Taiwan will sign a key investment pact with former rival China at a top-level meeting this week, but critics of Beijing remain deeply sceptical of closer ties with the “rascal” mainland government.
China’s chief negotiator Chen Yunlin will put his name to the much-delayed agreement in Taipei on Thursday, providing a legal umbrella for the more than 80,000 Taiwanese businesses operating in China.Taiwan’s China-friendly government has described the new pact as a milestone, reached two years after the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) eased tariff restrictions and boosted trade.
The ECFA was widely characterised as the boldest step yet towards reconciliation.
“The investment protection agreement is of significance as it is the first agreement to be signed after ECFA,” Chen’s Taiwanese counterpart Chiang Pin-kung said at a press conference ahead of the meeting.
Taiwan and China were split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, and stayed implacable enemies for decades, even after Taiwan’s businesses started exploring opportunities across the strait.
Growing economic interaction coincided with a political chill from 2000 to 2008 when independence-minded Chen Shui-bian was president of Taiwan, but his successor Ma Ying-jeou has advocated detente with the huge neighbour.
This is the eighth meet in four years for Chen and Chiang , indicating the level of proximity.
But, despite the expanding interdependence — reflected in an estimated Taiwanese investment on the mainland well in excess of $100 billion — many question the merit of pursuing closer links with China.