Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Without Economic Prosperity, Forget Talk of Dignity

Without Economic Prosperity, Forget Talk of Dignity
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
October 16, 2007

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh held his first press conference after two weeks of seclusion. He again raised the Plebiscite to Join the UN issue and challenged Ma Ying-jeou to a debate. He proposed that whoever lost would withdraw his proposal for the UN plebiscite. The Ma camp believes that economic issues are the key. According to reports, the Hsieh camp issued its Plebiscite to Join the UN challenge because it "feels the Plebiscite to Join the UN can rally voter support, therefore it no longer wishes to discuss its former proposal for an Economy of Affluence." The DPP's official line is that political issues are being given priority over economic problem because "Taiwanese are not domestic animals," therefore "dignity" is more important than the economy. For the past decade, the DPP has not raised a single issue worth putting before the people. This includes their Plebiscite to Join the UN. Therefore besides criticizing it, we have nothing more to say.

The Republic of China is not a member of the United Nations or the World Bank. The ROC national flag is not allowed on the Olympic Games awards podium. This is unfair to ROC citizens on Taiwan. ROC national leaders must demand international breathing room. Be that as it may, one cannot treat these issues as child's play. One cannot resort to a crude, bull in a china shop approach, giving no thought to international repercussions. One cannot demand that the Plebiscite to Join the UN become the main theme of the 2008 presidential campaign. If the DPP does this, that is evidence of their own decadence, and a tragedy for the Chinese people on Taiwan. Such a campaign strategy contains several blind spots:

First. The Plebiscite to Join the UN or Plebiscite to Rejoin the UN are not issues to be decided by us unilaterally. Anyone who understands the international situation knows this. The ROC's biggest obstacle to rejoining the United Nations is the PRC. It also depends on the attitude of major nations such as the US, Japan, the UK. Anyone with any sense knows this. Even if the government bought full page ads in the New York Times for an entire month, even if it pasted Plebiscite to Join the UN posters on a million telephone poles, even if it submitted membership applications to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon 100 times, the chance of these major nations changing their minds would be miniscule. The ROC government's international influence is marginal. This is an international reality. Weaker regimes must depend on their wits to protect their interests. This is the meaning of the expression "Only the wise can do much with little." In any event, a plebiscite involving a few million people on the Island of Taiwan may allow "us" to vent our spleen against "them," but it cannot change the strategic realities. The DPP wants to link an important issue like the presidential election with a hollow issue like the Plebiscite to Join the UN. This is obviously not a struggle for dignity, but mere demagoguery. This is reason number one why we cannot endorse the DPP's demands.

Next, assuming the ROC government is determined to use its international allies to force its way into the United Nations, it will have to depend on its economic clout. If Taiwan had a hundred entrepreneurs on the level of Morris Chang, Stan Shi, and Kuo Tai-min, then by means of their global influence, the ROC government's chances of making friends and establishing foreign relations would be somewhat greater. In short, the ROC's international breathing room is directly related to our economic clout. If we engage in never-ending political struggles, burning money, selling off our birthright, cutting taxes while increasing deficits, undermining the economic environment, this will lead to the flight of foreign capital. Our economic strength will deteriorate, to the detriment of the ROC's international breathing room. The economy is the ROC's lifeblood. A strong economy is our best safeguard. The Frank Hsieh camp equates economic prosperity with the feeding of domestic animals. Democratic political candidates who harbor such attitudes are rare. Can demagoguing the Plebiscite to Join the UN really replace the nation's lifeblood? This is reason number two why we cannot endorse the DPP's demands.

Furthermore, based on the analysis of American experts, the DPP's Plebiscite to Join the UN, obviously contains a double meaning. It obviously means both joining the UN and changing the name of the nation. The public on Taiwan might agree with the Plebiscite to Join the UN. But it does not agree on changing the name of the nation. On that issue it is clearly divided into to opposing camps. Everyone knows these two opposing camps will not change their views any time soon. Therefore any issue that takes the "rectification of names" as its essential theme, is a zero sum game. It will polarize the public along north vs. south lines, reunificaiton vs. independence lines, and "loving Taiwan" vs. "not loving Taiwan" lines. This nativist "recification of names" demagoguery is the reason Taiwan has been so divided in recent years. The nature of zero sum games is that if you lose, I win, if I lose, you win. It is the antithesis of Reconciliation and Coexistence. The Plebiscite to Join the UN is a zero sum game. By contrast, economic development makes the pie bigger, and creates a win/win scenario. In choosing between the Plebiscite to Join the UN or the economic well-being of the people, is anyone still confused about which is preferable?

Frank Hsieh has long advocated Reconciliation and Coexistence. Public reception of his proposal has been positive. The public hopes he can set aside the no win issues of reunification vs. independence, rectification of names, and the authoring of a new constitution, and offer a new blueprint to rebuild the economy. Unfortunately, Frank Hsieh and Su Tseng-chang have been hijacked by Chen Shui-bian or Yu Hsi-kuen. Now, six months from the election, the ruling party has already decided that next year's election will be inconclusive, futile, self-defeating, and divisive. Not only that, it intends to resort to demagogic taunts such as "You don't dare champion Taiwan independence, only I do!" This is the sorry fate of Taiwan.

中國時報  2007.10.15







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