DPP Must Dialogue, Not Merely Shout Slogans
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 28, 2010
The Democratic Progressive Party held an anti-ECFA protest march this weekend. It made clear that some on Taiwan hold different views of ECFA. This is perfectly normal in a democracy. But if the DPP hopes to assume greater responsibility for the nation's future, it must be able to engage in responsible dialogue, and not merely shout empty slogans.
Some people have long been opposed to ECFA. In part this has to do with Green Camp electioneering. But this also has to do with some peoples' fears about cross-Strait economic integration. Agriculture and other traditional industries in particular are sensitive to competitive pressures. They lack confidence in the government's willingness to protect vulnerable segments of the economy. Therefore they are resistant. Their feelings are understandable, and should be dealt with sympathetically. But the reality is that Taiwan faces intense international competition. The Democratic Progressive Party has led its supporters onto the streets. It must now face the difficult challenges confronting Taiwan.
First, the DPP must be able to dialogue with the public on Taiwan, not just its core supporters. ECFA is a new beginning for cross-Strait economic and trade cooperation. Cooperation and exchanges are taking place with a depth, breadth, and pace that are unprecedented. Positive cross-Strait interactions have gained public support. The Green Camp may attempt to incite fear and loathing. It may engage in rhetoric utterly divorced from reality. Some may be frightened to death. Others may scoff. Neither is conducive to a rational discussion of the issues. This also diminishes the DPP's capacity to debate cross-Strait policy. It enables the KMT to monopolize the discussion of cross-Strait issues.
ECFA or any other government policy must be subject to public oversight. Other options may be discussed. After all, the highest priority is to seek opportunities for economic development. The Green Camp's rallying cries depict ECFA as the scourge of god. Once it's signed, they warn, Taiwan is finished. Yet local DPP leaders are only too happy to use the opportunity to sell more fruit and produce to the mainland. On the one hand they insist on shouting slogans. On the other hand they insist on reaping profits. What is this, if not a clear case of hypocrisy?
Whether in office or out, political parties have their ideals. But they must also respond to real world problems. The foremost concerns of the public on Taiwan are physical survival, economic prosperity, personal dignity, and individual well-being. How these should be achieved may be debated. The DPP should be able to engage the general public in dialogue. The DPP says it doesn't want ECFA. So how does it intend to promote prosperity and prevent marginalization? How does it intend to look after the interests of all people? Blind opposition and sloganeering is not an option.
Secondly, the DPP should also be able to dialogue with Beijing. Mainland China is the most significant factor in Taiwan's development, diplomatically, economically, and militarily. In particular, the mainland's rapid increase in economic power has made it the most important player in the world, and diminished Taiwan's value as a counterforce. Upholding the sovereignty and dignity of the Republic of China means refusing to yield to threats or inducements from Beijing. But it doees not mean provoking cross-Strait confrontations, squandering precious resources, and even denying oneself breathing room.
A responsible political party must offer a practicable cross-Strait policy. Deep Green elements may not trust Beijing. But cross-Strait civil exchanges are close, and involve a wide range of interests. The DPP must also consider how it wishes to handle relations with Beijing, how to dialogue with Beijing, how to find common ground, or at least establish channels of communication. Only then can it negotiate on behalf of the public on Taiwan. How the DPP can develop a theoretical framework by which it can dialogue with Beijing will be a major challenge. But a political party without a practicable cross-Strait policy cannot meet Taiwan's needs.
The DPP must also be able to dialogue with the world. It must learn to accurately grasp the international situation, to conduct multilateral exchanges, to participate in exchanges concerning economics, trade, science and technology, investments, culture, academia, and NGOs. It must learn to promote the Republic of China's diplomatic relations. The Republic of China's international status is unique. The DPP must learn how to communicate this to the international community.
For example, the Ma administration's "cross-Strait reconciliation" and "diplomatic truce" moves enabled Taipei to attend the WHA. The DPP insists that such policies harm Taipei's interests. The DPP may suggest different options. But it must not depart from reality, and it must be able to persuade the international community. Some DPP leaders point to other countries. They say these countries have signed FTAs with the EU, the U.S., and ASEAN. They conveniently fail to mention that the Republic of China has only 20 or so allies. Its situation is very different from other countries.
Finally, and most importantly, the DPP must learn to dialogue with the future. If it continues hiding insides its shell, it will eventually lose its courage and fritter away its dreams. It will forsake a valuable but fleeting opportunity. A political party capable only of living in the past, and capable only of looking inward, can never meet the needs of a public that hopes for a better future.
The Republic of China is a reality. It encompasses a commitment to a common past, it confronts a common reality, and it shares a common responsibility to create a better tomorrow. Any political party, Blue or Green, pro-reunification or pro-independence, must have the capacity to respond to public opinion, to reality, and to the future. While it opposes ECFA, the Democratic Progressive Party ought to contemplate what it can do for the people, besides shouting slogans.