Monday, April 21, 2008

Lifted: The Nativist Curse

Lifted: The Nativist Curse
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
2008.04.21 2:26 am

It is less than a month after the election. The new government has yet to be formed. But the atmosphere has already changed considerably. Vincent Siew's presence at the Boao Forum is already melting the ice in the Taiwan Strait. The stale air created by the DPP's eight year long Closed Door policy is dissipating. Under pressure from the new mandate, the old regime has offered to adopt the new regime's policies in advance. A constructive form of competition has already begun.

Examples of this competition abound. The incoming Ma/Siew administration is about to open the island to mainland tourists. In response, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu has urged a policy of "Southern Entry, Southern Departure." She hopes to increase business opportunities for Kaohsiung. Failing that, she urges a policy of "Northern Entry, Southern Departure." In the area of agriculture, Yunlin County hopes to hold a fruit festival timed to match the Beijing Olympics. County Magistrate Su Chi-feng personally led a delegation to Macao to solicit tourism. The Council of Agriculture, which struggled mightily to prevent the sale of Taiwan fruits to the mainland, has now reversed itself. It has decided to subsidize the sale of agricultural products from eight counties to the mainland.

Even some private sector pig farmers are chomping at the bit, shouting "Taiwan pigs must counterattack the mainland!" They hope to sell high quality Taiwan pork to the mainland. The incoming Ma/Siew administration has announced its intention to make the NTD and RMB convertible in July. In response, the Central Bank is buying RMB in advance. Although its response remains guarded, its attitude is eminently pragmatic.

Such changes are a form of "political exorcism." Over the past eight years, a "Nativist" consciousness and Taiwan independence Political Correctness took possession of the Taiwan public. Many normal economic and trade activities were seen as taboo. Opening up to the mainland was beyond the pale. Normal exchanges were forbidden. The Chen regime imposed a wide range of obstacles to cross-strait exchanges. In the end it merely limited its own options. Once the DPP lost the election, these taboos suddenly lost their power to intimidate. People suddenly realized cross-strait links weren't so frightening. Over the past eight years no one dared violate these taboos, despite the fact they had little justification, and weren't fraught with all the peril the DPP would have people believe.

Take Boao for example. The Hu/Siew summit was a rare event. But for the public on Taiwan, seeing the ruling DPP's blockade lifted, almost at the snap of one's fingers, was even more meaningful. The Chen regime drew a line in the sand.
Siew stepped right over it, then returned a conquering hero. The Green Camp accused Beijing of "demeaning" Siew. In reality, he was feted as a VIP. The DPP warned Siew that Beijing would humiliate him by forcing him to use a "Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit." In reality, aides from the two sides solved that problem neatly through bilateral consultation. For the past eight years the DPP has been weaving horror stories. hoping to frighten the public. Its stories, unable to withstand the light of day, have turned to dust.

The process is worth reviewing. During the election, the ruling DPP demonized the Ma/Siew camp's "Cross-Strait Common Market" in every possible way. The DPP denounced it as a "Policy of Surrender," as a stalking horse for a "One-China Market." The Hsieh camp even composed a limerick: "Taiwan men will be unable to find work. Taiwan women will be unable to find husbands. Taiwan children will end up as child labor in Heilongjiang." One month later, DPP officials from the central government level to the municipal and county levels, are singing an entirely different tune. Now how interesting is that?

A press release issued by the mainland Ministry of Commerce after the Boao Forum was equally interesting. It included boilerplate regarding the "One China Principle." It was in close accord with the spirit of "One China, Different Interpretations." But Beijing was so concerned about Taipei's feelings, it deleted the "One China" terminology three hours later. Such flexibility has changed Beijing's rigid, hardline image, and left a positive impression on the Taiwan public. The political exorcism is having an impact on both sides of the strait.

The political exorcism originated from within civil society, and represents the collective will of the public. It was a rational, grass roots social movement. The ruling DPP overplayed its Nativist hand. The Chen regime's Closed Door policy alienated the electorate. The Green camp's Nativist and Taiwan independence rhetoric lost its magic spell. Once the spell of populism was broken, rational discourse returned. A return to rational discourse and normal party politics is a welcome change indeed.

After wandering through a political wasteland for eight years, we have finally emerged into the light. We are breathing fresh air, unpolluted by the rhetoric of populism. Many people are undoubtedly heaving deep sighs of relief. Over the past decade, how many people have been subjected to unprovoked taunts of "Chinese pigs, go back to where you came from!" Today, Taiwan pig farmers are shouting "Taiwan pigs must counterattack the mainland!" Such a simple change. Yet how many hearts has it touched? What a relief to inhabit a new era, free of political insults.

2008.04.21 02:26 am










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