The DPP's Plight, the Fruit of DPP Obstinacy
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 18, 2008
Over the past two or three weeks, political rallies sponsored by the Hsieh campaign have invoked the term "adversity." Two weeks ago the theme was "Marching against a Headwind [adverse wind]." Last week the theme was "Triumphing in the Face of Adversity." That the DPP has been shouting these slogans on its own initiative means the Hsieh/Su camp has indeed found itself mired in adversity. Slogans such as "Triumphing in the Face of Adversity" may indeed raise supporters' morale. But the question the DPP should be asking itself is: Why, after eight years in power, has the DPP found itself in such adverse circumstances? Are the Hsieh/Su campaign's policy prescriptions any better than the policies of the past eight years? Will the public on Taiwan be winners or losers if the DPP "triumphs in the face of adversity?"
Why have the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's election prospects taken such a downturn? In its search for the underlying cause, the media has arrived at two conclusions: One. An endless string of corruption scandals involving high officials of ruling regime have left an extremely negative impression on the public. Two. The cross-straits embargo has driven Taiwan companies from the island and left the island's economy in a deep depression. Take this newspaper's recent reports on Asian economies. Taiwan ranked next to last in average real wage growth rates last year. According to the overall economic data, Taiwan has experienced a serious shortage of domestic demand in recent years. GDP growth has been driven solely by exports. If we exclude outsourcing contracts to the Chinese mainland, the sole beneficiaries of these exports are managers of high-tech and high-end component manufacturing firms. The ruling DPP refuses to have business contacts with mainland China. The movement of passengers and freight is obstructed. Capital investment on the mainland is forbidden. The high growth, low wage market opportunities that the Chinese mainland offers have all been snatched up by others. The Green Camp may have global plans for Taiwan, but its rejection of the Chinese mainland is its biggest blind spot. This blind spot is not an opposition party invention. The American Chamber of Commerce and the European Chamber of Commerce have repeatedly made the same point to the Chen regime, to absolutely no effect.
The DPP hopes for a "Reversal of Fortune." Logically speaking it ought to reverse its strategy of ignoring the mainland Chinese market. After all, this strategy landed the island in its current economic depression and the DPP in it current political dilemma. Alas, all evidence suggests it hasn't changed its thinking one iota. Over the past two weeks, the Hsieh/Su campaign has relentlessly denounced the Ma/Siew campaign's "Cross-Strait Common Market." The Hsieh/Su campaign consistently paints any sort of cross-strait common market as the immediate exchange of labour, as immediate acceptance of professional certification, as the crowding out of local labor, as the equivalent of local unemployment. Such simplistic distortions totally ignore the reality of the European Common Market. They are part of the DPP's illiberal, anti-market, mentality. They are the reason no one can detect the slightest change in the DPP's position.
Readers who understand the EU know that the EU's employment laws and regulations are quite lenient. The free movement of labor between EU member states is subject to the consent of the respective national legislatures. In 2004 older EU member states allowed the Czech Republic, Poland, Latvia, Slovakia, Estonia, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania, to join the European Union. They arranged a seven year buffer period for the opening of labour. If at the end of that seven year period, member nations still feared disruptions to their home markets, they retained the right to postpone any opening. The United Kingdom, Ireland, and Sweden are EU member nations which imposed no conditions whatsoever upon the free movement of labour. As of 2006 these three nations' migrant worker populations were 0.4%, 4%, 1. 9%, and 1%. As we can see, it is something of a stretch to claim that open labour markets amount to local labour unemployment. Besides, even if Taiwan and the mainland were to move toward a Common Market they would still have to undergo two protracted stages: a customs union and a Free Trade Area. These would take 20 years at least. The Hsieh camp has taken a cross-straits labor crisis that might arise only 20 years later, and painted it as the greatest unemployment crisis ever to confront Taiwan. This is a gross distortion and represents the DPP's same, obdurate "Just Say No" policy of the past eight years.
Secondly, just because European universities recognize each others' academic credentials does not mean these nations are going to forsake domestic employment regulations. Czech medical school graduates might pass physician's licensing examinations in Germany, but in the end they may not go to Germany and become physicians. They must wait until Germany's employment policies are liberalized. Conversely, if in order to ensure full domestic employment, one refuses to recognize high quality academic credentials, should Singapore refuse to recognize Beijing University academic credentials? Should Hong Kong refuse to recognize the academic credentials of American universities? The Hsieh/Su camp's attitude toward mainland academic credentials is so reactionary and distorted, one really has to wonder what if anything has changed in the DPP's cross-strait policy?
Cross-strait relations is an important and sensitive subject. Politicians must not approach cross-strait relations with ideological biases or wishful thinking. Cross-strait relations and exchanges must not be defined simplistically, demonized, or turned into objects of terror. If we ignore the practical experience of Europe, if we tell people that opening cross-strait exchanges will leave barbers and other professionals unemployed, then we are treating voters like fools. To demonize business exchanges in this manner is not merely "opposition to a One-China market." It is opposition to market freedom per se.
DPP leaders often say it is acceptable for the DPP to lose, but "Taiwan must not lose." We agree one hundred and ten percent. We hope that four years from today, no matter which party is in office, it will no longer find itself in mired in similar adversity. Eight years of adversity is enough.