Taiwan's Real Crisis: An Inability to Get Beyond Mob Sentiment
China Times News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 14, 2009
The recent election was the "closest race in the history of Blue vs. Green political rivalry." Following the elections, President Ma offered to debate DPP chairman Tsai Ing-wen. The Democratic Progressive Party said it had waited a long time for this, and that it did not fear debate. If the two parties can remain rational while debating ECFA, the result would be good for Taiwan. Many people are probably looking forward to it. If ECFA remains merely a political football during election campaigns, then Taiwan will continue to be inundated by waves of populist rumor-mongering. Society will continue to wallow in emotionalism that lead nowhere. That is Taiwan's real crisis.
The Democratic Progressive Party's confidence has gotten a boost from the election. Next week will be the fourth meeting between Chiang Ping-kuen and Chen Yunlin. The host, Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu, has repeatedly begged the Green camp to allow the summit to proceed without incident. Many business leaders have also expressed concern over potential trouble during the Chiang-Chen meeting. But they appear unable to move the Democratic Progressive Party, which is determined to do everything in its power to sabotage the meeting. It has already decided to widen the scope of its protests "in response to the Chiang/Chen meeting's seven-member group." It has vowed that it will stage "spectacular" protests. The Green camp intends to "make Chen Yunlin look bad." During the previous Chiang/Chen summit in Taipei, the DPP urged many of its supporters to butt heads with the police. They left the public unsettled. They left blood in the streets. Just exactly who made whom look bad may be a matter of opinion.
Amidst this atmosphere of tension, Democratic Progressive Party legislators shrilly demanded without success that the Mainland Affairs Council make public the name of the hotel where Chen Yunlin would be staying. It is of course not hard to imagine what might happen once Chen Yunlin's place of abode in Taichung was made public. That is why the MAC has remained tight-lipped, and has no intention of disclosing such information. DPP officials have harangued administration officials, demanding to know, "Chen Yunlin, where are you? Chen Yunlin, where are you?" In fact they ought to be asking, "Taiwan, where are you?" Other East Asian countries such as South Korea have signed FTAs or CEPAs with other countries. But the Republic of China has yet to take even the first step. What kind of future will it have?
Over the past decade, Taiwan's exports to major import markets have been declining year by year. In 1999, in its largest export market, the U.S., products from Taiwan accounted for 3.43% of all imports. It ranked seventh in the world. In 2008, those exports had declined to 0.72%. It no longer ranked in the Top 10. Its shares in the European Union and the Japanese import market during the same period also declined from 2.77% and 4.12%, to 1.55% and 2.86%. Taiwan's global exports market share declined from 2.19% in 1999 to 1.59% in 2008.
South Korea and Singapore have been actively signing FTAs and ECFAs with other countries. South Korea and mainland China began signing such agreements in 2006. Consider joint studies of FTAs. Once an FTA has been signed, the vast majority of South Korea's exports to Mainland China will be tax exempt. Currently exports from Taiwan to Mainland China are subject to an average tariff of 8.94%. It is not hard to imagine what impact such export competitiveness from South Korea will have on Taiwan. Singapore has signed more FTAs than any other country. In 2003, Singapore exported less than Taiwan. But over the past five years, its export growth rate has increased to 18.6%. In 2004 its exports overtook Taiwan's. Also of concern is ASEAN has become Taiwan's second largest export target. Its first is Mainland China. Exports from Taiwan to Mainland China and ASEAN already account for over 50% of total exports. In 2010, the "ASEAN 10 plus One" FTA will take effect. The "One" of course refers to Mainland China. Henceforth products from both regions will be tax-free. If Taiwan cannot participate, what will the consequences be? The DPP is unparalleled at urging crowds to take to the streets. But has it ever asked itself what is the point of expending all the DPP's energy on a single individual such as Chen Yunlin? Even assuming it succeeds in "making Chen Yunlin look bad," what of it? Consider another issue. Suppose we don't sign ECFA? What is the Democratic Progressive Party's alternative for improving Taiwan's economy? The DPP says it is not afraid to debate ECFA with the KMT, but that it wants to wait until ECFA becomes more concrete. If that is the case, why not give Chiang Ping-kuen and Chen Yunlin the chance to discuss it first? Why not give them a chance to hold the necessary consultations over ECFA? Isn't the whole point of consultations to make ECFA more concrete, thereby allowing the DPP to debate its merits with the KMT? When others want to consult over ECFA, the DPP won't let them. When others want to debate ECFA with the DPP, the DPP says it is unwilling to debate them until the issue is more concrete. What would the DPP have the KMT do? Tsai Ing-wen has served as MAC chairwoman. She was a member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party administration. She need not be so passive. She need not wait until the KMT and CCP have concluded their consultations and arrived at concrete conclusions before she plans her next move. Why not take the initiative to develop the Democratic Progressive Party's own edition of ECFA, or whatever they wish to call it? The Democratic Progressive Party says it "loves Taiwan." Shouldn't it have confidence in its ability to work out a better solution than the KMT? A solution more favorable to Taiwan? A solution more feasible? We hope the DPP will not just keep insisting that other people's beef is toxic. For the good of Taiwan, the DPP should come out and tell us: "Where's the beef?"