Welcome the Era of Dialogue:
Do Not Tie Ourselves Down
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 8, 2010
Former Premier Liu Chao-hsuan is about to visit the Mainland, in his capacity as Chairman of the National Cultural Association. He will participate in the Shanghai Expo Taiwan Pavilion torch lighting ceremony. Not surprisingly, the Democratic Progressive Party has expressed its opposition. Spokesperson Tsai Chi-chang held a press conference and said that Liu's status made it inappropriate for him to visit the Mainland. The DPP said it was concerned that former officials of the Ma administration might negotiate with Beijing and arrive at agreements unfavorable to Taiwan.
Meanwhile, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng is coming to Taiwan to conduct city to city exchanges. Elected officials from the Green Camp have protested, expressing opposition to [Mainland] China and ECFA. The Shanghai World Expo is about to open. Taipei meanwhile, is making preparations for a floral exposition. Taipei and Shanghai are now Twin Cities casting their light upon each other. This is a development many have looked forward to. Han Zheng is the highest-level local level official ever to visit Taiwan. Naturally his visit has attracted a great deal of attention. Previous visits by Mainland officials such as Chen Yunlin and Zhang Mingqing had a shock effect. By contrast the scale of protests against Han Zheng is modest. Han Zheng's itinerary takes him only as far south as Taichung. The "port cities" OTC Companies Association of Kaoshiung City, Kaohsiung County, and Pingtung expressed regret. It hoped that Mainland China would not favor northern Taiwan over the south. Their implication was that entrepreneurs in the south were eager to take advantage of commercial opportunities on the Mainland.
The public wants exchanges. Only exchanges will increase understanding and create opportunities. But the DPP has apparently decided that the Ma administration must not be permitted to have any dealings with the Mainland. Because as long as it has dealings, it might "sell out Taiwan." Tsai Chi-chang held a press conference opposing Liu Chao-hsuan's visit to the Mainland. He said the DPP cannot understand why so many retired Ma administration officials are so eager to visit the Chinese Mainland. What is the purpose behind their visits? What good are they going to do Taiwan? Tsai Chi-chang's question is a good one. The answer however, is right under the DPP's own nose. The Chen administration froze cross-Strait exchanges for eight years. It failed to do what it should have. Many matters were delayed. Can we afford to delay any longer? Consider a high school student. He has goofed off for three years. He must now take his college entrance exams. He now realizes his fellow students are well prepared. His own grades on the other hand, have stagnated, or even plummeted. So he begins working frantically in a desperate effort to catch up, hoping it is not too late.
But let's return to our point. If the Ma administration could secretly sign a treaty and "sell out Taiwan" by dispatching a single individual to the Mainland, then why is Ma Ying-jeou bothering to debate ECFA with Tsai Ing-wen? Why is he seeking the support of the public and the DPP? President Ma could simply settle the matter with the Mainland on his own and be done with it. Many voices of dissent have been raised during ECFA negotiations. The DPP ought to have a little more faith in the Republic of China's democracy. The Ma administration lacks the wherewithal to act willfully and arbitrarily. If the DPP truly believes Liu Chao-hsuan can make an illicit deal with Beijing, giving away the store, it is over-estimating the Ma administration's ability. It is also underestimated the intelligence of the public on Taiwan.
Cross-Strait politics is a sensitive issue. But even cross-Strait economic exchanges provoke complex feelings many on Taiwan have difficulty voicing. Taiwan's economic development once led the Mainland's by a wide margin. Now however, the Mainland has caught up. Now, when the Mainland talks of "profit sharing," many on Taiwan become uncomfortable. It means Taiwan no longer has a clear advantage, changing cross-Strait economic interaction. Politically sensitive issues also affect what should be purely economic issues. Taiwan cannot realistically terminate exchanges and interaction with the Mainland due to such concerns. The DPP's deliberately recalcitrant attitude is unworkable. We must find the best way to provide the public with greater opportunities, and the best way to relate to the Mainland. The best way is through shared culture. The two sides share a common culture. But accidents of history, differences in life experiences and in political systems have led to different cultural highlights. The political and social environment on Taiwan is diverse and open. Traditional culture has been reborn, even as popular culture flourishes. Our rich cultural assets have become our most potent form of soft power in our exchanges with the Mainland.
Liu Chao-hsuan was once premier. He is highly qualified and resourceful. He has President Ma's trust. He has considerable status both Internally and externally. He is well qualified to promote certain matters. He would make an excellent cultural ambassador. Does Chen Chu realize the importance of promoting Kaohsiung as a transport center? If she does, then others surely realize that in this highly competitive era we must seize every opportunity. We must not fear that Taiwan will be "sold out." What we ought to fear is egotism and isolationism. Those are what will leave us out in the cold.