Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Confronting New Strains of Influenza

Confronting New Strains of Influenza
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 30, 2009

In April 2009, the world was just beginning to recover from the havoc wreaked by the financial tsunami. US President Barack Obama confidently declared that signs of an economic recovery were already evident. Who knew another storm was already brewing? The World Health Organization (WHO) upgraded the epidemic caused by the H1N1 virus, a "new type of influenza," to a Level Four Alert. This may be revised at any time to a Level Five Alert. Many nations, including the Republic of China, have begun working to prevent a repeat of the panic and harm caused In 2003 by SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

At the same time, we have good news. This year, 12 years later, the Republic of China government will finally acquire observer status under the name "Chinese Taipei." On May 18 it will participate in the World Health Assembly (WHA). Some people consider WHA observer status under the name "Chinese Taipei" unsatisfactory. They compare it to World Trade Organization (WTO) membership under the name "Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu Customs Territory." But this is nevertheless an important step in the Republic of China government's return to the international community. Especially since this new type of influenza may touch off international concerns. Taipei has been invited to the meeting. It has been presented with the opportunity to join the international dialogue on public health and the cross-border health cooperation program led by the World Health Organization (WHO). This will provide Taipei with valuable experience in public health surveillance and the prevention of enterovirus infections and Influenza epidemics. For Taipei, participation in WHA is an important breakthrough.

Participation in international organizations is one thing. But disaster prevention efforsts must not be taken lightly. A new outbreak of influenza caused by a four-year-old boy's illness on a pig farm near the US-Mexican border appears random, like the outbreak of SARS in 2003. On February 26, 2003, an American businessman who fell ill in Hanoi and was hospitalized in Hong Kong, died. This was the prelude to SARS, known as the 21st Century plague. Soon afterwards, Hong Kong, Mainland China, Vietnam, and other Asian regions reported cases of SARS.

The first SARS cases were discovered in March. Initially, health authorities believed the epidemic was under control. But in April Heping Hospital experienced a massive outbreak. Patients, health care workers, and nursing personnel were all infected. This was Taiwan's first mass infection of SARS. The public experienced widespread panic and confusion. The government classified it as a fourth category of SARS Notifiable Diseases. For the first time since 1949, hospitals, streets, and buildings were quarantined. Both the central government Director of Health and the Taipei City Director of Health were forced to step down. The "anti-SARS hero" at the time, the man who on his own initiative entered the already quarantined Heping Hospital and took command, is today's Director of Health Yeh Chin-chuan.

SARS reminded many people of what well-known sociologist Ulrich Beck calls the "risk society." Society treats individuals as units. But modern risk is globalized (Glocal Risk). Individual behavior has collective consequences. Many people believe that one reason the SARS epidemic got out of control was that the Beijing government covered it up during its outset. The global community means constant interaction. Public health is an issue that requires everyone's participation. Any one nation or region's negligence may lead to unpredictable and unfortunate consequences. On Taiwan, SARS screening and isolation measures led to widespread public discussion of ethical issues. For example, a high school student quarantined at home violated quarantine to attend a cram school class. This created a hole in the quarantine system, and widespread criticism that the high school student had "absolutely no sense of public spirit." Some Heping Hospital medical staff refused to go back to work. Then Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou had some harsh words for them. He said fighting SARS was akin to waging war. If health care workers refuse to work, it is akin to cowardice in the face of the enemy. He would punish them according to the "Infectious Diseases Prevention Law," and seek administrative accountability.

The SARS epidemic taught Taiwan valuable lessons about collective risk, personal responsibility, and medical ethics. The fight against SARS also helped established standard operating procedures. Three and a half months after SARS erupted on Taiwan, WHO announced Taiwan's removal from its list of SARS infected areas. During this period, 664 were infected and 73 died. Approximately 110,000 were quarantine at home. Three in ten thousand returning to Taiwan from infected areas became infected. Twelve in ten thousand who came in contact with them became infected. The incidence of SARS on Taiwan was low. But the risk of death among those infected was high.

During that period, Taipei's application for WHA observer status was rejected. Six years later, a new type of influenza led to 160 deaths in nine countries. Asia already has its first confirmed cases, in South Korea. Will it cause a global pandemic? Everyone is concerned. In addition to public health security issues, scholarly studies reveal that the economic damage caused by the epidemic on Taiwan caused a drop in consumption of over 200 billion NT. Excluding the cost of fighting SARS, the financial losses amounted to 16 billion NT. Will the new type of influenza have a similar impact on a still recovering economy? The nations of the world must work together to survive the economic and social impact of the disease. During the SARS crisis, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson said pandemics remind us that public health knows no borders and is not a political issue. Without a global public health cooperation mechanism, we will not be able to control such diseases.

中國時報  2009.04.30

二 ○○九年四月,這個世界剛剛開始要從金融海嘯的肆虐中回神過來、準備迎接美國總統歐巴馬的信心喊話:「景氣已看到復甦的契機。」沒想到新風暴又成形,世界衛生組織(WHO)已將因H1N1病毒感染所造成的「新型流感」升級為第四級警戒,並且隨時可能上修為大量流行的第五級警戒。包括台灣在內,各國已紛紛投入防疫工作,以免二○○三年SARS(嚴重急性呼吸道症候群)恐慌與傷害再現。




SARS讓很多人深刻體認到著名的社會學家貝克(Ulrich Beck)所一再提醒的「風險社會」特質:社會看似以「個人」為單位,但現代風險卻已展現出一種全球在地化的趨勢(Glocal Risk),個別行為具有集體的影響力。很多人相信,SARS疫情之所以會一發不可拾,原因之一是中國大陸一開始隱瞞疫情;對交流頻繁的國際社會而言,公衛是「一個都不能少」風險連動課題,任何一個國家、地區的疏忽,都可能造成難以估計的不幸後果;而在台灣,SARS的篩檢與隔離措施,也引發了公共倫理議題的高度討論,例如,某位被居家隔離的高中生跑去補習,造成防疫漏洞,引發各界責難,認為這名高中生「完全沒有公共道德意識」;此外,當時和平醫院有醫護人員不願意返回醫院工作,進行抗爭,時任台北市長的馬英九特別說了重話,強調抗煞視同作戰,醫護人員如有抗爭,即視同敵前抗命,將依《傳染病防治法》懲處,並追究行政責任。



The Two Parties Should Not be Farther Apart than the Two Sides

The Two Parties Should Not be Farther Apart than the Two Sides
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 29, 2009

Summary: The two sides have been separated for 60 years. Over the past 20 years, ever since the opening of cross-Strait exchanges, cross-Strait relations have encountered unforseen difficulties and unfavorable currents. But the larger trend is irreversible. The two sides can no longer return to an era of standoff and hostility. The two sides have arrived at a consensus of "economics before politics." They have set aside political disputes. They have made the public interest their first priority. The government must act responsibly. The opposition DPP had eight years of experience in office. We hope it will put the interests of Taiwan first. We hope it will put the people first. We hope it will face up to reality and respond to the will of the people.

Full Text below:

The third Chiang/Chen Summit has successfully adjourned. The two sides signed agreements covering regularly scheduled cross-Strait air flights, financial cooperation, and anti-crime measures. They also achieved consensus on Mainland investments on Taiwan. According to the latest newspaper poll 53% of the public is in favor of allowing Mainland investments on Taiwan. Public satisfaction with President Ma Ying-jeou's policies rose slightly, to 45%. Public satisfaction with the Ma administration's cross-Strait policies rose to 49%. This shows that since the Ma administration took office nearly a year ago, its emphasis on cross-Strait exchanges are beginning to pay off, and have met with public approval.

Public opinion diverged considerably on whether the third Chiang/Chen Summit was convened on a peer-to-peer basis, and whether it undermined the Republic of China's sovereignty. Thirty-five percent felt it did not undermine our sovereignty. Another 35% felt it did undermine our sovereignty. Approximately 30% had no opinion. Compared to the second Chiang/Chen Summit, the proportion that felt it undermined our sovereignty increased. The proportion that felt it did not undermine our sovereignty declined. The poll figures explain to some extent why the opposition DPP invariably resorts to criticism of the Ma administration as the basis of its cross-Strait policy. Because by doing so it need not put forth any concrete data or evidence. One-third of the public will always oppose cross-Strait exchanges.

For the Ma administration this is a poll number about which it must remain vigilant. Ever since the Ma administration took office nearly a year ago, it has been unable to open a window of dialogue with opposition party leaders. Will the "two Yings" (Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen) meet? Every time the question is raised the two sides end up shouting at each from a distance. They never make real progress. Society desperately needs a consensus on cross-Strait policy. But without the participation of the opposition DPP, the public will remain divided between Blue and Green. The fracture between the two parties will never be healed. A democratic society should accomodate different views. Opinions both pro and con should be heard. Only then can we arrive at the broadest possible consensus. Only then can the policies implemented maintain social harmony. Those in authority must bear the greatest responsibilty and expend the greatest effort.

The Democratic Progressive Party is the largest opposition party. It must not ignore reality. It must not be content to embrace 30% of the public. It must not be content to bask in the approval of a minority. It must not be content to succumb to the pressure exerted by that minority. It must not Ignore the demands of the majority. Otherwise we will never be able to achieve a consensus among the majority. After all, if the DPP wishes to once again assume office, it can hardly rely on the support of only 30% of the public.

The Democratic Progressive Party is asking the public to take to the streets on May 17 to protest the Ma administration. This is understandable. But what connection is there between combating unemployment and accusing the Ma administration of undermining our sovereignty? DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen's harshest criticism is that the extension requested by the opposition DPP was "never even touched upon." Therefore they consider the Chiang/Chen Summit a total failure. Tsai Ing-wen was once Chairperson of the Mainland Affairs Council, and Vice-President of the Executive Yuan. During her term she rejected any and all calls for cross-Strait negotiations. Perhaps she does not understand. Just because the opposition DPP tosses out an issue prior to negotiations, that does not mean the ruling administration must discuss it or successfully negotiate it. Ma Ying-jeou also expressed a desire for an extension prior to the Chiang/Chen Summit. But the Ma administration has been in office less than a year. The institutionalization of the two sides' proxies, the SEF and the ARATS, appears to be on track. During the three years remaining in the Ma administration's first term, it will surely have a chance to raise this issue of such concern to the opposition DPP. The only question is, when the time comes, will the Democratic Progressive Party still consider this a "significant advance" in cross-Strait relations and policy?

Chen Po-chih was a Chairman of the CEPD and a Chairman of the Taiwan Think Tank under the DPP administration. Chen offered an even-handed evaluation of the Chiang/Chen Summit. He said it was good that they only signed a broad financial cooperation agreement, not a memorandum of understanding. He said "It must be properly laid out before signing." According to the Ma administration, a memorandum of understanding will be signed in about two months. Most important of all, the signing will be completed by officials from the two sides in direct, face-to-face talks, rather than through proxies. This amounts to significant progress in the negotiation process.

In fact, in less than a year, the three Chiang/Chen Summits have already established a precedent for cross-Strait talks. The three agreements signed this time were all finalized after secret talks by senior officials from the two sides, and signed by officials of MAC and ARATS. The Chiang/Chen Summits in Taipei and Nanjing signed cross-Strait airline services agreements and supplemental agreements. They incorporated the terms "the two sides" into the text. Their structure and content followed the same model many nations use for bilateral agreements. The cross-Strait joint anti-crime and mutual legal assistance agreement avoided the use of the term "extradition treaty." But it too applied all the relevant legal norms, further confirming cross-Strait cooperation among criminal investigation agencies. It too involved a giant step forward.

The two sides have been separated for 60 years. Over the past 20 years, ever since the opening of cross-Strait exchanges, cross-Strait relations have encountered unforseen difficulties and unfavorable currents. But the larger trend is irreversible. The two sides can no longer return to an era of standoff and hostility. The two sides have arrived at a consensus of "economics before politics." They have set aside political disputes. They have made the public interest their first priority. The government must act responsibly. The opposition DPP had eight years of experience in office. We hope it will put the interests of Taiwan first. We hope it will put the people first. We hope it will face up to reality and respond to the will of the people.

中國時報  2009.04.29









Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mainland Tourists are not Passersby

Mainland Tourists are not Passersby
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 28, 2009

As predicted, problems have arisen as the number of mainland tourists arriving on Taiwan has rapidly increased. Taiwan's tourism industry is clearly inadequate in both quantity and quality. More importantly, the government and the tourism industry must disabuse themselves of the myth of quantifiable business opportunities. Only then will Taiwan's tourism industry be able to make something of itself.

The government has been promoting mainland tourism on based on how long a mainland tourist stays on Taiwan and how much he spends each day. The total purportedly constitutes the increase in tourist revenue, the amount of foreign exchange earned, and the employment opportunities created. The government uses statistics to calculate the effectiveness of its policies. These calculations reveal the government and the tourism industry's mindset. Because the mainland has a population of 1.3 billion, local tour operators have treated mainland tourists not as Taiwan's guests. Instead they have myopically viewed each mainland tourist as a one-time business opportunity. They have viewed mainland tourists as passersby. That is why problems with mainland tourists have rapidly increased.

One. One mainland tour group's visa applications were not correctly filed. Without an entry permit the entire tour group was forced to return on the same plane. This revealed communication problems between the two sides. Two. Some tour groups overbooked, then found themselves unable to provide enough tour buses, forcing tourists to wait at the airport. Three. More and more tour guides complain that the three must-see tourist destinations for mainland tourists have problems. The dining facilities at Alishan require standing in line. The National Palace Museum has turned into a farm market. Sun Moon Lake is now littered with trash. All these circumstances were predictable, but we have yet to see any attempt to improve the situation. In particular, price competition within the industry, including below cost price wars, kickbacks from shops, a reduction in the number of tourist attractions, and changing modes of transportation to reduce costs, have led to a decline in the quality of tourism.

The other side is allowing the mainland public to visit Taiwan. Naturally it has political motives. But it also constitutes a show of goodwill. It hopes that interaction between the two sides will reach from top to bottom, via non-governmental exchanges. It hopes to expand contacts to enhance mutual understanding. It hopes to eliminate misunderstanding and hostility. Yet when we encounter mainland tourists on Taiwan, all we see is dollar signs. This fails to make the best use of the opportunity. Worse, it allows mainland vistors to see that Taiwan lacks even a rudimentary understanding of hospitality. The minimal standards Taiwan's tourism industry require have been lost during the quantification of business opportunities.

The tourism industry must not merely make money from tourists. It must become the medium through which visitors can experience the quality of our life, the content of our culture, and the character of our people. The quality of a tourist's experience is the measure of a nation's quality of life. As Landis Hotels and Resorts President Stanley Yen put it, tourism is a way for Taiwan to make friends with the world. A single friendly experience can make a friend. Having made a friend, the rewards that can flow from such a friendship are endless. Conversely, one negative impression after another will lead to the loss of friends, and the loss of any opportunity to develop our tourism industry. If Taiwan wants to develop its tourism industry, it must not harbor only a desire to take tourists to the cleaners. This is true for mainland visitors or foreigners.

Large numbers of mainland tourists arriving on Taiwan provide us with the opportunity to develop our tourism industry. But the government and industry must stop treating mainland tourists as passersby. They must take concrete action. Mainland China will soon be restoring its May 1st long vacation. Government agencies responsible for reviewing and issuing permits to visit Taiwan should ensure that every visitor departs as happily as he arrived. Based on the number of visitors to Taiwan, they must assume an active role in coordinating transportation, dining, and living facilities, ensuring that they meet the surge in tourist demand, As for cases already being dealt with, the relevant authorities should control tourist volume. Until the overall quality of service has been upgraded, they should maintain a strict limit of 3000 tourists a day. They must not use previously unfilled quotas. The purpose is not to limit quanity, but to control quality. In addition, the government must better evaluate and manage travel agencies. It may use quota allocations as an incentive, to prevent cutthroat competition.

The Executive Yuan recently passed its "Tourism Pilot Project." It intends to invest 30 billion NT in a four-year Tourism Development Fund to create 550 billion NT in business opportunities. The government's plans are extravagant and ambitious. But developing tourism requires more than paper planning. It requires a wide range of industries and services. From the executive branch it requires entry and exit permits. From the aviation industry it requires quality flight services. From travel agencies it requires itinerary planning and professional standards for tour guides. From the hotel industry it requires quality facilities and trained personnel. To create a tourist attraction requires efficient transportation routes and even high quality public toilets. It requires efficient cooperation between public authority and private creativity to link all these into a sustainable tourism industry. This is not merely about earning foreign exchange. It is also about improving the quality of life on Taiwan.

We must not view tourists arriving on Taiwan as cash cows to be milked, regardless of where they come from. We must make improvements based on our visitors' perceptions. We must then impress visitors with the improvements we have made.

2009.04.28 05:47 am









Monday, April 27, 2009

Mutual Non-Repudiation: The Basis of Cross-Strait Relations

Mutual Non-Repudiation: The Basis of Cross-Strait Relations
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 27, 2009

The Third Chiang/Chen Summit will be held in Nanjing. Rumor has it Taipei suggested the location, because Nanjing was the capital of the Republic of China, and Taipei wanted to underscore the institutional origins of the Chiang Pin-kung-led delegation. The mainland side was of course well aware of the implications of Taipei's proposal. But it made no attempt to evade it. The host was happy to accomodate the guest.

Chiang Ping-kun's plan to visit the "Republic of China Office of the President" however was canceled, allegedly for fear of arousing undue controversy. Too low a profile, and Taipei risks being written off as a relic of history. Too high a profile, and Taipei risks being suspected of creating "Two Chinas."

In Nanjing, the "Office of the President Republic of China" has already become an historical monument. That is an undeniable fact. But the Chiang Pin-kung delegation from Taipei was authorized by the Office of the President of the Republic of China. That is also an undeniable fact.

Mutual non-recognition, in combination with mutual non-repudiation -- this is the main reason cross-Strait relations have been able to develop to the extent they have today. If the two sides' position was "mutual recognition," they would have no need of proxies such as SEF and ARATS. The two sides' position is "mutual non-repudiation," meaning that the two sides do not deny each other's legitimacy. They recognize that the two sides do in fact exist. Hence the need for proxies such as SEF and ARATS. After all, if the two sides did not exist, why would they need proxies?

For Taipei, Chiang Ching-kuo's lifting of martial law and abolition of the Temporary Provisions during the Period of Communist Rebellion, were made in preparation of recognizing the People's Republic of China government. But Beijing was concerned about any departure from the "One China Principle," and refused to recognize the Republic of China. This is why the Beijing authorities are unwilling to recognize the ROC government. This is why legally speaking, the two sides refuse to recognize each other. They must maintain internal and external accountability and "reciprocity." But the two sides' reciprocity is not simply "mutual non-recognition." Although the two sides do not recognize each others' legitimacy legally, they cannot deny each others' actual existence physically. Therefore the two sides' reciprocity is actually "mutual non-recognition, plus mutual non-repudiation." Otherwise, how could the two sides talk about market access and mutual legal assistance?

It has been less than a year since the second change in ruling parties on Taiwan. From last year's Six Agreements to this year's Three Major Issues, plus ECFA, which may be addressed during the second half of the year, cross-Strait interaction has expanded rapidly. The more cross-Strait relations are elevated, deepened, and broadened, and the more prominent the role of the two sides' governments, then the more willing the two sides are to engage in "mutual non-repudiation." Take for example the choice of Nanjing as the venue for the Chiang/Chen Summit. Three items, including air transport, finance, and the administration of justice, require the establishment of a working window in a real world context. They will no longer be government proxies. Cross-Strait exchanges will inevitably be elevated, deepened, and broadened. If the two sides deny each other's legitimacy, how can they establish a government with legal jurisdiction? How can they even sbegin to discuss mutual legal assistance?

For the time being, the two sides neither recognize each other nor repudiate each other. This, according to Hu Jintao, is central to the "Framework for Peaceful cross-Strait Development." In other words, Beijing's policy toward Taipei cannot be be based on the premise that the "Republic of China has already perished." Without "mutual non-repudiation," cross-strait relations will be shattered and impossible to maintain. Without governments, how can one have government proxies?

If cross-Strait relations in 2008 are to return to the "1992 Consensus," the two sides must maintain a position of "mutual non-repudiation." Let us examine the two sides' rhetorical formulations. Taipei invariably brings up "confront reality by not repudiating each other." Beijing avoids responding directly, but substitutes "peaceful development, set a new course for the future." The current Chiang/Chen Summit is no exception. As long as Beijing does not formally repudiate Taipei's "confront reality by not repudiating each other," the two sides still have room to maneuver. In short, some things can be done, but cannot be talked about.

For example, President Ma interpreted "1992 Consensus" as "One China, Different Interpretations." Beijing did not respond directly, but neither did it repudiate it directly. This "mutual non-repudiation" is made possible by the "Different Interpretations" premise. It is essential to "peaceful cross-Strait development." It is the absolute minimum requirement.

The achievements of the three Chiang/Chen Summits over the past two years have been based on "mutual non-repudiation." The elevating, deepening, and broadening of cross-Strait relations will require increased "mutual non-repudiation." We hope the authorities on both sides will appreciate the importance of this tacit understanding, and not undermine it lightly. As we see it, it may be unfortunate that we cannot recognize each other, but at least we must not repudiate each other!

2009.04.27 05:45 am












Friday, April 24, 2009

Throw off the Shackles of History

Throw off the Shackles of History
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 24, 2009

Can you believe it? The day before yesterday Ma Ying-jeou proposed a "new conception of geography" that bore a striking resemblance to the "blueprint for the next century" issued by the DPP 12 years ago.

President Ma held a video conference with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a US think tank. He proposed a "new conception of geography." He said his administration attaches greater importance to Taiwan's "geographical location" than to its "history." To Taiwan's east, west, south, and north are the United States, Mainland China, ASEAN, and Japan. Along with the European Union, these constitute the world's six largest economic zones. Therefore his adminstration hopes to make good use of Taiwan's status as a hub, and allow Taiwan to link these economic zones.

Twelve years ago, in 1997, the DPP issued a "blueprint for the next century -- national land development plan." It noted that Taiwan is not at the center, nor is it at the periphery. It has vitality, the ability to reflect upon its circumstances, and the ability to create a bridge between the sea and the land, and between east and west.

Ma's "new conception of geography" is remarkably similar to the DPP's.

Twelve years ago DPP Chairman Hsu Hsin-liang proposed his "boldly go west / do business in China" policy. The aforementioned "blueprint for the next century" was based precisely on such lofty sentiments and aspirations. Back then Taiwan was mired in controversy over "Taiwan's primacy." Was Taiwan at the center, or was it at the periphery? The "blueprint for the next century" was an attempt to use "Taiwan's functionality" as an "interface between sea and land, and a bridge between east and west," to replace or supplement "Taiwan's primacy." Taiwan's primacy emphasizes politics and history. Taiwan's functionality emphasizes economics and geography.

We on Taiwan have for too long been constrained by history and politics. To free ourselves from such constraints we must take advantage of our economic strengths and geopolitical advantages. President Ma said he attached greater importance to the Taiwan region's "geographical location" than to its "history." Actually the only way we on Taiwan can improve our political situation and open up new possibilities, is to make maximum use of our geographical advantage and economic vitality. Twelve years ago the Democratic Progressive Party's "blueprint for the next century", said Taiwan had "vitailty, the ability to reflect upon its condition, and creativity." It too stressed adjusting one's thinking. It too stressed that Taiwan can function as an interface between the sea and the land, and a bridge between east and west. In short, it was a harbinger of President Ma's "new conception of geography."

The DPP's "blueprint for the next century" was eventually shredded, and Hsu Hsin-liang ousted from the party. But it showed that even within the Democratic Progressive Party, one could find a "new conception of geography." It remains a latent force even today. Hsu Hsin-liang has returned to the Democratic Progressive Party. Reread this "blueprint for the next century" from 12 years ago. Had Chen Shui-bian implemented even a tiny part of this blueprint during his eight years in office, the DPP would not have led the nation down the garden path as far as it has.

President Ma's "new conception of geography" stressed Taiwan's location at the center of four major economic zones. He hopes to use economics to improve the nation's political situation. He hopes to use geography to improve the nation's historical fortunes. Twelve years ago the DPP's "blueprint for the next century - national land development plan" aspired to establish Taiwan as an interface between the sea and the land, and a bridge between east and west. Was it not engaged in the same sort of political and economic thinking? Was it not using the same strategy for national survival?

At this point, one can't help but feel pity for the Democratic Progressive Party. One can't help but feel sad for the Democratic Progressive Party. The Democratic Progressive Party wants to change history. But it defies global trends and remains a captive of history. It wants to improve the nation's political circumstances. But it remains bound by ideological and political constraints. The Democratic Progressive Party's "rectification of names, declaration of independence, and founding of a new nation" can only tear society apart and provoke internal conflict. How can it change history? How can it improve the nation's political situation? Twelve years ago the Democratic Progressive Party spoke of "vitality, an ability to engage in self-introspection, and creativity." Where is that "vitality, ability to engage in self-introspection, and creativity" today?

We on Taiwan must liberate ourselves from the shackles of history. We must think instead in terms of geography. It matters not whether we call it a "new conception of geography," or an "interface between sea and land, and a bridge between east and west." The road ahead will be difficult. But it is the only road to our salvation.

To people of vision within the Democratic Progressive Party, why not revisit this courageous moment in your own history? If the shackles of history cannot save Taiwan, how can they possibly save the DPP?

2009.04.24 05:44 am












Thursday, April 23, 2009

Politics as a Profession

Politics as a Profession
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 23, 2009

We once believed politicians saw politics as a calling, in accord with sociologist Max Weber's ideal. Politicians must strike a difficult balance between their ethical convictions and their political constraints. We assumed that even politicians such as Machiavelli, who stopped at nothing and sold his soul to the devil, were acting for the greater good. But over the past several years, we have witnessed Taiwan's politicians amass huge fortunes and act solely for their own self-interest.

Such politicians defy our expectations. Moreover, when politicians openly reveal concern only for their own self-interest, how can we still believe they are qualified to engage in politics, which is everybody's business?

To answer this question, one must take a hard look at this business called politics. In general, the only time one will ever encounter professional politicians is in regions such as mainland China or nations such as the Soviet Union, which were founded by professional revolutionaries. In democratic countries, most politicians are people who have undergone a mid-life career change. The current issue of The Economist calculates that out of 5000 politicians in democracies over the world, most are lawyers and law-related professionals. They constitute nearly 20%. President Barack Obama of the United States and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are lawyers. Half of all U.S. senators are in law-related professions.

Are lawyers qualified to be politicians? Following the Chen Shui-bian administration, lawyers turned politicians have left society a highly negative image of themselves as people concerned only with procedural technicalities and eager to win at any cost. And yet America's greatest President Abraham Lincoln was a prominent lawyer. In his book "Democracy in America," Alexis de Tocqueville heaped praise upon lawyers for their respect for due process as a means of moderating public passions. .

Second on the list was businessmen. Businessmen turned politicians are even more controversial than lawyers. Take Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, or former President of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra. Both blurred the line between their private accounts and the national treasury. Thaksin is currently in exile over charges of corruption. Silvio Berlusconi remains immune from prosecution because he is Prime Minister. Their methods of sheltering and expanding their private fortunes, have left a negative image of businessmen turned politicians.

But if one looks at examples at home and abroad, businessmen turned politicians are hardly the only ones who profit by assuming political office. Moreover, businessmen turned politicians are not without merits. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was once seen as an exemplar of entrepreneurs turned statesmen. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is typical transplant from Wall Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. In the wake of the financial crisis, a number of figures from the financial sector joined the British Cabinet.

Then there are academics turned politicians. when former President Lee Teng-hui was in office he was praised as Mr. Democracy. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil, was formerly an academic famous for his theory of interdependence. During his term of office he helped Brazil remake itself and gain international respect. But the performance of academics turned politicians is difficult to predict. Dr. Liu Chao-hsuan's cabinet has been referred to as a "cabinet of professors." Yet its performance has been below expectations.

Lawyers, businessmen, and academics turned politicians once considered politics a mission. But in recent decades a new trend has appeared, politics as a profession. British journalist Peter Oborne's book, "The Triumph of the Political Class," points to think tanks, political consultants, public relations firms, and other quasi-political institutions which have become a reserve of political talent. These people may not have had any other form of work experience. In other words, politics has finally become a profession.

Peter Oborne cites the new British Labor Party as a prime example. If you want to stand out in politics, first, you must express an interest in politics while in school. Second, you must become an aide to a promising politician. Third, if you wish to reach the top, you must breath the same air and drink the same water as politicians at the top. This kind of politics doesn't concern itself with policy, only with marketing. Once in office, anything goes in the struggle for power, utterly indifferent to the perceptions of others.

Does this sound familiar? Everyone from members of the student movement on Taiwan who turned to politics, to Karl Rove, aka "Bush's brain," has taken the same shortcut to the top. This has led to either their own downfall, or their superior becoming the most unpopular president in history.

Every profession has its own code of ethics. But establishing a code of ethics for the "profession of politics" may be difficult. Those who seek political office have only one objective - to win. And after all, it is a zero-sum game. My win is your loss. My political survival means your political death. The new Political Class lives amidst such fierce competition. How can one possibily expect them to behave as professionals? How can one not expect them to degenerate into unprincipled schemers? Many people consider politics a necessary evil. There is no reason to expand this new Political Class.

The plight of Wang Hsueh-feng and numerous other former legislators is sad. But if this inspires us to establish pensions for legislators, it will only attract more unsuitable people. It will also expand the class of political professionals of dubious merit. Perhaps the best approach is to return to the classic model of politics as a mission, in which one enters the field without any expectations of profit.

中國時報  2009.04.23








不論律師、商人還是學者從政,初衷可能是將政治當作一種志業,但近幾十年來的新趨勢,則是「將政治當作一種專業」。英國記者Peter Oborne的《The Triumph of the Political Class》一書,點出智庫、政治顧問、公關公司等「准」政治機構,已成為政治人才的儲備所,這些人不必有任何其他工作經驗,政治終於變成一種專業。

Peter Oborne描述的是以英國新工黨為主的例子,如果你想在政治上出頭,第一步,在校時你就必須凸顯自己對政治的興趣;第二步,你務必要幫一個有前途的政治人物作事;第三步,最後若要登上頂峰,你必須與最能搞政治的人吃在一起,玩在一起。這樣的人從政不管政策內容只管行銷,一旦在位就無所不用其極的爭權奪利,完全無視他人觀感。




Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Allow Mainland Tourists to Go From Alishan and Sun Moon Lake to the Night Market

Allow Mainland Tourists to Go From Alishan and Sun Moon Lake to the Night Market
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 22, 2009

When ARATS Vice Chairman Zheng Lizhong came to Taiwan, he could only shuttle back and forth from the hotel and the conference center, under heavy guard. Before he left, he said with regret that he originally hoped to visit the Shihlin Night Market, but unfortunately "conditions did not permit."

By "conditions did not permit," he of course was referring to the Yuanshan Hotel protests of last year, when Chen Yunlin visited, which led to bloody clashes. Fearing a repeat of the incident, security was made extremely tight, even at the expense of the guest's enjoyment. The host authorities were impotent to control the masses, so they resorted to controlling the guests. Their caution was excessive. Tourists spots such as the Shihlin Night Market, and Keelung Temple Entrance are full of local Taiwan flavor. If mainland visitors lack the freedom to come and go from them as they please, is that not a sad commentary on Taiwan's democracy?

Zheng Lizhong wanting to see the Shihlin Night Market was no accident. Most Mainland tourists who come to Taiwan follow the standard tourist itinerary. They visit Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, and the National Palace Museum. Members of large corporations such as Amway visit boutiques shops in Taipei's East District. But those who have visited Taiwan several times, and those with greater curiosity about Taiwan society, often choose to visit such local hot spots as the Shilin Night Market, On the one hand they can enjoy a wide variety of local Taiwanese delicacies. On the other they can experience first hand contact with local Taiwanese. That is authentic, in-depth tourism. As an official in charge of Taiwan affairs, Zheng Lizhong naturally wanted to make personal contact with the people of Taiwan. Sad to say, given current circumstances, "conditions did not permit."

After a concerted effort by both sides, the number of visitors coming to Taiwan during the last two months has surged. It has exceeded the daily limit of 3000 people. The government is considering increasing the limit to the 7200 people a day. This means that tourism is likely to bring economic benefits. It also means that Mainland tourists coming to Taiwan are undergoing a change. They are beginning to value quality over quantity. Put simply, we now need to consider more than the tourist capacity of our tourist attractions and tourist hotels. We need to think outside the definition of traditional tourism. We need to think more about genuine contact and comprehensive interaction. If the Shihlin Night Market or roadside shops can receive Mainland tourists freely, that will represent a real expansion in cross-Strait exchange.

Zheng Lizhong was not alone in wanting to visit the Shihlin Night Market. A few days ago Terry Gou treated a large number of guests from Shanxi to snacks. Many Mainland exchange students, accompanied by local students, go there for an enjoyable taste experience. From wanting to visit Alishan to wanting to visit the Shihlin Night Market, reflects an evolution in Mainland tourist preferences. It also reflects an inevitable deepening of cross-Strait exchanges. For Mainland tourists, Alishan is a United Front era textbook image of a Taiwan tourist attraction. It is a must see attraction, but not necessarily as impressive as the one in one's imagination. On the other hand, the Shihlin Night Market is part of contemporary Taiwan's urban culture. Tourists can quickly experience first hand the diverse nature of society on Taiwan. If "conditions permit," who wants to be confined to restaurants designated by their tour groups? Who wouldn't prefer a real taste of Taiwan? For shop owners in the Night Market, who wouldn't want to have Mainland tourists publicize their artistry through word-of-mouth praise?

Neither Zhao Gengda from Changzhou, who despoiled a tourist attraction with graffiti, nor the wealthy elites of the Amway corporation are typical Mainland tourists. The majority of Mainland tourists merely want to come and see how Taiwan and mainland China differ. They are neither extravagant nor rude. They are curious and envious of the ROC's democracy. They silently observe Taiwan's culture. They remain vigilant against anti-Mainlander agitators. Some people on Taiwan may be concerned about large numbers of Mainland tourists flooding in. But let's not forget that 20 years ago, the public on Taiwan explored the mainland in the same way. The Mainland survived it just fine, and the opening led to change and progress.

For Taiwan the same is true. Allowing Mainland tourists to visit is not about anything so short-sighted as "boosting consumption." It is about allowing people on both sides of the Strait to engage in exchanges to enhance mutual understanding and friendship, thereby reducing hostility and conflict, learning from each other, and finding more things in common. That is why the government should allow Mainland tourists greater latitude. It should not limit Mainland tourists to the standard tourist attractions. It should allow them to freely associate with the public. Pro independence elements inclined to act out their hostility toward Mainland tourists should stop and think. They should consider a soft offensive against Mainland tourists, using gourmet cuisine and the human touch to persuade these Mainland pioneers to acknowledge and support the ROC's democracy, instead of merely haranguing them with insults.

If you encounter Mainland tourists at the Shihlin Night Market, what will you do? Will you chat with them? Will you share a few insights about the food? Or will you quietly observe them? The Night Market is a kind of forum, but one in which one need not speak. Just remember that when you observe others, others are observing you as well.

2009.04.22 05:57 am









The Economy has Yet to Recover, the Government must Redouble Its Efforts

The Economy has Yet to Recover, the Government must Redouble Its Efforts
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 22, 2009

Next week the government will announce several March economic indicators. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the numbers will be generally be better than February, but worse than March last year. The exception may be the unemployment rate. But the government's financial and economic officials have already announced that "spring is here and the swallows have returned." The government's intention is obvious. It hopes to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. It hopes to use a slowing decline to inspire public confidence, and to ignite the flames of an economic recovery. But after a wild ride, the economy remains shakey. It is easy to make a bad judgment call. At the moment the market is still seeking the bottom. It is s much too early to talk of a recovery. Doing so may lead to a loss in vigilance, causing the economy to undergo additional cycles, making governance even more difficult.

Pitfalls await anyone attempting to analyze today's economy. The first pitfall is the stock market. The Taiex rose sharply following the Lunar New Year. Last Thursday the Taiex approached the 6000 mark, a level unseen since September 15 last year, when the financial tsunami struck. On Friday trading volume exploded. Since February trade volume has increased 35% percent. The stock market is reacting to future expections. It is viewed a key economic indicators. The wealth effect brought about by rising stocks will increase consumption and investment, in a virtuous circle. This is indeed one possible sign of economic rejuvenation. We may be experiencing a rebound or zero interest rate environment beneficial to the performance of the stock market. But the stock market is more and more like the stock market last May. The easing of cross-Strait relations offered hope for a peace dividend. The index peaked on the May 20 anniversary of the presidential inauguration last year, only to plummet afterwards. Investors need to keep a cool head.

The second trap is statistics. Officials often use these to mislead the public. For example, the current spin is "March is better than February." This involves claims that over the counter sales, stock market trade volume, and domestic exports have improved from one month to the next. But March had 10% more working days than February. Of course the numbers increased. Most analyses compare any period with the same period last year, usually a minimum of three months. One must not jump to conclusions based on monthly data. The indicators released this week include export orders, industrial production, unemployment rate, and money supply. No surprises are expected this month. But if added to the previous two months, they may be a better indicator.

The choice of indicators is also a trap that may affect judgments about the impact of various factors upon the economy. The key indicators government heads use when they say spring is here and the swallows have returned, include the stock index and export figures. The third, indicator, which was unmentioned, is consumer spending. Take exports. The rate of decline in March clearly slowed. But the first quarter decline was worse than expected. It is hard to interpret this as recovery in exports. Also, Taiwan re-exports much of what it imports. Import figures, especially the leading indicators for agricultural and industrial raw materials, show no improvement in export momentum. This is true even if one factors in falling imports and oil prices during the first quarter.

Among the seven leading indicators prepared by the CEPD, only the money supply increased. This was one of the results of a loose monetary policy. But another leading indicator, housing construction permits, calculated by area, fell three months in a row. It is currently less than half of what it was when the financial tsunami struck. As for the labor market, the figure for overtime hours per month is even lower. Industry has yet to stabilize. The remaining indicators were good in one month, bad in the next, indicating bottom-seeking. These indicators show that the economy is still at the bottom struggling to move up. For government heads to claim that spring is here and the swallows have returned is truly premature.

The business cycle must go through certain phases, especially following the major damage caused by the decline from the previous peak. The financial system was on the verge of collapse, rapidly increasing the ranks of the unemployed. Businesses were forced to close due to supply chain production shortfalls. These are among the challenges the economy must face while clawing its way back from the bottom. It is both difficult and time-consuming. Therefore one must not be so naive as to assume that as the economy falls, so it will rise. It is unlikely to recover as quickly as it fell during the SARS crisis. If one is careless, one may find oneself at the bottom again. Another lesson of this recession is that the Internet and globalization have accelerated the business cycle. Only businesses that can respond swiftly can survive. This is true for governments as well. Therefore, the government should not be in a hurry to turn in a report card. Instead it should intensify specific measures to revive the economy. This is the right way to ensure a steady recovery when one is at the bottom.

What shape will Taiwan's economic recovery take? Will it be a stable U-shaped recovery? Will it be a W-shaped recovery with a second dip? Or will it be an L-shaped long-term recession? The answer is uncertain, and the government must not take matters lightly.

2009.04.20 02:02 am








Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Taiwan Must Not Hesitate in the Face of a Rising Mainland

Taiwan Must Not Hesitate in the Face of a Rising Mainland
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 21, 2009

The Boao Forum recently adjourned. The third Chiang/Chen cross-Strait summit is about to convene. For the two sides, last year's change in ruling parties was an important turning point in cross-Strait relations. This year is crucial to closer cross-Strait cooperation. Last year's Boao Forum was Beijng's world-class economic conference. This year, Beijing was not at all shy about incorporating the issue of cross-Strait economic and financial cooperation into the official agenda. Its intent was to announce to the world that the two sides are working together to combat the global economic crisis. It was also a direct response to President Ma Ying-jeou's previous recommendation that bilateral relations be integrated into multilateral relations.

Beijing's "goodwill" toward Taipei is overwhelming. Beijing allowed Mainland tourists to visit Taiwan. When Taipei complained that the number of tourists was inadequate, Beijing issued a directive ordering Mainland provinces and cities to immediately increase the number of tourists to Taiwan this year. Wave upon wave arrived, with ten thousand tourists in each wave. Just before Taipei's delegation to the Boao Forum departed for the Mainland, President Ma Ying-jeou asked delegation leader Fredrick Chien to convey a message to Beijing: "Help each other, support each other, deepen cooperation create a common future." Mainland China Premier Wen Jiabao responded with: "Face the future, put the past behind us, cooperate closely, advance hand in hand." Not only that, Fredrick Chien's meeting with Wen Jiabao was extended from 20 minutes to 50 minutes. Premier Wen Jiabao had much more he wanted to say. Matters that Fredrick Chien hesitated to breach, Premier Wen Jiabao brought up on his own. He said "ECFA is also open to discussion." Fredrick Chien was so surprised he demurred, saying he was there merely as an NGO representative, in an unofficial capacity, and not at liberty to say too much.

The mainland has reason to be in a hurry. Since Chiang Ching-kuo first opened up cross-Strait exchanges, the process has undergone numerous ups and downs. Premier Wen Jiabao's response to Ma Ying-jeou, "put the past behind us" had important implications. When Lee Teng-hui first assumed power, the other side had high expectations. But toward the latter part of Lee's rule, they encountered hidden reefs, and eventually Lee's "no haste, be patient" policy. Cross-Strait civilian exchanges never ceased. But political dialogue was frequently filled with disagreement. When Chen Shui-bian first assumed power, the Mainland also had expectations. It even attempted to establish underground channels. But the Chen administration's cross-Strait policy was soon held hostage by pro-independence advocates, and "effective management" was replaced by "aggressive management." Now that President Ma Ying-jeou has taken office, leaders in Beijing are sending him a message of goodwill. Will it work with Ma Ying-jeou? Will it change the cross-Strait political atmosphere? Doubts remain.

The tense cross-Strait situation has lasted 12 to 13 years. Non-governmental exchanges never ceased. They became even closer. Private entrepreneurs who hoped to profit from exchanges no longer looked to government policy. Many business owners ignored official policy and acted on their own, even at the cost of lawsuits. But politically the cross-Strait political atmosphere changed. Chiang Ching-kuo once declared that "I am Chinese, I am also Taiwanese." Today a declaration that "I am Chinese" is almost taboo on Taiwan. Buddhist Master Hsing Yun was born on the Mainland. During a cross-Strait forum on Buddhism, he was subjected to a firestorm of criticism for uttering these words. The cross-Strait political atmosphere was subjected to 12 to 13 years of political reshaping following the change in ruling parties. As one can imagine, undoing these changes so soon after returning to power is no easy matter. Cross-Strait exchanges and cooperation has been restored at great difficulty. No one wants to see this undone and the opportunity to write history lost, yet again.

Closer cross-Strait co-operation accords with Taiwan's interests. But whether such cooperation will affect the sovereignty of the Republic of China, or incite pro-independence or pro-reunification sentiment on Taiwan, remains a nameless anxiety. Such anxiety is understandable, but must not impede the island's progress.

When the two sides first opened up, Beijing viewed Taipei as its teacher. Its hunger and thirst for knowledge exceeded our imagination. It was interested in improving everything from the stock market to the financial regulatory system, from agricultural products to factory management. Even now, Taiwan's experience in policy-making remains one of considerable importance to mainland officials. Heads of State Owned Enterprises with Communist Party affiliations and financial officials say Beijing's land policy is not open enough, lacks respect for the market, and always meddle in the market process. They are able to recite the history of Taiwan's economic miracle, chapter and verse. They can even discuss in detail the roster of former ROC Ambassadors to the United States with Fredrick Chien. We can see how determined Beijing is to understand Taiwan. By contrast, how well do we on Taiwan understand the mainland? How thorough is our own research?

As Taipei simultaneously welcomes and resists cooperation and exchanges with Beijing, Beijing is already accelerating its cooperation and exchanges with the international community. When Beijing and six nations sign a currency exchange agreement, can Taipei turn a blind eye? Mainland China has become an indispensable link in the international economic and financial system. Other nations have their eyes wide open. They look to Beijing and Asia for leadership in overcoming the global economic crisis. Taipei must not remain outside the Asian regional economy. It cannot ignore international economic trends and refuse to associate with Beijing. Cross-Strait exchanges are irreversible. No matter how the political situation evolves, no matter how long the cross-Strait process is prolonged, one thing is certain, fear and anxiety can never create a second economic miracle. Faced with a rising Mainland, Taiwan needs determination and courage.

中國時報  2009.04.21
社論-面對崛起的中國 台灣不能遲疑








Friday, April 17, 2009

The Party Chairmanship won't help a Teflon President

The Party Chairmanship won't help a Teflon President
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 17, 2009

Last year, following Ma Ying-jeou's May 20th inauguration, a controversy erupted over whether he ought to stand on the "first line" of battle or the "second line." At the time President Ma declared that he had "absolutely no intention" of assuming the KMT party chairmanship.

At the time, we had two comments. First, for the President to assume the party chairmanship, is an important strategic weapon. It is also a kind of lifeboat. The President can choose not to assume the party chairmanship. But he must never say "I absolutely will not assume the party chairmanship." Because on a rapidly evolving political battlefield, no one should ever declare that he will never make use of a strategic weapon or a lifeboat. Secondly, given the situation following the 2008 Presidential Election, President Ma must not "retreat to the second-line." Therefore, if necessary, he must consider assuming the party chairmanship.

President Ma should assume the party chairmanship for two reasons. One. When Ma was elected president in 2008, the electorate expected him to be a leader of the nation. But he apparently only wants to be a President as spelled out in the wording of the constitution. There is a world of difference between a "sitting President" and a "leader of the nation."

Two. Fundamentally speaking, three different relationships are possible between a nation's ruling government and the ruling party. One. Under a cabinet system, with its internally created political parties, the Premier is also the party chairman. Two. Under a presidential system such as the United States, the executive and the legislature are separate. The party is merely a machine for fund-raising and for waging election campaigns. It cannot control the legislature. Naturally there is no party chairman to rival the President. Three. Under Communist dictatorships, with their externally created political parties, the party chairman trumps the head of state, and can assume the role of head of state. The Kuomintang and Democratic Progressive Party were originally Leninist political parties. The party was the government. Following the nation's democratization, the President could still choose to act as party chairman. To wit, Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian. The party and the government will then be in synchronization. If the president chooses not to, then a party chairman can organize a legislative caucus and make trouble for the directly-elected president. Broadly speaking, the last possibility is structurally defective. It stands outside the first three possibilities.

In fact cooperation between Ma and Wu is quite smooth. It is unlikely to lead to the sort of scenario outside agitators describe. But Ma and Wu are "two heads." Wu Poh-hsiung is Ma Ying-jeou's senior. He has his own political style, his own political consciousness, and his own political connections. That is why Chiu Yi was able to scuttle Shen Fu-hsiung's nomination as Vice President of the Control Yuan. That is why the "Public Servants' Unaccounted For Assets Act" ran aground. That is why the Diane Lee incident dragged on past the point of remedy. Ma Ying-jeou "respects Uncle Wu." He respects the separation of party and government. Wu Poh-hsiung has his own political style, political consciousness, and political connections. This ensures that such fiascoes will occur again and again, and this is what the public will sees. An old saying in the West states that "When two ride on a horse, one must ride behind." Ma and Wu may be close, but two heads cannot ride a horse side by side.

Ma Ying-jeou's problem is not limited to whether he should assume the party chairmanship. If the "teamwork" method of doing business remains unchanged, assuming the party chairmanship will only increase the burden. The situation will only become more difficult. We would like to offer the following two suggestions.

First, Ma Ying-jeou must give up his Teflon Presidency. Ma has enormous charisma. But his key staffers are removed from the public. In fact, Ma Ying-jeou need not assume the chairmanship of the party. All he needs to do is unite Ma Ying-jeou, Vincent Siew, Liu Chao-hsuan, Wang Jyng-ping, and Wu Po-hsiung. If he can inspire the other four to unite and dedicate themselves to their comrades, the structure of his administration will be decided. But Ma Ying-jeou's "sense of propriety" could easily degenerate into a reluctance to assume responsibility and alienation from the public. Otherwise, Ma, Siew, Liu, Wang, and Wu would not be watching their backs and so fearful of each other. They would not have allowed Shen Fu-hsiung's nomination to be scuttled, the Public Servants' Unaccounted For Assets Act to run aground, and the Diane Lee incident to deteriorate past the point of remedy. What are these five leaders doing for the nation? They are standing right next to each other. They are not at opposite ends of the world. The crux of the problem is a "Teflon Presidency" concerned only with a sense of propriety.

Secondly, Ma must establish a dedicated task force. The Ma administration is populated with thinkers, not doers who are inclined to empty talk, and unable to make things happen. Nan Fang-shuo's criticism of Ma Ying-jeou as "style over substance" is dead on the mark. Ma Ying-jeou initially hoped to "retreat to the second-line." This is decadent Confucianist "Heaven is silent and the seasons pass in orderly fashion" thinking. In today's democratic politics, crises arise daily. In such hand-to-hand combat, there is no "second-line." If Ma is only about style, and has no team that can produce anything of substance, he will find it impossible to shake off his image as "just another pretty face." For example, together the Presidential Office, the Cabinet, and the Party have three Secretary-Generals. They lack vitality, lack creativity, or are merely assigned to the wrong positions. They have been assigned to their posts merely on the basis of seniority or to keep up appearances. Such individuals have no ability to lead or unite whatsoever. If Ma Ying-jeou assumes the party chairmanship, he must not be a top down KMT leader. He must inspire his team to lead from the bottom up. To lead the party, he must transform his political style into a political mission, and his political mission into political accomplishments.

Ma Ying-jeou should consider assuming the chairmanship of the party. Throughout the government and the party, there must be a single political vision, and not several "heads," each attempting to promote his own vision. This new political vision must demand integrity and transform style into substance.

2009.04.17 05:44 am






但是,馬英九的問題,尚不只在兼不兼任黨主席;倘若其「團隊工作」(Team Work)的經營方法不變,兼黨主席後,恐只是更增勞瘁而已,反而可能更陷捉襟見肘的境地,在此也有兩點評論:




Thursday, April 16, 2009

Red vs. Yellow Confrontation: A Wrong Turn in Thailand's Road to Democracy

Red vs. Yellow Confrontation: A Wrong Turn in Thailand's Road to Democracy
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 16, 2009

The shockwaves from last year's Yellow Shirt seige of the Prime Minister's Office and occupation of the National Airport have yet to subside. Several months have passed, and it's the Red Shirts' turn to disrupt the ASEAN summit, raid the Ministry of the Interior, and set fires in the streets of the capital. Thailand's vicious political clashes involve rival political camps alternately taking to the streets to vent their anger. This has not merely damaged the nation's peaceful image, it has sown the seeds of mutual confrontation and mutual hatred.

Recently Thailand's democracy has been a horsedrawn carriage that has taken a wrong turn. Having gone down the wrong fork in the road, it is unable to find its way. Politicians with selfish motives have used a basically gentle people as tools in their political struggles. The King of Thailand, who has long been a stabilizing factor, has unfairly been given a political label. The military is adopting a wait-and-see attitude. It is sitting back watching the social chaos, hoping to profit politically. The greatest irony is that while all of Thailand is in turmoil, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in exile because of his corruption, is laughing as he manipulates the conflict from overseas.

Thailand's Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts have taken to the streets one after the other. Recently a number of nations have undergone largely similar democratic "color revolutions." One. They do not involve people rising up as one in protest against authoritarianism, but masses taking to the streets in support of their own political parties. Ordinary citizens are mere pawns in the struggle between politicians. Two. Protest tactics have gone beyond simple pro-democracy demonstrations. They now include the deliberate targeting of international airports, political and economic summits, and international hotels, by crowds numbering in the tens of thousands, that can easily harm the nation's image. Three. No holds barred protest tactics divide society and breed mutual hatred. Meanwhile the politicians who fomented the unrest remain above the fray.

Today Thailand finds itself in an impasse. The main reason is that three years ago Thaksin's corruption was not dealt with effectively, either politically or legally. The military resorted to a politically expedient coup d'etat to force Thaksin out of office. The courts twice ruled the elections invalid. This sowed the seeds of future instability. Unfortunately, the corrupt and derelict Thaksin is a charismatic political leader. He enjoys broad support in rural villages. He even dares to challenge the authority of the royal family. Even in exile, he has massive financial resources and political momentum, enough to mobilize domestic forces to do his bidding. Take one exiled politician with unquenched ambitions. Add masses with irrepressible political passions, a ruling administration impotent in the face of crisis, and vested interests content to watch from the sidelines, and you have the recipe for today's out-of-control Thailand.

The Filipino people took to the streets and overthrew the Marcos dictatorship. Amidst the carnival atmosphere of "People Power," myths about democracy gained currency. Developing nations competed with each other to follow suit. But from what we have seen of the Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts, Thailand's "People Power" revolution has gone awry. The people have unwittingly become the pawns of politicians. They have fallen into the politicians vortex of hate. Political knots are harder and harder to untie. The nation is finding it harder and harder to fulfill its potential.

The Red Shirts have temporarily retreated. But the chaos that forced the ASEAN Summit to adjourn early has already embarrassed current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva. Thaksin, who sits on piles of gold and silver but who cannot return home, will miss no opportunity to induce the masses to fight his proxy war. Meanwhile, Bhumibol Adulyadej, the aging King of Thailand, is finding it harder and harder to maintain the credibility of the royal family amidst the chaotic transition to democracy.

An even more serious problem is the people of Thailand have misunderstood democracy. In addition to the pro-Thaksin Red Shirts, the anti-Thaksin, royalist Yellow Shirts, the pro-Abhisit Vejajiva Blue Shirts have recently emerged. Reds, Yellows, and Blues struggle against each other. Is Thailand's democracy nothing more than a chess game between rival political camps?

Think back to the Red Shirt "anti-corruption, depose Ah-Bian" movement on Taiwan. Although the DPP ridiculed it as a failed middle class revolution, one millions people never lost control or erupted into violent conflict. Crowds outraged by corruption exercised restraint and maintained their reason. In the end, they used the ballot box to settle disputes. Is that not something Republic of China citizens can be proud of?

If a nation takes a wrong turn at a critical juncture in its development, who knows how much time and effort must be expended to get back on track? It is hard to believe Thailand has spun its wheels for three years. The Thai Baht has been devalued. Tourists have been frightened away. The economy has stagnated. By contrast, neighboring Indonesia underwent a period of intense turbulence following the end of Suharto's dictatorial rule. But in recent years anti-corruption, counter-terrorism, and economic development are back on track, leaving the international community amazed. The ruling party recently won re-election. If this trend continues, in a few years Thailand and Indonesia may switch places!

2009.04.16 05:19 am










Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The 2009 Elections, A Knock-Off of the 2008 Election?

The 2009 Elections, A Knock-Off of the 2008 Election?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 15, 2009

Less than eight months from now the counties and municipalities will be holding local elections. It now appears that the year end County and Municipality Elections will be a facsimile of last year's Presidential Election. This tells us that for the past year the entire island has remained mired in the political morass of the Presidential Election, unable to go beyond it, unable to extricate itself.

The major issues in this year's County and Municipal Elections are, for the most part, identical to last year's Presidential Election.

One. During last year's Presidential Election, the Democratic Progressive Party engaged in serious infighting over whether to "Support Chen Shui-bian" or "Dump Chen Shui-bian." This year the infighting is worse. During last year's Presidential Election, Frank Hsieh tried to distance himself from Ah-Bian, but couldn't quite pull it off. Although Ah-Bian had already been marginalized, the two sides maintained their decorum. This year however, Chen Shui-bian has already opened fire on "Tsai, Su, Hsieh, Wu" (Tsai Ing-wen, Su Tseng-tsang, Frank Hsieh, and Wu Nai-jen). He has also declared Tainan County the epicenter of his Shock and Awe campaign. Chen Tang-shan asked, "How can a political party dominated by heartless people transform the nation into a society with heart?" That the tense atmosphere has yet to ease comes as no surprise. This year's Democratic Progressive Party in-fighting may well be worse than last year's.

Two. During last year's Presidential Election, the Frank Hsieh/Su Tseng-chang election team's final campaign theme was the accusation that the KMT was creating a "One China Market," in which "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." This year, given the fourth Chiang/Chen Summit in the second half of the year, the DPP will probably rail against ECFA. Therefore it is certain to become the theme of the County and Municipal Elections. In which case the County and Municipal Election campaigns will heat up whether one wants them to or not. The final card is bound to be the tired old accusation that the KMT is "pro-Beijing" and "selling out Taiwan."

Last year's Presidential Election campaign was two intertwined themes. The first was whether to "Support Chen Shui-bian" or "Dump Chen Shui-bian," and "Who is selling out Taiwan?" The year end County and Municipal Elections will revisit these themes and intensify them. DPP infighting over whether to "Support Chen Shui-bian" or "Dump Chen Shui-bian" will intensify. Now that ECFA is on the table, allegations that the KMT is "selling out Taiwan" are even less likely to end.

This means that Ma Ying-jeou's attempt to use his landslide victory at the polls last year to educate or win over those who oppose him has failed. At least his hope of changing the Democratic Progressive Party has been dashed. Meanwhile, ever since the Democratic Progressive Party's debacle in 2008, it has sought to extricate itself from endless controversies over whether to "Support Chen Shui-bian" or "Dump Chen Shui-bian." It has sought to transcend its past positions on cross-Strait policy and national identity. But for the time being its hopes have also been dashed.

For both the Pan Blue and Pan Green camps, the 2008 Presidential Election was a rare historical opportunity. It initially seemed that Ma Ying-jeou might be able to use his victory at the polls to reunite a divided nation, and that Tsai Ing-wen might have been able to use the DPP's defeat to faciliate the party's transformation. Now it appears both have failed. Otherwise, why is the year end election turning into a knock-off of last year's Presidential Election?

Tsai Ing-wen's methods suggest that she will not retreat from her decision to "Dump Chen Shui-bian." She finds herself in a "Do or Die" situation. Therefore she must intensify her rhetoric on issues such as ECFA. If she wants to maintain control over a "Democratic Progressive Party without Chen Shui-bian," she must play issues such as "sovereignty" and "Taiwan-centric thought" and ECFA for all they are worth. She must assure Pan Green supporters that although the DPP is no longer the party of Chen Shui-bian, it remains the party of Taiwan independence. If Tsai Ing-wen fails to persuade its supporters, she will not be able to dump Chen Shui-bian. But if Tsai Ing-wen treats supporting Taiwan independence as a substitute for supporting Chen Shui-bian, and denounces ECFA as "selling out Taiwan," the Democratic Progressive Party will paint itself into a corner.

As for Ma Ying-jeou, he failed to make take proper advantage of his 2008 election victory. He retreated from the frontlines. He refused to assume the party chairmanship. Not only did he fail to seize the opportunity, he drove his own ratings and his party's ratings so low they became an embarrassment. He relieved the Democratic Progressive Party of external pressure to reform. He ensured that the Pan Blue and Pan Green camps would remain mired in a McCarthyite struggle over "Who is pro-China?" and "Who is selling out Taiwan?" In 2008, the public mood and political circumstances presented Ma Ying-jeou with the perfect opportunity to do the right thing. But Ma Ying-jeou failed to live up to the public's expectations, and missed a rare historical opportunity.

In democratic politics, every election constitutes "extra innings." Therefore going into extra innings is a matter of course. As long as each election helps unify the nation and achieve consensus, it can advance constitutional rule. Today however, the 2009 elections, remain mired in mud-slinging over how to deal with Chen Shui-bian and "Who is selling out Taiwan?" We would like to ask Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen, haven't you let down your nation and your fellow citizens?

2009.04.15 06:09 am











Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is "Love for Taiwan" synonymous with "Made in Taiwan?"

Is "Love for Taiwan" synonymous with "Made in Taiwan?"
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 14, 2009

The controversy over the "Made in China" National Palace Museum Jadeite Cabbage souvenir is merely a tempest in a teacup. But some legislators refuse to let the storm subside. The National Palace Museum is asking manufacturers to change the labels to read, "Designed in Taiwan." But some students are continuing the protests. They are asking rhetorically whether the National Palace Museum in Taipei is a "branch of the Imperial Palace in Beijing." They chopped up a Jadeite Cabbage souvenir to show their disdain for "Chinese goods." They demanded that mainland tour groups issue leaflets saying "Boycott Chinese goods!" The above actions were purportedly evidence of their "I Love MIT" sentiment.

Students wanting to "buy domestic products" is not necessarily a bad thing. Especially now, when we need to stimulate domestic demand, who does't "Love MIT?" But in addition to book knowledge, college students also need common sense. Love for Taiwan is hardly synonymous with "Love for MIT." When it comes to MIT, several issues need clarification. Fortunately, a number of teaching examples will help us understand.

The first is from Nobel Award winning economist Milton Friedman. His famous "I, Pencil" has become a classic taught in universities. [Translator's Note: "I, Pencil" was written by Leonard Read in 1958, and incorporated into "Free to Choose," a television show produced by Milton Friedman in 1980] Freeman said that even a simple commodity such as a pencil cannot be manufactured by a single person in a single country. Take the wooden shaft of the pencil. Begin with the lumbermill. The stainless steel in the electric saws requires iron ore mined somewhere else. Take the lead core. It might have come from a graphite mine in South America. Take the eraser. It might have come from a rubber tree in Malaysia. Take the glue used to bind the halves of the pencil together, or the paint on the outside surface. The entire process involves the contributions of tens of thousands of people the world over, cooperating via the "Invisible Hand." This is what Friedman refers to as the beauty of the free market. "I, Pencil" has undergone countless permutations. Three years ago, "The Global Economic Voyage of a T-Shirt," which was translated into Chinese and published on Taiwan, dealt with the same theme.

The second is from Stan Shih, or Francis Chen Li-heng, or any other entrepreneur on Taiwan who has succeeded in establishing his own brand. Take a high-tech company such as Acer. Can anyone say that its computers are entirely MIT? By the time all the components, from the CPU to the outer shell have been assembled and the finished product delivered to the customer, it is a "United Nations" product. In recent years, Franz Porcelain has been all the rage. The design studio and company headquarters are in Taipei. The manufacturing plants are in Xiamen and Jingdezhen, on the mainland. The "Jingdezhen Franz Park" produced over one million items last year, sold all over the world. This "Glory of Taiwan" was also "Made in China." But so what?

The third is a from a laughable item recently in the news. Indignant worshippers of designer labels recently took two Armani T-shirts to the store, and demanded an explanation. One T-shirt was labeled "Made in China." The other, labeled "Made in Italy," was cheaper. It turned out the one labeled "Made in Italy" was counterfeit. Armani no longer produces T-shirts in Italy. There are innumerable similar examples. Famed British rainwear maker Burberry has moved its plants to mainland China. The move provoked controversy among the British public. The British may be saddened, but they are not about to vent their spleen at mainland China.

Wanting to use domestic products is all well and fine. But globalization has progressed to the point that hardly any product is 100% made locally. MIT products were once marketed around the world, earning the ROC a great deal of foreign exchange. But the public on Taiwan knows perfectly well that most MIT products are OEM products. They are hardly anything the public on Taiwan can be truly proud of. When foreign companies sneezed, OEM manufacturers on Taiwan caught colds. This is why for so many years industries on Taiwan have wanted to move "upstream" from manufacturing OEM products to manufacturing their own brands. They have finally made a start. That is why trinkets such as these souvenirs are no longer "MIT," but instead "Made in [mainland] China." This is hardly something to wring our hands over. If we really want to move upstream, then turning over low-end manufacturing to mainland factories is precisely what Taiwan's industrial upgrading requires. What justification is there for "national outrage?"

It is true that "Made in China" products have yet to established a reputation for quality. If the goods are defective, then yes, protests are warranted. But to single out the National Palace Museum for criticism over the Jadeite Cabbage souvenirs clearly involves ulterior motives. That some people on Taiwan are afflicted with Sinophobia is no surprise. But the division of labor in today's globalized economy is not merely necessary, it is mutually beneficial. As Milton Friedman noted, free market forces promote world peace. Another Friedman, Thomas Friedman, author of "The World is Flat," has been vigorously promoting his "Golden Arches Theory," which states that any two countries that have McDonald's franchises, i.e., that are integrated into the global market, will never go to war against each other. That being the case, for customers on Taiwan to place orders for products "Made in China," is not a bad thing for cross-Strait relations. College students who want to "Love Taiwan" also need to understand the facts.

2009.04.14 05:57 am






愛用國貨,本意是不錯的。但全球化到如此地步,其實很難有什麼產品是百分百的「本國製」。MIT曾行遍全球,為台灣賺進不少外匯,但台灣人心知肚明,絕大多數的MIT乃接單製作的代工產品,難謂真正的台灣驕傲。國外一打噴嚏,台灣就感冒,原因正在於此。多少年來,台灣喊產業升級,希望往代工製造的「上游」走,現在總算建立了一點成績。也因此,諸如禮品、紀念品那些小玩意,從MIT變成了Made in China,未必值得我們捶胸頓足。果真做到以台灣為上游,把低階的代工交給大陸廠,不正是台灣產業升級的實踐嗎?有什麼好表現「民族義憤」呢?

中國製產品,的確還未能全面確立信譽,如果是黑心商品,也應該抗議。只不過,這次翠玉白菜禮品的例子裡,單挑故宮找碴,恐怕抗議者另有醉翁之意。台灣有人有反中情結,不是不能理解,但今天全球化之下的經濟分工,不但必要,且能兩蒙其利。按照佛里曼的想法,自由市場的力量足以促成世界和平呢。另一位佛里曼,寫「地球是平的」的湯瑪士.佛里曼,也曾大力推銷「黃金拱門理論」,說有麥當勞的國家(表示融入全球市場)不會相互打仗。這樣說起來,由台灣下單走到 Made in China,對兩岸都不是壞事。大學生愛台灣,要有正確的知識基礎才是。