A protester displays a banner supporting Taiwan during a protest over a controversial China-Taiwan trade pact in front of the presidential building in Taipei, Taiwan.
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Although Taiwan’s president reached a tentative trade deal last year with China, throngs of protesters took to the streets last month to pressure Taiwan’s parliament to reject the accord.
Thousands of demonstrators occupied legislative chambers in the capital, Taipei, in hopes of quashing the follow-up plan to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement of 2010. That deal reduced trade barriers between China and Taiwan and was seen as a fundamental step toward smoothing relations between the two countries, which split after the 1949-50 Chinese civil war.
The new element of the plan would reduce barriers across the Taiwan Strait to investment in services such as health care, finance, and insurance in both economies. A committee of Taiwanese lawmakers approved the deal, but opponents believe it would give China too much influence over Taiwan’s economy.
Since 2008, Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-jeou, has worked to improve relations with Beijing, but resistance to the trade deal could derail that. China considers Taiwan part of its territory that will one day be reunited with the mainland, with or without force.
Expanded trade and tourism are necessary for the two societies to coexist peaceably. By seeking to block approval of this latest trade agreement, Taipei’s demonstrators jeopardize something far more critical: the future.