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China-Taiwan

In early 2009, the Ma administration in Taipei and the Chinese government in Beijing began seriously discussing the possibility of signing a free trade agreement between the two. The stakes are quite large and so is the controversy around any such deal. Ever since 1949, when nationalists fled the mainland, China considers Taiwan a breakaway province that should fall under Beijing’s rule. Taiwan, on the other hand, has been trying to build and maintain its autonomy as a sovereign democratic state. Military tensions have surrounded this antagonistic relationship for 60 years, while China has been quite successful in asserting its "one China" policy among the world’s governments and alienating Taiwan diplomatically.

The new urge to sign an FTA comes after the nationalists lost power in Taiwan’s 2008 elections. China is, in fact, Taiwan’s top trading partner. Taiwanese businesses have built up strong investments in the mainland and the island’s political leadership is particularly concerned about losing economic strength in Asia once the China-ASEAN FTA starts coming into force in 2010.

The big question is whether a China-Taiwan FTA would trigger the start of Taiwan’s transition toward effective economic and political control by Beijing ("reunification"). In this regard, people have even been fighting over the possible name of the FTA. Taiwanese opposition forces insist that it should not be called a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, as originally proposed, because that is what China’s FTAs with Macao and Hong Kong are called. (Therefore, calling it a CEPA would insinuate that Taiwan has the same political status as these two special administrative regions of China.)

In June 2010, the governments of China and Taiwan signed an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) which took effect in September 2010. The two governments intend to complete negotiations under this agreement by 2014. There have been major protests and much criticism of the deal in Taiwan.

last update: May 2012
Photo: WaDaNaBe / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Cross-Straits trade agreements stall
Lawmakers in Taiwan Monday confirmed that negotiations on a series of economic measures between the island and the Chinese mainland have halted in the wake of disruptive protests in Taipei in March.
Taiwan, China to pursue free trade despite pact delays: Siew
Taiwan and China will continue to pursue more liberalized bilateral trade, despite delays in the progress of two trade pacts with China, Taiwan’s former vice president Vincent Siew said on Wednesday.
“Sunflower revolution” in Taiwan : STOP police brutality, NO to free trade agreements NOW!
Taiwan Rural Front and Taiwan Farmers Union launch an emergency appeal for international solidarity against current administration’s rush for cross-strait free trade agreement and excessive use of police force.
Official denies ’black-box’ operation in China pact negotiations
No "black-box" operations were involved in negotiations over the trade-in-services agreement with China, a Taiwanese official told foreign officials Wednesday during a briefing on the controversial cross-strait pact.
SUNFLOWER SIEGE AFTERMATH: FTAs are critical for competitiveness: representative to US
New Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) on Friday said that the signing of free-trade agreements (FTAs) is critical to Taiwan’s competitive edge and its economic future.
TRADE PACT SIEGE: Student leaders host talk on protest on Reddit site
Student leaders of the Sunflower movement yesterday hosted a question-and-answer session on the US-based community platform Reddit to answer questions from around the world about their protest, in another effort to use their expertise in social networking technology to communicate with the outside world.
Large crowds fill Taipei streets in protest over China trade bill
More than 100,000 demonstrators — some television news stations put the number as high as 700,000 — took to the streets of Taipei on Sunday to protest efforts by the government to approve a trade pact with China and to show support for the students who have occupied Taiwan’s Legislature for nearly two weeks.
Taiwan’s students head to the streets with sunflowers to protest closer ties with China
The students call their protest against the China-Taiwan trade agreement "the sunflower revolution" as the flower is a symbol of hope. Some professors have moved classes to the demonstrations sites themselves.
TRADE PACT SIEGE: Survey shows public favors students’ demands
About 80 percent of Taiwnese people polled this week express support for the demands made by students protesting against the controversial cross-strait services trade agreement.
Taiwan’s sunflower protests explained
This initial act of civil disobedience has blossomed into a wider political movement.