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Government Catches Up To Business

So it seems that government diplomacy is following behind business diplomacy. According to The New York Times Online article “Taiwan and China Hold Formal Talks, by Edward Wong, and Alan Cowell reporting from Paris,

Representatives of China and Taiwan agreed in a meeting here on Thursday to establish permanent offices in each other’s capital to help coordinate discussions about closer relations. The agreement came on the first day of negotiations over how to strengthen the economic relationship between China and Taiwan…

About time, as according to the same NYTimes Online article, “Taiwan is the biggest investor in China and many Taiwanese businesspeople live on the mainland.” Businesses always seem to a few steps ahead of official government diplomacy. Thankfully, in this situation government policy seems to be really trying to follow businesses lead.

A catch-22 to this whole story is that China still considers Taiwan a “renegade nation,” and has ballistic missiles pointed at them. Still, business finds a way around all that. Another funny catch-22 to this courting relationship is that these two neighbors are just beginning to work out a currency situation that will allow normalization of currency usage in each nation. Taiwan is opening its doors to the Chinese Renminbi for the first time. Imagine the United States and Canada saying, today, “Hey guys maybe we should normalize our currency policies so we can use each others’ currency instead of always having to change money into Euros or Swiss Francs or Japanese Yen.” And still, business finds a way of dealing with these little financial hang-ups. Business is obviously tuned in to something, and are now hampered by a lack of government unity between these two major Asian economies.

I always believed it quite strange that China and Taiwan could never get along, as having an unruly neighbor these days is quite strenuous. If one neighbor is upset they aren’t just going to leave last night’s trash on your doorstep. But if they did, last night’s garbage isn’t the same old ramen noodles it used to be in the 1950’s. These days last night’s trash contains ballistic missiles with a topping of depleted uranium to make things extra nice and ripe when it smacks on your doorstep. Ramen noodles never tasted so good. Not to mention Taiwan has its own big neighbor that although has to stretch some distance can hit with alarming impact. So, who wants all that tension around the neighborhood? Isn’t it easier to just exchange wok recipes and call it a night?

I’m not oblivious to the history of these two nations, nor do I make underplay the inter-cultural tensions and ideologies of these two nations, but something has to be done as human casualties can be at stake. Taiwan and China have an interconnected history, as this tiny island was the main fleeing point for Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist ruling party the Kuomintang, which now heads the Taiwanese government, after defeat at the hands of Mao Zedong and his Communist Party at the end of the Chinese Civil War. Since those days in 1950 China has tried to bring Taiwan back under the delicate fist of “One China Unity.” I believe, if Taiwan had not transformed itself into a prosperous economic power we might not hear so much chest thumping from China about “One China” (a strong connection to the United States and other Western powers probably has something to do with the chest thumping as well). And if China had not taken off on its economic rise Taiwanese business people might not be pushing to normalize relations with the Mainland folk who chased them away. Still though, they are interconnected and no one can deny that. Separated by a stones-throw these two state entities are eternal neighbors, and what affects one will affect the other. They must get along. At least that’s what the business people believe, and are proving. Hopefully the governments follow suit.


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