The Two Yings Meeting: Both a Debate and a Discussion
United Daily News editorial
April 1, 2010
Differences have arisen over whether the "Two Yings Meeting" between Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen should be a "debate" or a "discussion." We feel as long as it is a "dialogue on national policy," it makes no difference whether it is a "debate" or a "discussion."
Yesterday the United Daily News editorial column "In Black and White" weighed in on the so-called debate. It said that the format proposed by the president was too restrictive. Each side would have six minutes to present their views, three minutes to answer four to five questions, and six minutes to make any concluding remarks. Such a format might create dramatic confrontation, but would stress tactical skills at the expense of strategic significance. Such a format is essentially that of a martial arts "grudge match." It might be appropriate for an election debate, but it might not be ideal for the Two Yings Meeting.
The Two Yings Meeting should not be viewed as a martial arts grudge match. The issue being addressed might be cross-strait economic agreements such as ECFA. The issue might be the personality differences between Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen. But the public has a right to expect a dialogue on national policy and not a martial arts grudge match.
Let's begin by looking at the Two Yings' character traits. Ma is a Juris Doctor from Harvard University. Tsai Ing-wen is a Doctor of Law from the London School of Economics. Both are qualified to be professors. They have both gone into politics, but many still address them as "Professor Ma" and "Professor Tsai." Based on their qualifications, to replicate the political equivalent of a martial arts grudge match would not be difficult. But it would squander an opportunity for in-depth dialogue. If one adopts the format of a "dialogue on national policy" the two may be less bound by the format of a martial arts grudge match. The two sides could alleviate the pressure to "pin one's opponent in three minutes." They could create space for rational debate and analysis.
Furthermore, ECFA is not an issue that ought to be dealt with using the format of a martial arts grudge match. ECFA has profound and far-reaching national policy implications. One of the most important questions is: Should we sign ECFA? The answer involves constitutional strategy issues such as "maintaining the status quo," "One China, Different Interpretations," or "Taiwan independence," the "Rectification of Names and Authoring of a New Constitution." It involves issues of global economic strategy, such as how to respond to ASEAN plus N, and the marginalization of Taiwan's economy. Another important question is, How should we go about signing ECFA? The answer involves defense mechanisms, an early harvest list, protection for small and medium enterprises (SME) and agriculture, a Sunset Clause, and prohibitions against Mainland workers coming to Taiwan. In other words, even if the Two Yings Meeting addresses only two questions: "Should we sign ECFA?" and "How should we go about signing ECFA?" the two questions will still require additional analysis and debate. If one's conclusion is that one must not sign ECFA, then it is pointless to talk about how to go about signing ECFA. Any debate would be pointless as well. Conversely, if one is talking about "How should we go about signing ECFA?" then the "debate" need not preclude the possibility of a "discussion."
In fact, the political deadlock on Taiwan is a result of a lack of dialogue between the ruling Blues and the opposition Greens. All we have is name-calling and even cursing. In fact, the political issues that demand a dialogue between the government and the political opposition are hardly confined to ECFA. For the sake of the public welfare, in order to find a way out of political deadlock, ruling and opposition party leaders should sit down and talk about national identity, the constitution, cross-Strait issues, community relations (erroneously referred to as "ethnic relations"), responses to globalization, economic and trade policies, and social security. Alas the ruling and opposition parties' standard operating procedure is invariably confrontation. Some politicians even stoop to inciting social divisions. Sadly, the ruling and opposition parties' refusal to dialogue has turned the entire nation into their hostages. Not only are the ruling and opposition parties unable to dialogue, they aren't even aware of the need to dialogue.
As mentioned earlier, given both Ma and Tsai's character traits, there is little need to replicate any martial arts grudge match. Instead, they should establish a dialogue on national policy. ECFA is a topic with profound and far-reaching implications at all levels, including constitutional strategy and the day to day welfare of ordinary citizens. If the Two Yings clarified these issues, it would be the first time anyone on Taiwan ever got to the bottom of these matters. Their contribution to the nation and the public welfare would be inestimable.
Some have asked, why does Ma Ying-jeou object to a debate? Others have asked, why does Tsai Ing-wen object to a discussion? In fact seeing a "debate" and a "discussion" as mutually exclusive is fundamentally wrong. Any "dialogue" would necessarily include both "discussion" and "debate." Besides, what the public is seeking with ECFA is not the theatrics of a martial arts "grudge match." What they seek is an earnest, rational, and pragmatic dialogue on national policy regarding the future of the Republic of China. Hopefully we can set an agenda that takes into account the Big Picture. Hopefully the Two Yings will engage in a one day, two session or a two day, four session "summit on national policy."
Ma and Tsai each have their own peculiar character traits. Before the two can engage in a dialogue, certain conditions must be met. ECFA is an appropriate subject for just such a dialogue. In fact the Two Yings need not engage in a "cock-fight." We expect the two to participate in a dialogue on national policy that includes both debate and discussion, all for the sake of the public. We hope our expectations do not turn out to be mere wishful thinking.
2010.04.01 01:50 am