Making Room for the Rational Discussion of Cross-Strait Issues
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 22, 2009
Yesterday, on the eve of the fourth Chiang/Chen Meeting, Robert Tsao, Honorary Chairman of the UMC Corporation, took out two half-page ads on the front pages of three different newpapers. He called on President Ma Ying-jeou to extricate himself from his "no unification, no independence, no use of force" framework. He called on him to make a courageous decision by actively promoting a law ensuring peaceful cross-Strait relations. Whether Robert Tsao's suggestion is sound is debatable. How the Ma administration will respond is also unclear. But we think such positive and proactive approaches to cross-Strait interaction and cross-Strait policy deserve recognition.
Cross-Strait debate has long been deadlocked, mired in a simplistic dualism. The leaders of the ruling and opposition camps have devoted most of their intellect and energy challenging their opponent's positions. Public debate is dominated by simplistic slogans and emotional rhetoric. This vicious cycle has gone on for at least a dozen years. It has led to escalating confrontation between the government and the opposition. Neither camp has been able to convert the other. This was true in the past, and will remain true in the future. Who is in office makes no difference. Whoever is in office will find himself mired in the same quagmire, spinning his wheels, and unable to extricate himself.
What is the point of ruling party change on Taiwan, if the only change is that a different camp will take to the streets to protest? How will enhance our competitiveness? Robert Tsao's main point was that we must attempt to find a way out of our deadlock when discussing cross-Strait relations. We must find a new way to debate these issues. A new way of debating such issues would offer many benefits. One would no longer be mired in disputes for which there will never be any final conclusion. In short, one must not engage in debates which can only bring disaster upon Taiwan. Instead, one must consider options that may provide Taiwan with benefits and opportunities. The issue would no longer be "reunification vs. independence." The issue would be how to build cross-Strait trust under conditions of peace and democracy. Robert Tsao's "cross-Strait peaceful coexistence Law" is one possibility. Such discussions would of course give priority to the interests of the public on Taiwan. They would involve the democratic process. They would involve a rational calculation of the interests of a majority of the public on Taiwan. They would prevent anyone from hurling accusations about "Who is selling out Taiwan." That is why Robert Tsao said that if the DPP figures this out, the KMT could soon be out of power.
We certainly agree that given the current political atmosphere on Taiwan, even if one could initiate such a debate, it would soon descend into name-calling. Name-calling involves a very simple logic. Anyone who offers any constructive suggestions for cross-Straits interaction, regardless of what their substance might be, will be labeled "a traitor selling out Taiwan," who is "pandering to [Mainland] China," and who is "pro-reunification." He will be reduced to a straw man, to be blasted to smithereens with every weapon in one's arsenal. Any debate that descends to such depths will never lead anywhere. The debate will essentially be over. In recent years it has been impossible to openly and rationally discuss cross-Strait issues. This is the result of ad hominem name-calling. Put bluntly, the DPP has yet to hold a real debate on [Mainland] China policy. DPP leaders are too afraid of being labeled "traitors selling out Taiwan." The Ma administration's cross-Strait policy since assuming office has been timid and fearful, largely because it too is terrified of such accusations.
So the question is, is there nothing one can do, merely because one is afraid of being labeled? When it comes to [Mainland] China, the Democratic Progressive Party has its sacred cows. It is also the political opposition. Its inability to offer new policies and proposals is understandable. But this is not true of the KMT. A majority of the public on Taiwan voted for the KMT. They gave it a nearly three-quarters supermajority in the Legislative Yuan. They gave President Ma Ying-jeou an absolute majority. Why? So President Ma and the KMT could wallow in their current indecisiveness, constantly looking over their shoulder and second-guessing themselves? So President Ma and the KMT could spin their wheels and mark time? What we see today is a KMT legislative caucus with an absolute majority, able to do nothing, paralyzed by an opposition DPP with an absolute minority. Faced with opposition DPP criticism, the only thing President Ma knows how to do is apologize repeatedly. He has nothing positive to offer. Robert Tsao offered a criticism worth pondering. He thinks that since President Ma assumed office, he has adopted an "avoid controversy" style of decision-making. But to avoid controversy is tantamount to forsaking one's responsibility to govern. When national leaders are unwilling to stick to their guns, when they fail to set goals, their subordinates will find themselves adrift. The result will be "a plate of loose sand."
Everyone knows that amidst the current wave of globalization, our future is not bright. To escape our predicament, we must adopt a more aggressive attitude when it comes to cross-Strait relations. We can be proud of our baptism in democracy. We are able to accommodate a diversity of opinions. We have adopted such an attitude regarding Green Camp supporters when they protest against the Chiang/Chen Meeting. We must adopt the same attitude regarding all cross-Strait discussions and proposals.