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United Daily News: 'One Belt, One Road' and Taiwan under changed TPP

2017/05/17 17:58:38

(Photo courtesy of Xinhua News Agency)

While Taiwanese TV news was devoting most of its attention to the death of a local comedian on May 15, an international summit on China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative was taking place in Beijing. It was attended by 29 national leaders, more than 70 heads of international organizations and representatives from over 130 countries.

The high-profile meeting seemed to have nothing to do with Taiwan, as people here had no energy to look at the world while being bombarded with news of comedian Chu Ke-liang's passing.

The mega "One Belt, One Road" infrastructure plan covers an area encompassing 65 percent of the global population, three-quarters of the world's energy resources, and 40 percent of the world's gross domestic product.

China's annual trade with countries it envisions as being part of this belt and road has hit US$1.4 trillion, and over 70 nations and international organizations joined in construction projects under the program from 2014 to 2016.

While his predecessor, Barack Obama, was opposed to the initiative, U.S. President Donald Trump seems more open to it. He sent Matt Pottinger, senior director for Asian affairs at the White House National Security Council, to Beijing for the forum.

The world economic order that has been dominated by superpowers seems to be undergoing a major change. Many observers see Trump pulling the U.S. out of the international trade and economic order in the name of economic nationalism, leaving an opening that may be filled by China.

Meanwhile, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest regional free trade agreement in history that was hoped to integrate 40 percent of the global economy, underwent a dramatic change after Trump took office.

The TPP was the centerpiece of Obama's strategy to match China in trade and seek a political balance in the Asia-Pacific region, but Trump quickly announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the trade bloc.

Unwilling to see the TPP fall apart, other member nations decided to invite China to join, and Beijing has agreed to the proposal.

Now Taiwan has no place in either "One Belt, One Road" or the TPP, which it was keen to join.

Taiwan has virtually no chance of joining China-led economic and trade mechanisms in general because as long as the President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration refuses to recognize the "1992 consensus," cross-Taiwan Strait relations will remain gridlocked.

Moreover, a joint communique signed by China and Vietnam in Beijing on May 15 declared that Vietnam will firmly adhere to the "one China" principle. The declaration was widely believed to be aimed at "blocking" the Tsai government's New Southbound Policy, and it's possible other Southeast Asian countries will follow suit.

The Tsai government seems to have ignored the changing economic and political situation in the world, and chosen not to pay its attention to China's ambition in the pursuit of globalization.

Undoubtedly, the Tsai administration must now re-examine its trade and diplomatic policies in view of the U.S.'s withdrawal from the TPP and China's possible participation in the massive economic bloc. (Editorial abstract, May 17, 2017, by Elizabeth Hsu)