The Name-Callers' ComeuppanceChina Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 16, 2010
Many things in life cannot be understood until one has personally experienced them. Many people are accustomed to cavalierly smearing others. But only when they are the targets of such campaigns can they truly appreciate how vicious they are.
Kaohsiung County Chief Yang Chiu-hsing recently declared himself a candidate for Kaohsiung City Mayor, and voiced his support for ECFA. He was immediately accused of "selling out Taiwan" and "pandering to [Mainland] China." He conceded he had smeared others the same way in the past, and therefore these smears left a deep impression upon him. As we look back today, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether other victims of such smear campaigns really were guilty of "selling out Taiwan?"
Yang Chiu-hsing was probably speaking from the heart. This five-star rated county chief merely announced his candidacy and called for a pragmatic review of the pros and cons of ECFA. But that was all the DPP nomenklatura needed to denounce him as "selling out Taiwan" and "pandering to [Mainland] China." That was enough to leave him speechless and unable to defend himself. Many rival party leaders know exactly how he feels. So do many DPP politicians. Unfortunately they usually engage in earnest soul-searching only after they have been sidelined and pushed out of the party's mainstream.
Cavalierly accusing others of "selling out Taiwan" is an expedient and anti-intellectual political tactic. It is expedient because it requires no proof and is impossible to defend against. It is anti-intellectual because it incites irrational passions. It reduces political and policy debate to name-calling and dogmatism. Even more frightening, it is a weapon to crush dissent, not just from rival parties, but even from rivals within one's own party. It leads to a party with a single voice. It permits only the rote repetition of dogma. It makes progressive thought impossible. Its most vicious after-effect is the manufacture of public hatred. It mires society in inextricable chaos, and retards the nation's progress.
Just how much truth there is to charges of "selling out Taiwan?" The Taiwan Region of the Republic of China has undergone democraticization. Therefore it belongs to all its citizens. It is not something that can belongs to any one individual. Therefore how can it possibly be sold out by any one individual? The President is merely a person elected by the people to administer for four years. Taiwan is not his personal property. As Yang Chiu-hsing noted, even assuming Ma Ying-jeou wanted to sell out Taiwan, he would have to call for a public referendum and a constitutional amendment. Selling out Taiwan is easier said than done. Since no one individual has the power to sell out Taiwan, the charge is essentially empty one, a lie.
Taiwan was once ceded, occupied, and subjected to martial law. The people truly did not determine their own destinies. Their sense of powerlessness and insecurity left a dark shadow. This makes it easy to revive old fears. This may be understandable, but it does not reflect reality. The people are now the masters of the nation. Whether to reunify or to become independent, can be decided only by legal procedures, not by any particular individual or inviduals. Attempting to apply old thinking in a new era can only leave one lost and directionless. Perpetually looking over one's shoulder can neither solve current problems nor enable one to plan for the future.
Yang Chiu-hsing feels that if Taiwan and the Mainland can coexist in peace, if they can treat each other with respect, both their economies will benefit. If the opportunity arises, he will emulate Yunlin County Chief Su Chih-fen and Tainan County Chief Su Huan-chih. He will visit the Mainland to promote the economic interests of businesses on Taiwan. Such voices of pragmatism have gradually begun to emerge within the DPP. They have begun to challenge the Deep Green party line. As they see it, the DPP cannot allow itself to fall behind the KMT in seeking business opportunities for its constituents. Cross-Strait exchanges are increasingly at a breakneck pace. If the DPP insists on treading water, the public on Taiwan will leave it behind. Therefore it must face reality and attempt to keep pace.
The DPP has long been the hostage of Deep Green ideology. So much so that when faced with major changes such as the rise of Mainland China and cross-Strait reconciliation, it was left dumbfounded and unable to cope. Why? Because the DPP is accustomed to exploiting the provincial origins issue. It has benefitted politically from cross-Strait hostility and "ethnic" (communal) tensions on Taiwan. Actually, even assuming one advocates Taiwan independence, as long as one is willing to shelve disputes, one can still promote cross-Strait exchanges. Attempting to help the Mainland understand and respect Taiwan is also a viable option. But the DPP has always defined residents of the Province of Taiwan and the island of Taiwan as victims of oppression, and itself as its loving guardian. Needless to say the role of villain has been assigned to [Mainland] China. Because unless the villain is sufficiently evil, the the value of the DPP will come into question.
Beijing has allowed Mainland tourists to visit Taiwan and made major concessions to Taiwan regarding ECFA. Local leaders have visited the Mainland in order to promote local agricultural products. Democratic Progressive Party and Deep Green forces have lashed back, insisting that Taiwan will eventually suffer dire consequences. After all, if the two sides reconcile, the Democratic Progressive Party will lose its raison d'etre. Alas, the DPP's logic has become less and less convincing. Not because people are naive, but because Mainland China's existence and rise to power is an unavoidable reality. To survive, they must face this reality and attempt to seize any opportunities for their own benefit.
Pragmatism has gradually emerged within the DPP. A political platform for the coming decade is in the works. The Democratic Progressive Party is about to engage in a struggle over its political future. This is more than a change in election strategy. The DPP must rethink its party constitution and its political niche. It must rethink its vision of cross-Strait relations and Taiwan's economic future. Cross-Strait relations are an unavoidable issue for Taiwan and the DPP. Chronic resort to smear tactics will only leave the DPP blinkered and blind. DPP leaders must have the courage to open their hearts and minds. Only then will the DPP become a party able to offer new hope for Taiwan.