Do not Use ECFA to Tear Taiwan Apart
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 3, 2009
The most serious problem on Taiwan is divisiveness. Divisiveness along the lines of national identity, divisiveness along the lines of cross-Strait policy, and divisiveness along the lines of social class and community group affiliation. Divisiveness plagues the island from top to bottom. No wonder former president Chen Shui-bian quoted Abraham Lincoln when he was in office, saying that, "A house divided cannot stand."
A pluralistic society will of course have differences. A democracy cannot help but have political differences. But if difference become radical confrontation and divisiveness, the nation and society cannot stand. For over 20 years, politicians have been dividing the nation and society with their demands for the "rectification of names and authoring of a new constitution," and their rejection of the Republic of China. They have divided the nation and society with their distinctions between "Taiwanese" and "Mainlanders," between "love for Taiwan" and "lack of love for Taiwan," between "Blue" and "Green" and "South" and "North." Now they have found a new pretext by which to divide the nation and society - ECFA. For the sake of ECFA, the Democratic Progressive Party has divided Taiwan into "agricultural counties and cities" and "non-agricultural counties and cities," and into "those who favor ECFA" and "those who oppose ECFA."
During the current election, the DPP is using opposition to ECFA as the primary plank in its political platform. While campaigning in Yunlin County, Tsai Ing-wen said that ever since the Ma administration took office one year ago, it has done nothing whatsoever helpful or beneficial to the people. She said signing ECFA will allow tariff-free Mainland Chinese products to flood Taiwan, and that the hardest hit will be farmers.
An opposition party is obligated to criticize the ruling party. But Tsai Ing-wen's rhetoric is anti-intellectual demagoguery. She has lost all sense of propriety. To claim that "Ma Ying-jeou has done nothing whatsoever helpful of beneficial" is gross hyperbole. Does Tsai Ing-wen really believe that allowing Mainland tourists to fly directly to Taiwan is "bad?" Tsai Ing-wen said signing ECFA would allow tariff-free Mainland Chinese products to flood Taiwan. She failed to mention that tariff-free Taiwan goods would be allowed to flood the Mainland? Why? Besides, signing ECFA will not allow Mainland Chinese agricultural products to flood Taiwan. Quite the contrary. That is not part of ECFA. Instead, farmers on Taiwan must make an effort to gain a foothold in the Mainland Chinese market, making it a major export market for Taiwan's farmers and fishermen. ECFA includes all sorts of defense mechanisms. But Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP have pointedly ignored the political and economic benefits ECFA offers. They have attempted to create divisions and incite controntation between "agricultural counties and cities" and "non-agricultural counties and cities." They have reduced the complex issue of ECFA's costs and benefits to a simplistic slogan: "toadying up to [Mainland] China and selling out Taiwan." If this is not anti-intellectual demagoguery, what is?
Under globalization, regional economic organizations such as ASEAN plus Three are proliferating. Taiwan's farmers aren't the only ones threatened. Our sovereignty and prosperity are under threat. Agriculture is a weak industry to begin with. Governments the world over provide special subsidies and special support for agriculture. This would be the case with or without ECFA. The DPP and Tsai Ing-wen have taken ECFA, a policy intended to ensure the Republic of China's political survival, and Taiwan's economic survival, and depicted it as a victimizer of agriculture and farmers. Such anti-intellectual demagoguery divides the nation in exchange for a few votes.
The DPP knows only how to oppose and distort ECFA. It has never offered an alternative. Next month, ASEAN plus One goes into effect. Not so long ago it was "Next year ASEAN plus One will go into effect." If major industries on Taiwan are forced to compete on unequal terms in the Mainland Chinese market due to the tariffs they must pay, does the DPP intend to compensate them out of its own pocket? If these key export industries lose their competitive edge, the agricultural sector will feel the pain. The Republic of China's political future and Taiwan's economic future will face a grave threat. By then, will distinctions between "agricultural counties and cities" and "non-agricultural counties and cities" have any meaning whatsoever?
Politically speaking, the most controversial aspect of the DPP is its habitual resort to anti-intellectual demagoguery. Taiwan today is in dire straits. It would be fair to say that the Democratic Progressive Party is responsible for most of Taiwan's misfortunes. For example, DPP leaders know full well that Taiwan independence is mere self-delusion. Yet they would have their supporters believe that "demanding Taiwan independence" equals "loving Taiwan." DPP leaders know perfectly well that a closed door policy means economic suicide. Yet they have repeatedly forced Taiwan to miss opportunities to establish an Asia-Pacific platform. ECFA has been delayed so long, that ASEAN plus One and ASEAN plus Three are already under way. Yet the Democratic Progressive Party still opposes it out of sheer cussedness. It is unable to suggest an alternative. The DPP and Tsai Ing-wen should adopt a macro view of ECFA. Instead they have turned it into a political football with which to sow domestic dissension. What they are doing is nothing less than exploiting a nation's crisis for short term political advantage. They are, as the Chinese expression puts it, "licking blood from a knife."
Our political and economic future faces a grave threat. With or without ECFA, the "three rural issues" are major political and economic problems. Politicians must have the vigilance to extricate the Republic of China from its political crisis, and the vision to extricate Taiwan from its economic crisis. They must not attempt to divide Taiwan along the line of "agricultural counties and cities" and "non-agricultural counties and cities." They must not deceive farmers, inciting them to hate ECFA. The DPP's anti-intellectual demagoguery can only make farmers feel exploited and aggrieved. it cannot safeguard our political and economic future, or protect our agricultural sector.
If the Republic of China's sovereignty and Taiwan's prosperity are undermined, we will end up with nothing. Where will agriculture be then?
2009.12.03 03:58 am