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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


Taiwanese remain skeptical about free trade deal with China
Despite a persistent propaganda campaign by Ma’s Kuomintang (KMT) administration, most Taiwanese people appear to continue to worry that any kind of free trade agreement with Beijing will expose domestic industries to the threat of cheap, subsidized Chinese products.
Taiwan workers protest against planned China deal
Thousands of Taiwanese people took to the streets of the capital on Saturday for a labour day protest against a planned trade pact with China that they say will threaten the island’s workforce.
Taiwan: Thousands protest for workers’ rights
Exclusion of labor issues from ECFA [China-Taiwan FTA] negotiations and the increasing rates of temporary hiring brought more than 10,000 people to the streets
Tsai wants ECFA referendum in 2012 if DPP wins election
Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen wants a referendum to abrogate the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China if her party regains power in the 2012 presidential election, reports said yesterday.
Taiwan President Ma and DPP Chairwoman Tsai spar in historic ECFA debate
Taiwan President Ma and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen had their first ever televised debate on the country’s proposed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China
Scholars debate ECFA’s pros and cons
Scholars debated the possible benefits and disadvantages of a proposed cross-Taiwan Strait trade agreement at a seminar Friday in a possible preview of Sunday’s showdown on the issue between President Ma Ying-jeou and the head of the main opposition party.
Taiwan’s priority list more comprehensive than China’s: MOEA
A priority "early harvest" list prepared by Taiwan as part of negotiations on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China is more comprehensive than China’s, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang said Thursday.
Taiwan activists want to rally 1 million protesters against ECFA with China on June 6
Taiwan-centric groups said Wednesday they wanted to rally 1 million people on June 6 for a protest against government plans for an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China.
China ECFA debate about more than economy: Taiwan white-collar alliance
Taiwan’s April 25 televised debate about the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement project should discuss more than just the economy, an alliance of ECFA opponents said Sunday. Meanwhile, opposition groups are hoping to rally 1 million people islandwide for anti-ECFA protests on June 6.
Taiwanese need to have referendum about ECFA
Talks on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) are ongoing, but Taiwan has already made a series of major compromises to facilitate the inflow of Chinese capital, in what could be characterized as a downpayment on the ECFA.