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Strait of confusion: China-Taiwan trade

Sure, ECFA is important. Just don't ask any Taiwanese to explain it.

First is the distrust many Taiwanese feel about China. Despite its recent goodwill gestures, Beijing still has hundreds of missiles pointed at the island and an explicit goal of political unification. In a recent poll, 53 percent of Taiwanese listed Japan as their favorite country, with only 5 percent choosing China. 

Mistrust of China was on display last week, as a small group of protesters scuffled with police outside the trade talks venue, and held up banners calling for a referendum on the deal.

The second hurdle is that talking seriously about ECFA involves mind-numbing jargon about rules of origin, WTO obligations, even the "Heckscher–Ohlin model" of international trade.

No wonder a lot of Taiwanese can't be bothered to figure it all out.

"It's a subject for professionals, most laobaixing [regular people] don't really understand it," said cab driver Chen Ji-hsin. "We don't know what it has to do with our lives, and whether it's good for us or bad."