, let us support the People’s Sovereignty Movement and their attempt to prevent the SEF-ARATS talks from harming Taiwan even further.



Lai I-chung is director of foreign policy studies at the Taiwan Thinktank.

TRANSLATED BY TED YANG

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2009/11/20



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Newsflash

Taiwan should prepare for the “possibility of a very difficult period ahead for US policy in the cross-strait area,” a Washington symposium heard on Tuesday.

Steven Goldstein, director of the Taiwan Studies Workshop at Harvard University, said he was “quite pessimistic” about the future.