TAIPEI (AP) - Taiwan and China open negotiations today in Beijing on a trade pact that seems destined to change the island’s character in a way not seen since it split from the Chinese mainland amid civil war 60 years ago.
The accord seeks to add momentum to Taiwan’s already improving relationship with China, reducing tariff barriers, liberalizing investment regulations and creating new structures for financial cooperation.
Debate on the accord has dominated political discourse on the island of 23 million people since the issue was broached by President Ma Ying-jeou’s China-friendly government a year ago.
It goes right to the heart of Taiwan’s future: Should it risk undermining its economic prospects by rejecting the embrace of China? Or should it cast its lot with the communist colossus, and increase the chances of losing its de facto independence and its hard-won democratic freedoms?
Ma and his ruling Nationalist Party don’t see things so starkly. They say they can maintain Taiwan’s sovereignty even while linking the island ever closer to China’s lucrative markets and in the process dilute Beijing’s long-standing objections to additional trade agreements between Taiwan and other Asian nations.