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Tsai will never succeed in severing cross-Straits ties

By Li Zhenguang | China Daily | Updated: 2020-08-12 07:28
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Tsai Ing-wen. [Photo/Agencies]

The pro-independence ruling Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan has been making desperate attempts to decouple the Chinese mainland and Taiwan economies. Yet data released by the Taiwan authorities show that the island's exports to the mainland have been increasing, not decreasing-and crossed the export volume between 2008 and 2016 when Ma Ying-jeou of Kuomintang was the leader of the island.

The Taiwan media have reported that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the island's foreign trade has shrunk, and its exports have dropped for four consecutive months since March, with June seeing the sharpest decline of 3.8 percent. In contrast, Taiwan's trade with the mainland has been growing. In the first half of the year, the island's exports to the mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region increased 9.8 percent year-on-year.

Although Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen has been pushing a "new southbound policy" to boost trade with ASEAN member states since taking office in 2016 as part of her campaign to sever historical and cultural links with the mainland, the island's exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations declined 4.8 percent year-on-year in the first six months of 2020 and accounted for only 15.7 percent of its total exports compared with 42.3 percent with the mainland.

The positive growth of the island's trade with the mainland despite the impact of pandemic can be attributed to the legacy of the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations and the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement left by the Ma administration, and the mainland's huge market.

The pandemic has not dampened the enthusiasm of Taiwan businesspeople either to expand trade with the mainland. The island's investment on the mainland has seen a year-on-year increase of $3.17 billion, more than 50 percent, in the first six months. The increase was particularly sharp in June, when it grew 186 percent year-on-year.

The mainland and Taiwan economies are closely intertwined, and Taiwan businesses' growing investment on the mainland indicates the DPP's failure to terminate cross-Straits trade exchanges. The mainland and Taiwan have forged close economic ties since the mid-1980s. In particular, in 2008, when Ma became the leader of the island, apart from establishing "Three Links" in mail services, trade and direct travel across the Straits, the two sides also signed a series of trade agreements such as the ECFA, which significantly boosted cross-Straits trade exchanges.

The integration of the mainland and Taiwan economies has created a huge and stable market for Taiwan while frustrating separatists' efforts to divide the country.

Upholding "Taiwan independence", the DPP has exhausted itself in its efforts to sever cross-Straits ties. Apart from indulging in de-Sinicization activities such as tempering with school textbooks in an attempt to turn the island into a hotbed of secessionists, the DPP has also been using all sorts of tricks to hinder cross-Straits economic exchanges.

Since coming to power in 2016, the pro-independence DPP has been trying to entice Taiwan businesspeople with subsidies to cut off the supply chains of the mainland and return to the island. Aside from introducing the "new southbound policy", the Tsai administration is also pressuring Taiwan businesspeople to shift their investments from the mainland to ASEAN member states. For those reluctant to follow its diktats, the Tsai administration is manipulating the media and public opinion to force them to change their decision.

But despite using all means, the efforts of Tsai and her DPP have been in vain. This is evident from the growing economic exchanges between the mainland and Taiwan, which once again proves that no matter how much the Tsai administration tries, it can never sever cross-Straits ties.

Taiwan has a huge trade surplus, between $70 billion and $80 billion, with the mainland every year-$37 billion in the first six months of this year alone-which is of huge importance to the island's economy, especially amid the pandemic-induced global economic downturn. Also, growing cross-Straits trade could help the mainland to boost its economic recovery.

The close link between the mainland and Taiwan economies is in line with the law of the market and cannot be changed by Tsai's destructive politics. And with the mainland's economy returning to the growth track, the economic ties between the two sides of the Straits can only get stronger.

If the DPP still insists on decoupling the mainland and Taiwan economies, it will have to bear the consequences-a devastating blow to the island's economy and rising unemployment-which unfortunately will force Taiwan compatriots to pay for the follies of the ruling party.

The author is a professor at the Institute of Taiwan Studies, Beijing Union University.

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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