The Republic of China: No Realistic Alternatives
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 15, 2010
Is there an alternative to the Cross-Strait Economic Agreement (ECFA)? Before we attempt to answer this question, we must first answer another question. Is there an alternative to the Republic of China?
The DPP says signing ECFA is evidence of "Ma Tong" (the Green Camp's coarse epithet for President Ma) "pandering to [Mainland] China and selling out Taiwan." Clearly the DPP is treating the ECFA controversy as a struggle over national identity and the meaning of the constitution. Therefore it is impossible to understand the ins and outs of ECFA without first understanding the controversy over national identity and the meaning of the constitution.
The Ma administration's thinking behind ECFA begins with the Republic of China. The Republic of China has a One China Constitution. This leads logically to One China, Different Interpretations, No [immediate] Reunification, No Independence, and No Military Conflict, Expansion of Cross-Strait Exchanges, Direct Links and Direct Flights, the Institutionalization of Economic and Trade Exchanges, and ECFA. Put simply, the institutionalization of cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges is the natural consequence of upholding the Republic of China's Constitution and its definition of national identity.
By contrast, those who advocate Taiwan independence and nation building, oppose the One China Constitution, One China, Different Interpretations, and No Reunification, No Independence, No Military Conflict. They will naturally oppose Direct Links and Direct Flights, obstruct the expansion of cross-Strait exchanges, and of course ECFA. After all, the closer cross-Strait exchanges become, the lower the likelihood of Taiwan independence and nation building. The Green Camp has long advocated Taiwan independence and nation building, as well as the rectification of names and the authoring of a new constitution. That is why it advocates "Avoid Haste, Be Patient," opposes Direct Links and Direct Flights, and of course ECFA. In other words, opposition to ECFA is the logical consequence of support for Taiwan independence. Alas, consistent logic is hardly the same as correct policy.
In the final analysis, the dispute between the Blue and Green political camps on Taiwan has always boiled down to a single question: Is there an alternative to the Republic of China?
One side advocates preserving the Republic of China. The other side advocates Taiwan independence and nation building, and replacing the Republic of China with a "Nation of Taiwan." Is there an alternative to ECFA? Actually, if one examines the controversy in this light, the real question is whether there is an alternative to the Republic of China.
Whether there is an alternative to the Republic of China depends on whether the proposed alternative works. Take food for example. Noodles are an alternative to rice because they work. Poison, on the other hand, is not an alternative to rice, because it does not work. This comparison is admittedly extreme. Perhaps halting construction on the Number Four Nuclear Plant is a better example. Invoking a "nuclear-free homeland" to justify halting construction on the Number Four Nuclear Plant could be considered idealistic. It is not categorically unworkable. It is workable, providing one is willing to spend more money, live with more pollution, and hamper economic development. But we face a dilemma. Economical non-nuclear power generation is not yet a reality. Complete reliance on conventional energy generation poses its own problems. If we cease using nuclear power, halting construction on the Number Four Nuclear Plant in pursuit of a "nuclear-free homeland" may not be categorically unworkable. But one must first ask oneself whether society is able to bear the cost.
There are two basic reasons why a "Nation of Taiwan" cannot be considered a workable alternative to the Republic of China. One. The geopolitical and cultural relationship between Taiwan and Mainland China, and Mainland China's status as the world's factory and the world's marketplace. The United States, Japan, and Southeast Asia cannot replace Mainland China. Two. the free and democratic system on Taiwan. One cannot forcibly impose restrictions on cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges, and on cultural and social exchanges. Under a free and democratic system, unless one is willing to impose martial law, money will walk. These two reasons make any other political and economic path far too difficult.
Globally, bilaterall, and internally, Taiwan independence may be an ideal of sorts, but one that is unworkable. You may not like the meal in front of you, but poison is never an alternative. There may be alternatives to ECFA. just as there are alternatives to nuclear power generation. If one is determined to reject nuclear power generation or ECFA, one can halt nuclear power plant construction. For example, one Green oriented think-tank suggests seeking a six to nine percent reduction in tariffs for exports to the Mainland. It suggests encouraging companies from Taiwan to first set up plants in Southeast Asia, then transfer them to Mainland China. But this is nothing new. Over the past two decades, the two sides have habitually used third locations as alternatives to direct flights. Such roundabout methods are "alternatives" of a sort. But at what cost? And to what end?
The Green Camp refuses to sign ECFA because it wishes to establish a "Taiwan independence homeland." But will refusing to sign ECFA really enable them to establish a "Taiwan independence homeland?" Where is the rationality in refusing to sign ECFA, and forcing Taiwan into economic marginalization, all for the sake of an unattainable "Taiwan independence homeland?"
The "Two Yings Debate" has provoked controversy because information has been neither transparent nor symmetrical. We feel that the most opaque aspect of the Blue vs. Green political struggle is the Democratic Progressive Party's definition of national identity and the nation's constitution. Is their definitino of national identity and the nation's constitution contained in their Taiwan Independence Party Platform? Is it contained in their Resolution on the Future of Taiwan? Is it contained in their Resolution for a Normal Nation? Or is it contained in their Platform for the Coming Decade? Each time the Green Camp holds a protest march, "Nation of Taiwan" flags and banners fill the air. If the Democratic Progressive Party refuses to tell us whether it advocates Taiwan independence and nation building, it no longer has any criteria by which it can debate ECFA.
Only when the DPP allows the public to see what it is offering as an "alternative to the Republic of China," can the public evaluate the DPP's "alternative to ECFA."
2010.04.15 01:27 am