DPP can’t play possum on further resumption of direct flights: Global Times editorial
Published: Feb 04, 2023 02:17 AM
A view of the Taipei city, Taiwan island Photo: Unsplash

A view of the Taipei city, Taiwan island Photo: Unsplash

During Spring Festival, the partial restoration of the "mini three links" across the Taiwan Straits offered a lot of convenience for Taiwan businessmen and compatriots. With the ending of the Spring Festival holidays, there is debate over whether the "mini three links" can remain open. The mainland's aviation authorities recently sent a letter to Taiwan island hoping the two sides can meet each other halfway to promote the normal operation of cross-Straits air routes. It was suggested that priority should be given to the restoration of direct flights to 16 destinations such as Guangzhou, where there is a high concentration of Taiwan compatriots. However, even though polls show that their cross-Straits policy has aroused the dissatisfaction of more than half of the people on the island, the DPP authorities, who suffered a disastrous defeat in the "nine-in-one" local elections, have still offered only perfunctory gestures toward cross-Straits issues, ignoring the real expectations and needs of Taiwan businessmen and compatriots.  

From the recent moves of the DPP authorities on cross-Straits issues, we can get a glimpse of their true attitude toward cross-Straits relations and the characteristics of their future cross-Straits policy. Since the DPP has not given up on the "Taiwan independence" line, promoting cross-Straits political, economic, social and cultural decoupling is an inevitable path to implementing "gradual Taiwan independence." The DPP authorities do not want cross-Straits exchanges to fully resume. They are well aware that intensifying cross-Straits economic, trade, social and cultural exchanges will inevitably put more and more pressure on their cross-Straits line, prompting them to make further adjustments in the direction of the "1992 Consensus."

On the other hand, the DPP authorities are unwilling to and will never admit that the "pro-US and anti-mainland" policy has been a failure. Reviewing the election defeat, they only talked about factors such as the poor economic environment and weak publicity of political achievements. This shows they have no intention of adjusting the cross-Straits line.

From this, we can understand the current passive strategy adopted by the DPP authorities on cross-Straits relations. There have been some adjustments in posture and rhetoric, such as the so-called peaceful protection of Taiwan argument advanced by Lai Ching-te, who claims to be a "pragmatic Taiwan independence worker." There was also the Spring Festival reception for Taiwan businessmen from the mainland, which had been suspended for three years. But these actions are just like "squeezing toothpaste," in that they are few and slow. The green camp on the island obviously has expectations and illusions about the interference of external forces, and believes that there is still a chance to play the "pro-US, anti-China" card to reap political benefits.

However, the current cross-Straits situation is undergoing profound changes. Judging from the changes in public opinion in Taiwan society, there has been an increase in the voices hoping for peaceful exchanges and positive interactions between the two sides, and of concern that Taiwan may fall into the predicament of war. After all, seeing high-ranking officials from the US and the West insisting on visiting Taiwan to make money while leaving behind a mess, and TSMC being forced to invest in the US and transfer high-end chip manufacturing processes, any rational person in the island will know what the right choice is.

What is even more noteworthy is that Taiwan's economic growth figures - which the DPP authorities used to boast about - are no longer impressive. The latest Taiwan economic data is chilling. The economic growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2022 was -0.86 percent. The electronics and communications industry, always a pillar for Taiwan's exports, is facing particularly severe challenges. The sharp reduction in overseas orders has directly led to the rare scenario of negative growth in Taiwan's exports.

The gradual end of the latest wave of the epidemic and the three-to-five-year life cycle of electronic products have caused a contraction of the global electronic communications industry. From this point of view, Taiwan's economy may not be faced with temporary ups and downs, but a challenge with a longer boom-and-bust cycle. In December 2022, Taiwan's Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell by 0.2 percentage points to only 43.7 percent. It has been in a state of contraction for six consecutive months, showing that Taiwan's manufacturing industry is struggling.

At the same time, deep-seated contradictions in Taiwan's economy are emerging one after another. The industrial structure tends to become rigid due to long-term and severe unevenness, the high-tech industry has too little coverage in terms of employment, and the traditional manufacturing and service industries have a large number of employees but are continuing to decline. This has caused long-term wage stagnation for ordinary workers on the island.

In 2022, due to high imported inflation and the CPI reaching nearly 3 percent, the actual wages of workers in Taiwan experienced negative growth for the second year in a row, and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Dissatisfaction among the middle and lower class and youth groups on the island is gradually rising.

In recent years, there has also been a significant increase in violent crime and fraud in Taiwan. The DPP authorities can hardly absolve themselves from blame given their incompetence, but it is also obviously related to the decline in the overall economic and social conditions of the island.

In stark contrast, the mainland's economy and society are experiencing rapid recovery and development. All parties, including the IMF and other international organizations, are generally optimistic about this year's economic growth. From this perspective, Taiwan's economy and society cannot get out of the current predicament soon without the mainland. If Taiwan's political ecology improves and mainland tourists can enter the island, its tourism industry and other aspects of the "common people's economy" would regain their vitality. If the island's stronger industries could be more deeply integrated with the mainland's booming sectors such as new-energy autos, Taiwan's economy would continue to grow. Both Taiwan and the compatriots on the island cannot wait to see the further resumption of direct flights between the two sides.