The strained cross-Straits relations have dealt a blow to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits and, as a result, the prospects for Taiwan's economy appear dim.
According to statistics from Taiwan, cross-Straits trade accounted for 33 percent of the Chinese island's total external trade last year, compared with 28.6 percent in 2011. In the first quarter of this year alone, cross-Straits trade reached $165.24 billion, up 9.5 percent year-on-year. Such growth may not be possible if cross-Straits ties remain strained.
To boost cross-Straits trade and spur the economic growth of Taiwan, the Chinese mainland's efforts alone are not enough. The island authorities too have to show sincerity and make efforts to deepen cross-Straits economic and trade cooperation. And if the island authorities do not do so, the innocent Taiwan residents will suffer.
The mainland has always attached great importance to Taiwan's economic growth and mutually beneficial trade across the Straits.
Triggered by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's reckless visit to Taiwan on Aug 2, the present cross-Straits crisis is the most serious since the military standoff across the Straits in 1995-96. Yet for the good of both sides of the Straits, the mainland does not want a military conflict, although it will not desist from using force to reunify the island with the motherland.
The two economies across the Straits are highly complementary. The mainland provides Taiwan with abundant factors of production and a vast market, and Taiwan, as a global leader in chip manufacturing, has helped boost the high-tech industries on the mainland. So a stable cross-Straits environment is needed to deepen economic and trade cooperation between the two sides and achieve win-win results.
That's why despite the high tensions across the Straits, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said the mainland will, as always, warmly welcome and support Taiwan compatriots to come to the motherland to work or do business, and protect all their legitimate rights and interests. The mainland remains committed to meeting the needs of Taiwan compatriots and advancing the peaceful and integrated development of both sides of the Straits.
The root cause of the cross-Straits crisis is the United States' interference in the Taiwan question, which is an internal matter of China. Indeed, the mainland and the island both are victims of the US' design, which includes continuing arms sales to the island.
What's worse, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the Taiwan Policy Act (TPA) on Sept 14, which is described as "the most comprehensive restructuring of US policy toward Taiwan since the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979." The TPA seeks to provide $4.5 billion in security assistance to Taiwan over four years, and recognize China's Taiwan as a "major non-NATO ally" of the United States.
The huge amounts Taiwan has been spending to buy weapons from the US have been a drag on the island's economy. And the fact that the US continues to sell arms to the island shows it doesn't give two hoots about Taiwan's economic development.
In the 1982 Sino-US Joint Communique on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Beijing and Washington, the US pledged to reduce arms sales to Taiwan by 20 percent each year, which means it should have stopped selling arms to the island in 1988. True, US arms sales to Taiwan decreased from $800 million in 1983 to $470 million in 1991, but Washington has been providing Taiwan with technical military support and advanced weapons and equipment. And by purchasing advanced arms and equipment worth $20 billion, Taiwan had upgraded its weaponry by the 1990s.
Moreover, US arms sales, including advanced weapons and sophisticated technology, have been growing in the 21st century. In fact, according to US arms exports data, Taiwan is among the top buyers of US arms. Worse, the 2023 budget the Taiwan authorities passed on Aug 25 includes a record high military budget of about $19.17 billion, an increase of 13.9 percent from this year.
Although Beijing seeks peaceful reunification, it will not rule out the option of force to achieve that goal.
After the national reunification, countries and regions can continue to trade with Taiwan. As a matter of fact, their trade and business dealings will be smoother because many obstacles that have long held Taiwan's economy back will be removed through the integrated development of the two sides across the Straits.
As a white paper titled "The Taiwan Question and China's Reunification in the New Era" issued on Aug 10 said, the reunification will greatly boost cross-Straits economic cooperation, create more room for Taiwan's development, enhance its competitiveness, stabilize its industry and supply chains, and inject dynamism into its economy.
The two sides of the Straits must and should be reunified, because that is the call of history.
The author is head of the Institute of Taiwan Economics, Central University of Finance and Economics.
The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.