The year-end party of the Want Want Group in Taipei on Feb. 4. (Photo/Chen Chi-chuan)
There may be people in Taiwan who say they are not Chinese, but no Taiwanese person can deny that they celebrate Chinese New Year. The Lunar New Year or Spring Festival is not just a time for families to gather and celebrate; it is also an opportunity to reflect on the past and look toward the future.
For the Want Want China Times Media Group, the past year has been one plagued with misunderstanding and humiliation. The group's aggressive media expansion strategy into cable television and its subsequent attempt to acquire Next Media has sparked an unprecedented political storm. These two yet-to-be-determined cases have affected the company's commercial interests, and political manipulation has damaged the reputation of the group and its leaders.
Some pan-green politicians and academics have used these two cases as examples of China's "cultural invasion" of Taiwan, calling the group a pawn of the Chinese Communist Party. Some have even gone as far as claiming that, if the acquisitions are successful, the group's media branch would brainwash the people of Taiwan and become Taiwan's equivalent of the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily.
At Want Want's end-of-year banquet, group chairman Tsai Eng-meng responded to the criticism and made it clear of where the group stands in terms of cross-strait relations: "We are Taiwanese people who love Taiwan, but we are also upright Chinese people."
We believe cross-strait ties have entered a new stage of development and not just because both sides have recently undergone political changes. Whether it is the changing global economic environment or China's growing power, cross-strait relations in 2013 will be clearly different to how they have been in the past. Tsai's statement, therefore, reflects not only the current reality of the situation but also forms a foundation for the future of cross-strait development.
There are already many factors driving crosssStrait ties in 2013. First of all, Shenzhen's per capita GDP has reached US$19,000, with Jiangsu, Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces all expected to break the US$20,000 mark within the next five years. In other words, the income levels of China's coastal residents are getting very close to those of Taiwanese citizens.
Since 2008, Taiwan and China have undergone significant exchanges, cooperation and development, and as a result China is beginning to gain a deeper understanding of Taiwanese politics and society. China, which has also overtaken Japan as the world's second largest economy and has significantly improved its military strength, knows that time is on its side and that there is no longer a need to emphasize the threat of force over Taiwan. The mainland is no longer fearful of the DPP's calls for Taiwanese independence and has already started looking for a leverage point between the two sides of Taiwanese politics in preparation for a potential government change in 2016.
The DPP itself is also starting to undergo changes. However, there are still people who have no problem making money through "Chinese interests" on the one hand while attacking Taiwanese businesspeople in China on the other.
Calling for Taiwanese independence does not represent a love of Taiwan. The DPP believed that former president Chen Shui-bian loved Taiwan more than anyone else, but his policies of political isolation set Taiwan's economy back by a decade. In the end, he went down for taking the hard-earned money of Taiwanese people as his own. Is this loving Taiwan? Loving Taiwan should be about seeking the well-being of all Taiwanese people. Treating China and Taiwanese businesspeople in China as the enemy is hurting Taiwan, not loving it.
"Love Taiwan" has become a political slogan. There are fewer and fewer Taiwanese people who have the courage to identify as Chinese out of fear of being castigated and ostracized. Taiwan has been manipulated for far too long, but now people are starting to see through this manipulation.