How far has China’s recent cooperation with Taiwan improved Cross-Strait Relations?
Cross Strait Relations refers to the intersecting political, military, economic, cultural and social relationships between Taiwan and Mainland China. Based on the One China Policy, Mainland China has always wanted to have reunification with Taiwan to fulfill its traditional Chinese political ideology. It can be said that China’s recent cooperation with Taiwan has indeed improved cross strait relations due to its economic, political and social cooperation. However, there are instances in which China’s initiative cooperation have backfired and instead, decreased cross strait relations.
- Economic Cooperation
Firstly, China’s efforts in economic cooperation with Taiwan have definitely improved cross strait relations due to increased economic interdependence. With the resumption of high level contact between Mainland China and Taiwan, it has resulted in improved and stronger financial relationships whereby Mainland Chinese investors would be permitted to invest in Taiwan’s money markets for the very first time since 1949 in 2008. With the barrier being removed, investors from Mainland China are able to apply to purchase Taiwan shares that do not exceed 1/10 of the value of the firm’s total shares. As such, this led to the improvement of Taiwan’s economy as Taiwan firms are able to benefit from the Chinese investments. At the same time, it is known that this cooperation is initiated by China was to place restrictions on the mainland Chinese investments. Thereby, with this mutual economic inter-dependency , both countries would be more willing to have peaceful cooperation in order to protect their self-interest which ultimately improves the cross strait relations.
At the same time, with the resumption of high level contact between Mainland China and Taiwan, it has led to more successful and efficient economic pacts made between both parties. With the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between both Mainland China and Taiwan, it would increase output by NT$11 billion and create about 34,000 jobs in the Five Special Municipalities – Taipei, Xinbei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. Therefore, this economic cooperation by China has indirectly created Taiwan’s reliance and inter-dependency on Mainland China, ultimately improving cross strait relations as both parties would be more cautious with one another
- Political Cooperation
Secondly, China’s political cooperation with Taiwan has too, improved the cross strait relations due to China’s openness and willingness to negotiate with Taiwan. The PRC administration loosened its rhetoric in relation in Taiwan and pursued contact with apolitical or political non-independence leaning groups in Taiwan. This is seen as a huge step made by Mainland China as it is the first time that the PRC government authoritatively committed to negotiations on the basis of equal status between the two sides, and further refrained from imposed the “One China Policy” as a permanent precondition for talks. As such, this has made having negotiations significantly easier. In 2008, semi governments contacts maintained through the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) that have previously discontinued due to political differences have resumed. It is through these organizations that both parties agree on having direct flights between the two sides and that Taiwan would allow entrance of up to 3,000 visitors from Mainland China every day. Therefore, political cooperation has indeed improved the cross strait relations as it has led to better communication between both parties.
- Social and Cultural Cooperation
Social and cultural cooperation with Taiwan is also another factor that improved the cross strait relations. This is so as Taiwan and Mainland China, despite sharing similar history, their cultures and traditional practices are of stark difference. As such, cultural cooperation and appreciation is of outpost significance. The frequency of cultural exchanges have also increased throughout the years as seen in the collaboration between the National Palace Museum in Taipei and the Palace Museum in Beijing on their exhibits in 2009. In addition, Mainland China also made efforts by offering students of Taiwan origin special concessions in the National Higher Education Entrance Exams in Mainland China, giving them additional leverage, Therefore, China’s initiative to foster and embrace the cultural differences between Taiwan and Mainland China and their efforts to appease the Taiwanese fundamentally improved cross strait relations.
- Military Cooperation
However, there are instances in which China’s cooperation have backfired and instead, worsened cross strait relations. Some examples would include China’s military cooperation. It is known that Mainland China, Beijing’s strategy of national reunification with Taiwan had oscillated between military coercion and peaceful means. As such, China’s efforts to provide military aid to Taiwan when eastern Taiwan was ravaged by a powerful typhoon in 2009 was seen as a huge shock to the world. However, China’s attempts at military cooperation came to naught as Taiwan rejected its offer and instead, accepted help from US military. This action by Taiwan has resulted in negative sentiments amongst Mainland China as this action was perceived as Taiwan’s unwillingness to improve cross strait relations. Thereby, worsened cross strait relations even though Mainland China opted to remain silent.
- USA’s close ties with Taiwan
Furthermore, USA’s close ties with Taiwan have also affected Mainland China’s Cooperative stance towards Taiwan. With USA’s continued military sales to Taiwan for its defense, as well as the possibility of extending its Theatre Missile Defense (TMD) strategy to Taiwan, this drew a forceful reaction from Mainland China as this was viewed upon as Taiwan being able to reduce China’s military clout which possibly increased Taiwan’s capability of declaring independence without fearing the threat from China’s military. In retaliation, China warned the US and Taiwan that their cooperation could suffer due to US’s decision to sell weapons to Taiwan. This whole spectacle has ultimately resulted in the worsening of cross strait relations.
On a whole, it is undeniable that China’s cooperation has indeed improved cross strait relations. However, it is ultimately up to Taiwan as to whether they would be willing to accept this cooperation, only then which cross strait relations can be fully resolved.