(The Weekly interview) with Michael Danielsen: Signing FTA with other countries can defend Taiwan’s sovereignty better

Michael Danielsen was interviewed to Taiwan’s Liberty Times and the interview was published on January 18. 2010.  The interview was done by journalist Zou, Jing Wen from Liberty Times.
(The Weekly interview) with Michael Danielsen:  Signing FTA with other countries can defend Taiwan’s sovereignty better
Taiwan Corner in  Copenhagen, Denmark is a friend of Taiwan and a non-governmental organization. The Chairman, Michael Danielsen, is a friend who has been concerned about the Taiwan issues for many years and expressed his opinions. He says that the Ma government’s cross-strait policies have gone too fast, too far and lacks transparency. Especially, he points out that the negotiation process totally lacks the involvement of the opposition party’s view and this is worrying.
He says that Taiwan has to sign FTA with other countries as this will help Taiwan’s economic independence. At the same time, it can defend Taiwan’s sovereignty. ECFA’s future should be decided by a referendum such that it can get a strong backing.
Q: All 3 seats of the legislator by-election on the 9th of January was taken by DPP, as a friend who has been concerned about the Taiwan issues for years, what do you think of the result?
Michael: I think the election result is encouraging, and that it is indicating that the Taiwanese want more balance.. Taiwanese people have already gradually become mature and they have recognized that democracy requires the power of checks and balance. A powerful opposition party is a very important key to Taiwan’s democracy.
Around 75% seats of the parliament are controlled by one party. This is not a healthy sign for democracy no matter if it is  KMT or DPP. DPP has now obtained more than 25% of the seats and it can therefore do more in the parliament in the future.
I know that it is the first time Taiwan uses the single-district with two-vote system, but such a system is not able to reflect public opinion completely accurate. Personally, I think that many of Europe’s multi-election systems are more idealistic. A political party will gain a certain percentage of seats in the parliament according to how many percentages of the votes that it received in the election. I don’t think that a two party system is an ideal. I prefer multi-party politics. In Denmark, we have 8 parties in the parliament and more parties  during the election.
Q: What have you observed about the changes of the relationship between Taiwan and China after Ma government has taken over the power?
Michael: From my point of view, there are two important things. First, the cross-strait policies has gone too fast and too far. Second, the policies are lacking  transparency, and I am worried about this. Especially, that the negotiation process totally lacks the involvement of the opposition party’s view and this is the core of the point of contention.
A cross strait agreement tend to  be broad in scope , and it is not simply  a commercial process. Although it is impossible to clarify everything in advance, the government should at least tell the Taiwanese people about “What are the main themes?” “How is the progress?” To let Taiwanese people feel secure. During the negotiation process, it should not only  contain the views of the government party, but the opposite party should be allowed to participate, such that the agreement can be able to adopt the views of all the people. The current approach is obviously too hasty, and I really question how is has been possible to complete so many issues in 19 months (referring to those agreements were signed in Jiang-Chen meetings), which is too fast.
For Taiwan, all agreements must be agreed by all the Taiwanese people and this is essential. As far as I know, EFCA will be signed within the next 6 months, and I really don’t understand why such an important contract shall be completed so quickly? Maybe there should we allowed more time for EFCA to be discussed in details in the parliament and  a referendum on this subject should be allowed. Because through a referendum, the people can give support and a strong backing. In addition, through continuous democratic discussions we can reduce the mysteries in the agreement and make  policies more transparent. However, the content of EFCA is not just about internal political matters, it also involves external issues which are important.
I believe that maintaining Taiwan’s sovereignty is a very important matter. I hope that all the negotiations between Taiwan and China can be conducted with respect for Taiwan’s sovereignty. From an outsider’s point of view, I am of course pleased to see SEF and ARATS, these two semi-official entities will carry out more negotiations; however, it appears that there were and are more interactions and dialogues between KMT and CPP privately before the two entities actually meet. This is not transparency.
The meaning of transparency include agreements and negotiations that have been recorded by official entities. In fact, many negotiations have already been done and almost completed during the DPP era, such as passenger and cargo charter flights. This fact tells us that the cross-strait negotiations in fact can be carried out through the official channels, and not necessarily has to be processed in meeting between KMT and CPP first. My intention to emphasis this process is that Taiwan’s sovereignty has to be defended.
I am deeply worried about the investment from China. Ma’s government believe that political and economic issues can be separated, but this is impossible. Economic influence will also bring the political power. Let me take an example. China wants to invest in Taiwan construction projects. China will of course choose areas which are most friendly to China. This is political power. Also, when China wants to invest on Taiwan’s stock market, the investments will also follow Taiwan’s reaction to sensitive political issues This kind of influence will be very big and powerful in the future. Therefore, political power cannot be separated from economic influence.
I think that free trade agreements (FTA) between Taiwan and other countries will be a good idea. A free trade agreement with EU can provide of lot of experiences and benefits for Taiwan. China has been blocking the FTA between Taiwan and other countries. I am left with the impression that the Ma government seems to think that signing an ECFA with China, the agreement will provide Taiwan more chances to sign FTAs with other countries. Reality is not like that. There is no Chinese guarantee from the negotiations between Taiwan and China, and I think that China has more to gain from Taiwan than Taiwan has to gain from China.
Once again, I would like to stress that it is important for Taiwan to sign FTA with other countries because it will help Taiwan’s economic independence. Taiwan will then tend to look like a more normal country in the eyes of other countries and thus a FTA can defend Taiwan’s sovereignty. In the past, DPP government paid more attention to EU, USA and Japan and give Taiwan a strong voice at the international stage. Yet, China does not want this and KMT seems unwilling to do so either.
Of course, Taiwan cannot ignore the existence of China. It has to be pragmatic and make deals  between the two sides and take a responsible approach.
Q: Because of China, Taiwan has to attend the global climate change conference in Copenhagen as NGO. However, the representatives had to queue in the outside row for nearly 10 hours in order to get in the meeting, the experience of international participation was unhappy.
Michael: Denmark was responsible for the outside area of the meeting, but the venue belonged to United Nation. Taiwan was represented as NGO and they had to queue for such a long time with other NGO groups but this was not controlled by  the Danish government. Denmark also wanted to improve the situation, but the meeting was controlled by  United Nation. Regarding the issues that Taiwan participated in the meeting as NGO under the name of China, is this not what Ma Ying-jeou government wanted? He keeps reducing the energy of diplomatic personnel. The so-called diplomatic truce policy does not want Taiwan to voice concerns in the international arena. So the situation is self-inflicted.
Q: After the rise of China, it is getting bigger and bigger power in various international fields. How can Taiwan to be seen in the world?
Michael: In the international community, China has always said that Taiwan is part of China. It is important that Taiwanese people are united with a common voice. This is the only way that Taiwan can express its demands to the international community, and make China understand Taiwan better. Whether it is Chinese tourists are coming to Taiwan or Taiwanese are going to China, the more contacts, the better. By meeting Chinese,Taiwanese will find out how different they are from Chinese. Meeting each other, will actually help Taiwan’s unity.
Q: Haha, can you distinguish Taiwanese and Chinese?
Michael: Chinese can wear the same clothes and shoes as Taiwanese, but when they are talking, they are not able to hide their Chinese souls which come from a different cultural and social upbringing in today’s China. When I talk to Taiwanese people, they are usually more relaxed and able to balance the point of view. I know China and I have a lot of Chinese friends. I also like them, but whenever people comment on China’s problems, they are highly defensive even though those Chinese people have been living abroad for a long time. Chinese people are over proud of their own country. There are also things that Taiwanese are proud of, but they are more willing to listen to the views from the outside world, and they also allow foreigners’ criticize . This is one of the biggest differences I see between Taiwanese and Chinese.
Self-identification comes from the surrounding environment, a person can learn correct history, but the history given to the Chinese is the version given by the Communist Party in China.
Q: You have just mentioned the referendum, but the proposal of ECFA referendum was rejected by legislator Yuan. Do you have any suggestions?
Michael: The people of Taiwan do not have many choices; KMT occupies the majority of seats in the parliament. The ECFA is now ready to go ahead and the current parliament cannot or will not reject it. Referendum is a very important mechanism; but there will be  no referendum in Taiwan, thus, in order to show criticism of ECFA the Taiwanese has to be political if they are not satisfied with the content of ECFA.
They should  pass the dissenting voices into democratic voices in the next legislative and presidential election, Taiwanese people can evaluate carefully  the current government’s policy and ask if this is what we want? Should we continue walking in the same direction? Is this development my future destination? Do we need another government with other policy direction?
In the present situation, Taiwan’s overall policy direction is moving towards unification with China, it is slow but very clear. So Taiwanese people have to think about if this is what they want? Another importance point of choosing another political party is whether the party can bring a stable economy. If you have children, you of course want to give your children more opportunities in the future. If the general economic improves and the unemployment rate drops in 2010, then this indicate the current direction of the government policy is beneficial and helpful in the short term. On the contrary, if people do not have access to better job opportunities in order to improve the economic life, the people will naturally think that the road towards to China should not be continued.
There is no political party that would like to hurt the national economy. For young people, the future development is the subject which has their greatest concern. Democracy is not an “of course” matter, if you do not work hard to pursuit it, it will not last forever. Democracy is a very important cornerstone for Taiwan. If unification comes one day, I do not believe that Taiwan’s democracy can be continued. I can understand that Taiwanese people’s desire to improve the economy and have a better life, but for your children and grandchildren, no to unification is a better way for the long term view. I heard a song called “Release Me” which reminds me of Taiwan. Taiwan has been imprisoned for sixty years after the World War II, and now what it needs the most is to be released, and Taiwan’s future needs to be decided by Taiwanese people themselves.
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